LAKE PLACID - Speed skaters from across New York participated in the 2013 Empire State Winter Games from Thursday to Sunday. Despite the arrival of winter storm Nemo on Friday, skaters from Saratoga Springs, Poughkeepsie, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse arrived in Lake Placid to race both long track and short track. Athletes had a choice to compete in either discipline (or both) on the Olympic Speed Skating Oval and/or the Olympic Center 1932 rink.
Long track was included in the speed skating competition last year for the first time. The long track competition was in "pack style" format, meaning skaters could skate together instead of in pairs, much like short track speed skating.
The long track distances skated varied based on the age category of the competitors. The youngest skaters, the Pre-Scholastic athletes, skated a 100-meter, 300-meter, 500-meter and 1,200-meter race. Scholastic men and women skated the 100, 500, 800 and 3,200, while the open male and female category athletes skated the 100, 500, 1000 and 3,200.
Patrick Kelly was the only Lake Placid representative at this event and placed first in all four open men's long Track events.
On the short track rink, Saratoga skaters dominated. Saratoga Winter Club athletes Spencer Ripchik (pre-scholastic boys) placed first in the 333- and 500-meter finals, while Katy Toth (scholastic women) won the 1,000, 500 and the 777 finals.
Ripchik and Toth also earned gold medals in several long track events. In the open men's category, Saratoga Winter Club member Michael Brooks won all three short track distances, claiming the overall open men's title.
The winner of the overall open women's title in short track was Julie Gehring of Buffalo, who also won all four events in long track. Gehring enjoys competing in the Empire State Games every year.
"I think the most exciting thing about skating in the Empire State Games is the spirit of celebrating the sports all around us. I love to see and watch other Olympic sports," Gehring said. "I also love stepping on the ice to skate, and representing my town and team. It's a special feeling that the Empire State Games bring."