Teenage speed skater Lucas Kinney had previously punched his ticket to the USA Roller Sports National Championships, but the Central Valley student couldn’t make the trek to Nebraska.
Summertime obligations kept Kinney from competing in one of the country’s grandest stages of roller sports.
His father and Coeur d’Alene Inline Speed Skating teammate Russell Kinney, 60, aimed for similar success but had yet to qualify for a national berth.
But when the Kinneys learned last year that USA Roller Sports had changed its national championships venue from Lincoln, Nebraska, to their backyard in Spokane, it changed the stakes.
Each made it a point to qualify in their respective divisions – and they did, along with teammate Tammy Kolda, a 54-year-old Coeur d’Alene resident.
“When they changed it to Spokane, we knew we had to get there,” said Lucas, whose team trains at Skate Plaza Roller Rink in Coeur d’Alene.
The trio will be competing against the nation’s best at the Spokane Convention Center, which will host more than a thousand athletes in four roller sport championships beginning Wednesday.
The monthlong event begins with roller figure skating (July 17-28) – similar to ice figure skating – before shifting to rink hockey (July 28-Aug. 3), speed skating ( July 30-Aug. 3).
Rink hockey includes two five-man teams on roller skates trying to drive a ball through the opposite team’s net.
Speed skating – an intense, cardio-heavy sport on a 100-meter oval track Russell Kinney jokingly compared to NASCAR – will feature plenty of local talent.
Spokane resident PJ Muxlow, 47, is aiming for a record 12th national women’s title.
The National Speedskating Circuit – a professional league – is making a stop at the Convention Center during nationals and will feature local standout Paige Dawson, a Pattison’s North product.
Pattison’s North – a roller rink in Spokane and highly successful speed skating team – is operated by former National Coach of the Year Shaun Pattison and will be the primary practice venue for out-of-town skaters this month, according to the Spokane Sports Commission.
Like the Kinney family’s speed-skating connection, the father-daughter duo of Spokane’s Tom and MaKenzie Ritchie will also compete at nationals.
Russell Kinney, who creates graphics and signage as his day job, started competitive skating five years ago.
“It looked fun, and I was always watching (Lucas) race, and someone said I could compete in my age division, too,” Russell said. “And it’s been fun. It’s a great crossover sport, especially if you’re into biking or skiing.
“I tried to qualify for nationals in Nebraska, but didn’t make it. But I was fortunate enough to qualify when (nationals) come here to Spokane. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
The Spokane Sports Commission said in October that the USA Roller Sports National Championships could give Spokane an economic boost of up to $11 million.
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