Wren Acorn was never going to be a giant-killer at the Canadian Short Track Championships. She even said so herself.
But this past weekend’s event in Montreal was a chance for Acorn to see where she stacked up against the best women’s short-track skaters in the country.
She liked what she did and saw.
Acorn lined up as one of the 24 invited women’s skaters for the meet and while she didn’t win any of her races, she did get the opportunity to experience what racing against the elite of the sport was all about.
She said there wasn’t any pressure on her whatsoever except that which she put on herself.
“There was no external pressure because this was a chance for me to showcase my potential,” she said. “I had internal pressure because there’s always pressure to compete but I wasn’t worried about anything beyond my control.”
Acorn received the invite through Speed Skating Canada’s NextGen program, which is designed to identify possible podium contenders coming through the pipeline within the next five to eight years. The top 16 skaters in Canada were automatically qualified with eight more coming through NextGen.
“It’s something new they’re doing,” said Acorn. “I had good results last season and that’s how I received the invitation.”
Like many other national events through Speed Skating Canada, points were given to skaters based on where they finished in each race. Each distance – 500, 1,000 and 1,500-metre – were done twice over the course of the weekend and when all was said and done, Acorn amassed 1,848 points.
Acorn said there were no illusions of grandeur in her thoughts going into each race.
“I was proud to be in the mix,” she said. “It hit me the day before that I’m racing against some of the best in the world, not just the best in Canada. We always get results on the international stage and there are no weak skaters at all.”
Having never competed at the senior level until this past weekend, Acorn said this was all a gauge for where she’s at and she was impressed.
“The take-away I got was that I’m in there with the other NextGen skaters,” she said. “This was a learning experience for me and I realize what I have to work on in order to get stronger.”
The one thing she said threw some people off in Montreal was her uniform, which had the NWT logo emblazoned on it.
“There were only two skaters from west of Ontario,” she said. “Most of the skaters were from the regional or national clubs and they were all wearing their uniforms and some of them were a bit shocked to see the NWT uniform but I was proud to wear it and represent the territory.”
Acorn did have some personal accomplishments, such as a top-20 finish in the 1,500-metre event and setting a new personal best time in the 500-metre of 45.5 seconds.
“I took a second off of my time from last season in the 500 and that’s huge because the 500 is such a fast race,” she said. “That’s right up there with some of the top girls in Canada so I know I made some improvements.”
Acorn now resides in Calgary, where she trains at the Olympic Oval but the one thing she said she never forgets is where she came from.
“The Yellowknife Speed Skating Club helped me get to where I am now,” she said. “I’ve moved on to the next step of my career but I got my start in Yellowknife and it’s always home.”