By Kim Staudinger
The Havre Ice Dome has been the site of many tournaments in the last month, but this week, skaters have the chance to learn from one of the best.
Olympic speed skating coach John Monroe is traveling to Havre to put on a three-day clinic.
Monroe is an experienced athlete, team manager and coach at world championship levels. He is a certified level three coaching instructor for speed skating in Canada and a certified level two coach for cycling. He coaches at the Olympic Oval in Calgary.
Monroe has coached speed skating for 15 years at an Olympic level. Twenty-five percent of the male skaters at the 1998 Olympic trials were his athletes. Only national coaches had a higher percentage for athletes at the trials.
Monroe was U.S. coach in 1997, 1999 and 2001 at the World University Games for the short track team, a team which had several top 10 finishers. He was also a team leader for the United States at the 2000 Goodwill Games.
Having grown up playing hockey in northern British Columbia, Monroe has coordinated many skating clinics for hockey players. He started speed skating when he was about 20, and has since skated on the Canadian national team.
Also coming to Havre with Monroe is Sue Perles. For the last 13 years, Perles has volunteered her time three nights a week at the Southern California Skating School. Perles works with children of all ages at the school, teaching them the importance of good skating skills, while introducing them to speed skating.
Perles was recently interviewed by Tom Brokaw in a segment called "Olympic Dreams," which aired on NBC's Nightly News.
Perles is also certified as a U.S. speed skating level two coach.
Perles said 400-500 youth skaters will be on the ice each year at the Southern California Skating School. Some stay with the program and "become quite good skaters," she said.
Currently in the program is the U.S. Junior Champion, Maria Garcia. Along with Jade Wheeler, Garcia recently traveled to Korea, representing the Junior World Team.
Perles expects to send 15 to 20 skaters to the National Age Group Championships in Pittsburgh later this year. At last year's championships, Perles said, about 12 skaters from her school won medals and two different youth won their age class.
Aside from her work at the skating school, Perles also raises money through fund-raisers to help with the cost of ice time. They do everything from finding corporate sponsors, running fireworks booths in the summer, and holding candy sales to hosting pancake breakfasts and an annual skate-a-thon, Perles said.
Ice time in Southern California is nearly $300 an hour, with some skaters racking up five hours or more of ice time each week.
So what brings this duo to Montana?
Perles works with Renelle Braaten and Wayne Koepke at Enell Sports Bras in Havre. Perles said she also came to town to help Monroe with the clinic.
" And Montana's always a fun place to be," she said.
With the United States' recent success at the Olympics, Perles said, she would like to introduce more people to speed skating.
"My goals are three-fold," she said. "One is it would be nice to introduce all youngsters to speed skating, the second is we would like to help these youngsters to skate better and the third is we want everybody to have fun. The whole part of speed skating is to have fun."
The clinic will focus on power skating and controlled stopping, with a major emphasis on improving skating skills. Also included is strength training that can be done during the off-season and tips on in-line skating that will strengthen hockey skills.
The clinic runs Wednesday through Friday with different times for different age groups. The cost is $20 per child or adult, which includes three hours of ice time with Monroe and Perles.
The public is welcome to attend. For more information, contact Renee Rolf at 265-9766 or 265-8677.
The following is the schedule for the three-day clinic. Skaters are reminded to be ready, and on the ice at the start of their scheduled time.
Wednesday and Thursday:
Mites 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Squirts A&B 5:30-6:30 p.m.
PeeWee and Bantams 7-8 p.m.
High school and adults 8-9:30 p.m.
Mites 4-5 p.m.
Squirts A&B 5-6 p.m.
PeeWee and Bantam 6-7 p.m.