The 2014 inline speed skating season started off with a bang, with the National SpeedSkating Circuits first event of the season taking place at the Tacoma Armory, in Tacoma, WA. The crowd was hyped, the venue was stunning, and the racing was extremely exciting throughout the evening.
The 300 meter race was filled with drama, as the skaters fought tooth and nail trying to claim the first victory of the night. In the end, a reinvigorated Stephen Carter, let the younger competitors know he was back in the game, sprinting to a much deserved win. After a disappointing year in 2013, Carter is finally healthy, proving to everyone that he can still get it done, and his victory was the feel good story of the event.
1. Stephen Carter – 80 points – Time = 27.62
2. Brandon Hall – 40 points
3. Alex Holmes – 20 points
4. Jeremy Anderson – 10 points
5. Maurice Hall – 5 points
6. Eben Jackson – 3 points
It was obvious from the sound of the gun, that Jonathan Blair had something to prove, and he did just that. In his very first NSC event, Blair would jump out to an early lead, and never look back. The battle for the silver medal was where all the action took place, and with only two laps to go Jeremy Anderson passed Michael Ratliff, on his way to grabbing a second place finish. With less than two laps to go, Michael Ratliff moved back into second, and they battled for the final two spots on the podium. In the final corner, Stephen Carter made a questionable pass that knocked Anderson out of medal contention, as they fought their way to the finish line behind the winner Jonathan Blair.
1. Jonathan Blair – 80 points – Time = 46.69
2. Mikey Ratliff – 40 points
3. Stephen Carter – 20 points
4. Alex Holmes – 10 points
5. Jeremy Anderson – 5 points
6. Gene McBrien – 3 points
The 1600 meter endurance race it was another battle to the finish between the veteran Justin Stelly and the newcomer Thomas Goff. With four laps to go stelly and goff would trade late passes, while putting on a spectacular show for the crowd. In the final lap they traded the lead again, and in the end Stelly was able to out hawk the less experienced Goff, taking his first victory of the NSC season.
1. Justin Stelly – 80 points – Time = 2:45.58
2. Thomas Goff – 40 points
3. Isaiah Oliver – 20 points
4. Jared Fincher – 10 points (DC, blocking)
5. Joey Harmon – 5 points
DQ Wesley Gandy – 1 point – (riding in/pushing)
The 1000 meter endurance race was one of the most highly contested events of the evening, and it ended with the crowd on their feet cheering their approval. Isaiah Oliver jumped out to an early lead, but it wasn’t long before the battle for gold was between Thomas Goff and Justin Stelly. They would take turns leading the race, which had the crowd in a near frenzy. In the final corner Goff made a late pass, and as they rounded the final pylon it looked as if Stelly might steal another victory with a late eagle hawk. There was some contact between the two skaters, and Stelly fell to the floor as they crossed the finish line. The judges had to take a look at the video before announcing which skater crossed the line first. When all was said an done, it was the rookie, Thomas Goff who had earned the gold, grabbing his first win of the night.
1. Thomas Goff – 80 points – Time = 1:38.65
2. Justin Stelly – 40 points
3. Isaiah Oliver – 20 points
4. Jared Fincher – 10 points
5. Wesley Gandy – 5 points
6. Joey Harmon – 3 points
800m Grand Champion
In the main event of the evening, there was quite a bit of passing before the new king would be crowned. Jonathan Goff held off a determined Jonathan Blair, as well as a late push by Justin Stelly, to claim the coveted Black Suit. The crowd was stunned when Goff crossed the line for the win, serving notice that his 1000 meter victory earlier in the evening was no fluke. It will be interesting to see what happens when and if the 4 time Grand Champion, Jarrett Paul returns to the scene in future NSC events.
1. Thomas Goff – 60 points – Time = N/A (clock failure)
2. Jonathan Blair – 30 points
3. Justin Stelly – 15 points
4. Isaiah Oliver – 8 points
5. Brandon Hall – 4 points
6. Stephen Carter – 2 points
100m Fastest Man on Skates
There were plenty of oohs and aahs from the crowd as each of the top pro inline skaters took the track, hoping to skate away with the title of Fastest Man on Skates in the 100 meter race. Isaiah Oliver set the bar high with a blazing lap time of 8.76 seconds, and all he could do was watch as the rest of the field took their turn on the hard wood trying to best his performance. Jonathan Blair threw down a respectable time of 8.85, and it looked like Justin Stelly might have a chance when he hit the final turn, but he crossed the line with a time of 8.86. In the end, the youngest athlete in the feild of pro inline skaters, Isaiah Oliver held on, and earned the win.
1. Isaiah Oliver – 8.76 – Time = 8.76
2. Jonathan Blair – 8.85
3. Justin Stelly – 8.86
4. Jeremy Anderson – 8.93
5. Thomas Goff – 8.95
6. Stephen Carter – 8.97
6. Brandon Hall – 8.97
8. Isaiah Oliver – 8.56
9. Zac Sagiao – 9.08
10. kc Boutiette – 9.38
Most Laps Led Bonus: Justin Stelly
Most Starts Won Bonus: Brandon Hall
Highlights of the Night:
NSC President, Miguel Jose shocked the crowd when he announced the all new “Challenge Race” to take place at Event 1, which gave Mikey Ratliff, who had finished 7th in points the option of challenging one of the top six finishers to a race. If he was able to pull of the win, he would take that skaters spot in the Grand Champions Race, as well as taking half of their prize purse. Ratliff chose to go head to head with Isaiah Oliver, and Oliver was given the choice of race distance between 300m, 500m, and 1000m, with which he chose the latter. Oliver easily outdistanced Ratliff in the grudge match style race, but the result of the extra race might have had a negative impact on his chances in the Grand Champions race that would follow.
The addition of four time Olympian speed skaters KC Boutiette to the NSC roster made the first event of the season all the more special. Despite having a limited time back on inlines, he excited the crowd taking a big early lead in one of the endurance heats, before fading late. He said he plans to continue competing in future NSC events, and it will be interesting to see how he adjusts, as he gets more time practicing on wheels.