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NorthShore Inline Marathon: Fast = fun for inline racer Stoddard

Like many 7-year-olds, one of Corinne Stoddard’s school parties was at a roller-skating rink, her first foray into the sport.

Unlike many 7-year-olds, it doubled as a career fair for Stoddard, who realized something that long-ago day in Seattle: She liked going fast.

Now 17, Stoddard has morphed into one of the top skaters in the world, and it doesn’t matter the surface. Coming off a breakthrough summer at the junior inline world championships, Stoddard rolled into Duluth on Thursday with her Team Bont cohorts ahead of Saturday’s 23rd annual NorthShore Inline Marathon.

Afterward, she will return to Salt Lake City and resume training on ice with the U.S. national team, where she excels on both the short and long tracks. Stoddard has aspirations of qualifying for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China.

Not bad for someone who started out in roller skates on a wood rink. A 7-year-old Stoddard was hooked immediately.

“I really liked to go fast and race, really liked the competitiveness of it,” she said.

Stoddard medaled twice at the July junior worlds in the Netherlands, finishing third in the 10-kilometer points elimination race and second in the 20K points elimination.

She was reached by phone Thursday evening while en route to Duluth with fellow NSIM hopefuls Kelsey Helman and Justin Stelly, also of Team Bont (and Team USA).

They’re part of an intriguing lineup that includes defending men’s champ Sebastian Guzman, Zach Stopplemour and K.C. Boutiette, who was second in 1997, the second year of the event.

“We’re still drawing some top-notch people in the industry of inline skating, which is awesome,” NSIM executive director Skeeter Moore said.

Defending champs

A year after edging 2016 champ Stelly by less than a second, Guzman will defend his title Saturday. The 22-year-old roped in Stelly late in last September’s race and was triumphant in 1:03:01, a healthy time given the morning’s persistent drizzle and slick course.

Stelly, 31, is originally from Louisiana, though he’s living and training in Salt Lake City. Growing up, he’d had some success inline skating and, in 2006, headed to Utah and bought his first pair of ice skates. Save for a four-year hiatus, from 2012-16, he’s been bouncing back and forth between the two pursuits ever since. He’s also eyeing the 2022 Winter Games (long track).

The length-of-a-skate loss to Guzman last year denied Stelly his third NSIM crown. He also won in 2010.

“To battle with a world champion like that, there’s a certain amount of pride that comes with it,” Stelly said.

On the women’s side, Manon Kamminga won’t skate this weekend. She posted a narrow victory over Morgan McKey in 2017. Kamminga’s girlfriend, Olympian Brittany Bowe, had planned to compete before a last-minute scheduling audible.

26.2 miles, minus the .2

Chad Hedrick’s NSIM record — 57:18, set in 1998 — is safe for at least another year regardless of what happens Saturday.

That’s because construction alongside the William A. Irvin on Harbor Drive, where the race traditionally ends, is forcing a shortened course. Instead of 26.2 miles, marathoners will skate an even 26.

The modified finish line will be on the bay side of the DECC. If someone were to best Hedrick’s mark, it’d go down as an event record but not a course record — similar to the scenario Grandma’s Marathon faced in June.

“We exhausted all our options to make the course the official 26.2, but we couldn’t because of some railroad tracks at the starting line (in Two Harbors),” Moore said. “We couldn’t get 100 percent confirmation that trains wouldn’t come across the tracks, so we shortened the course.”

Speaking of records

As if this week wasn’t already busy enough for NorthShore race director Mike Ward, he found himself frantically searching for updates on Ajay Pickett’s attempt to set the fastest-known time on the Superior Hiking Trail, in the “unsupported” category. Ward was extra interested because, well, the record belonged to him.

In 2016, he covered 310 miles, from the Canadian border to just past Jay Cooke State Park, in 8 days, 7 hours and 59 minutes. Pickett recently contacted the 29-year-old Ward to inform him he was taking aim at his mark.

The “gentlemanly” thing to do, Ward said.

The way Pickett treated Ward’s record wasn’t so noble. Pickett obliterated the standard, concluding Thursday morning in 7 days, 20 hours and 56 minutes.

“Records are made to be broken,” Ward said the night before, when it was evident he was about to be bumped. He had been in communication with Pickett and was pulling for him.

Will he try to get the record back? Ward scoffed. No thanks, he said. There are plans for a fully supported Superior Hiking Trail hike next Memorial Day weekend, but this unsupported business takes its toll.

“It’s not fun,” Ward said. “You’re in the same pair of underwear for eight days. You’re hungry. It’s really, really terrible.”

Numbers up

Good news numerically speaking: NSIM registration is up.

Ward said midweek that about 1,900 were signed up for the smorgasbord of events, well above the 1,723 that competed a year ago. The field includes (approximations): inline marathon, 1,010; inline half, 300; inline combined, 40; roller-ski marathon, 50; Tunnel 10K run, 350; half-marathon run, 150.

The turnout reverses years of steady declines. Even more encouraging to Moore — newbies comprise almost half the total of entered skaters. Forty-seven percent to be exact.

“I’m really excited about that number,” which bodes well for the future of the nation’s largest inline marathon, Moore said.

  • Today’s expo and packet pick-up (noon to 9 p.m.) will take place at the DECC arena.
  • Kids sprints are scheduled for 4 p.m. at Pioneer Hall.
  • Moore hopes to bring a two-day roller festival to Duluth in 2019, which would overlap race weekend. 

NORTHSHORE INLINE MARATHON

What: 23rd annual installment of nation’s largest inline marathon

Where: Two Harbors to Duluth

When: 6:45 a.m. (inline half-marathon); 8:45 a.m. (inline marathon)

Online: Go to northshoreinline.com for a schedule of all weekend events

Defending champs: Sebastian Guzman, men, 1:03:01; Manon Kamminga, women, 1:16:38

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