One's a life-long speed skater, and the other is fairly fresh to the sport. Zack McLaren and Amy Cave bring different perspectives when it comes to short track beginnings but last week they shared the exhilarating experience of competing at the Canadian Age Class short track speed skating championships in Montreal.
Both PoCo Lightning Speedskating Club members posted impressive marks in their events, with McLaren earning the top mark among B.C. men's junior A skaters, standing 10 th overall in Canada.
For Cave, 15, her national debut saw an impressive third place showing among B.C. skaters, and 14 th among all other junior B girl competitors.
"I think I did pretty good and I really enjoyed the different experience," remarked Cave, who only picked up the sport three years ago. "I fell in one race and that was one of only two times I've fallen this season."
Eighteen-year-old McLaren was in his fifth national championships but making his first foray into the junior A division. Racing in 500-, 1000-, 1500-and 3000-metre events, the Riverside Secondary student found his stride and got a taste of a new elite level.
"I was up against two guys at the top of the division (in the semifinal) and I stuck with them for much of the race until I got taken out - that was a bit of a bummer."
It seems like long blades have always been a part of McLaren's life, having started as a six-year-old.
He's climbed the ranks of B.C.'s best but is at the stage where, with high school ending and a growing resume against national-level competition, university and speedskating could possibly pull him to either national training facilities in Montreal or Calgary.
"It's been a target for me for a while," said McLaren. "I've been thinking about the next step and how I've put in so much time and effort in a sport I love - that would be a natural progression."
A right winger in the Tri-City Predators hockey program, Cave had her interest peaked in speedskating after attending a 2010 Olympic race. From there it was just a question of when.
"I saw it and I thought it was real cool," said Cave. "I just had to try it."
Despite 10 years of playing hockey, there was much to learn. But each obstacle, like using a lower, crouching position on long blades, peeled away like another lap around the rink. Soon, the Dr. Charles Best student was rising up the B.C. charts.
She's eager to credit the Lightning coaches for helping her make quick strides - Barb Beck, Lucy Kim and Louise McLaren, Zack's mom.
Like McLaren, Cave is most comfortable in the longer lengths of 1500-and 3000-metres. So there was some personal satisfaction in her performance in the 1000m event, matching stride with stride with 16 and 17 year olds.
"It was one of my better races. You had to have a real good race to qualify for the quarterfinal, where you'd meet the best," she said. "In the quarterfinal
I was really nervous for the whole thing, but it seems I was nervous for all the longer distances."
She finished third.
Cave is now ready to hang up her hockey gear after 10 years and turn the spotlight on short track, although she admits she'll miss chasing the puck. However, those years barreling down the wing continue to influence her skating.
"I guess I'm pretty aggressive because of all that hockey," she said with a laugh. "Sometimes I get disqualified because I do a little too much pushing."