History of the Rochester Speed Skating Club/Team
The Rochester Speed Skating Club dates back many decades in Rochester, NY history when the Club was in its infancy and speed skating at Cobb’s Hill Park was an obsession and a recreational fascination. The pond at Cobb’s Hill has held many speed skating events and now in the “warmer” years, we have yet to see any safe skating ice there. At one time RSSC had over 300 members and was a competitive powerhouse in the world of speed skating having turned out many incredible athletes, including Olympic Gold Medalist Cathy Turner. The Club was strong and had a promising future but through the years the membership began to decline. The old RSSC establishment eventually waned in the early/mid 1970s with only a handful of original club skaters staying active.
For many years, a small group of speed skaters would meet at the undersized public rink at Manhattan Square Park in downtown Rochester for casual skating on varying Wednesday nights during the winter.
In 1998 the ESL Sports Center was built in Henrietta, a four-rink facility like no other in the area. New interest and the re-emergence of speed skating in Rochester began.
During 1999 – 2000 season the Rochester Speedskating Club renewed its membership within the national organizing body, the American Speedskating Union, with a new name, The Rochester Short Track Speed Skating Team/RSST. Jim Cornell, Tim Bostley and Marty Medina were instrumental in the reorganization of the Team.
The Team began skating three times per week and gained momentum quickly, greatly increasing the membership which includes many Master skaters (30 and over), young adults and children.
In RSST’s first race as a team (Syracuse Invitational, February 2000) they placed 3rd overall with many of the skaters placing in the top six! Many of the top performing skaters were beginners who had just that season.
For several years the Team skated at ESL and at Genesee Valley Ice Arena and now the Team skates at Genesee Valley on Mondays, Tuesdays and Saturdays.
There are approximately 45 active members skating in the 2015-16 season, ranging in age from 5 to 80. The group includes some who have been skating since they were very young and others who took up the sport much later. Skaters are from the City of Rochester and most of its suburbs as well as several from Buffalo. There are many families with more than one member skating with the Team and one family with 3 generations actively skating.
Several members have gone on to skate at the Olympic Center in Salt Lake City and at facilities in Colorado, Michigan and Wisconsin. Mikey Burdekin and Cherise Wilkins earned Category I status and Cherise was a member of the World Team one season.
For many years RSST had the largest number of competing Master skaters (age 30 and over) in the country. A number of RSST skaters competed and became National Champions in their age divisions and several have earned International Masters Champion status in competitions in Syracuse/2013 and Ottawa, Ontario/2014. Check out the “Champions” link (currently under construction).
The Team’s outstanding coaches over the years – Tom Rossborough, Karen Verrone, Marty Medina, Gerry Savoie, Elizabeth Savoie, Tim Doherty, Craig Pielechowski, Julie Gehring and Alec Lang also skated competitively.
Skaters travel to other cities/states during the season to compete and the Team sends a large number to the Empire State Games in Lake Placid each February with competition in both Short and Long Track.
Skating in Rochester is Short Track, taking place on a 111 meter track on the indoor ice. A number of skaters also compete in Long Track meets which are skated on 400 meter ovals, including the Olympic Oval in Lake Placid and the Pettit Center in Milwaukee, MN. Several Long Track skaters also compete on other outdoor sites in Canada and the U.S. Karen Verrone and Kathy and Nate Feinberg have qualified for an International Masters Meet in the Netherlands during the 2015-16 season.
Team members are also very involved off-ice in competitions including road and trail races, cycling events, triathlons, biathlons and ski teams. RSST members have volunteered for Clean Sweep (City of Rochester), Earth Day, Irondequoit Bay and Erie Canal cleanup, Ronald McDonald House, Rochester Breast Cancer Coalition and many other community events and charities.
When the ice season ends, skaters can be found in running shoes on Cobbs Hill on Tuesday evenings being led through strengthening and endurance activities by Coach Tom Rossborough.
For those interested in learning the sport two Learn to Speed Skate programs (4 sessions) are offered during the season. More information on LTSS: firstname.lastname@example.org and check the “Learn to Speed Skate” link.