For 32 years, Meredith Thornton has been passionate about speed skating. She has been a constant presence on the Dawson Creek Speed Skating Club coaching staff. It’s such a big and long-running part of her life that she couldn’t imagine not coaching, so it was quite the surprise when B.C. Speed Skating named her the 2019-20 Coach of the Year.
“I’m really pleased. I’ve always been in the background, hanging out and helping to coach the younger kids, so I never expected to receive this award,” Thornton says. “Usually it goes to someone that has coached a lot of senior skaters or won countless medals at the national level, but it’s nice that my cumulative effort has been acknowledged, and that Dawson Creek is recognized too.”
Thornton has had lots of positions with the Dawson Creek club, at times the head coach, sometimes coaching all age groups and other times focussing on the younger skaters. But she’s always been involved.
“I’ve coached beginners to adults, and it’s fun when you coach a whole family that starts at once, or see generations of a family take up the sport over time,” says Thornton.
Growing up in Dawson Creek, Thornton fell in love with the sport because it was family oriented, and enjoys the congenial atmosphere of catching up with people a couple times a year at different events.
“I loved the aesthetics of the of the sport. I didn’t like going fast, but I liked moving, and the way skaters glide across the track is beautiful and always appealed to me.”
She didn’t take up skating herself until she moved award for university, where she joined the Burnaby Club, and has been coaching with Dawson Creek ever since she returned.
“I just keep coming back,” Thornton jokes about her long tenure with the club.
“I can’t imagine winters without it. And it’s funny because, as a teacher and in my life, I’ve always been more academically minded and never considered myself a sports person, but I guess I kind of am.”
As for why she loves coaching so much, Thornton said being able to see a progress in an individual throughout time is very rewarding.
“Interacting with smaller ones, you can see success and change in such a short time. There is a learning curve but it’s great to see them progress and catch on,” she says.
This season will look a bit different for Thornton and the DC club. It remains to be seen if there will be any competitions, and the club only had 22 members last year, far from the 60-70 skaters it had back in the 1980s. Still, she is excited about the coming year and knows it will be rewarding for the skaters no matter what happens.
“Even if there are no competitions, it would be gratifying to be skating, and you can still practice and focus on skills while staying within six feet of each other.
She encourages anyone interested to try speed skating.
“It’s great for families, and adults are welcome. We have a learn to skate program, and it’s perfect for anyone new to the sport.”