Preparing for your first meet

Licenses and Memberships

Competition outside Columbus Speedskating local meets requires membership in:


Sign-ups are typically open 3-5 weeks before an event.  You will be asked to submit a “seed” time (2 laps/222 meters for younger skaters, 500m for older skaters).  The time can be from a previous competition, a time trial at practice, or your coach’s best guess.  It will be used to place you in a group of skaters with similar ability.


All skaters are required to have

– skates

– shin guards (sewn into suit or separate)

– knee pads (sewn into suit or separate)

– clothing that completely covers arms and legs

– a throat protector 

– gloves

– a bicycle or speedskating helmet

Water is used on the track to keep the ice as smooth as possible.  This means if you fall, you will get wet.  It can be convenient to have a hair dryer.

Day of the event

Start with a good breakfast.  Look for 300-500 calories.  Avoid fatty food or excessive sugar.

Food quality at skating rinks is hit or miss.  It is a good idea to bring food that you like to eat and that will sit well on your stomach during exercise.  Ideas include:

 – bagels

 – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

 – fresh fruit

 – nuts or trail mix

 – energy bars like cliff bars or luna bars

 – ramen noodles and a thermos of hot water

Athletes generally like to avoid foods that digest slowly.  Unless you have experience, avoid meats, dairy, and anything else “heavy.”

If you decide to sit inside the rink, you will be there for several hours.   A blanket or sleeping bag can be nice to have.


Check-in typically opens 90 minutes before the start of the meet, and closes 30 minutes before.   You will get a helmet cover with a number, a schedule of races, and a roster.  The roster will let you know which group you are skating with, and the schedule will let you know the order in which groups skate.

Columbus Speedskating generally tries to find a place to sit together – either in the bleachers inside the rink, or in the lobby.

Be sure to locate the “heat box” – an area near the ice where skaters will get skates on and off,and gather before entering the ice.


About 40 minutes before the start, there will be three 10 minute warm-up blocks.   Each group of skaters will be assigned a warm-up group based on age and ability.

You should have skates and all safety gear on about 5 minutes before your scheduled warm-up.

Warm-ups should generally follow the format we use at practice:  a few minutes of easy skating, then several faster efforts of 2-3 laps each. 

If you want to practice starts, you MUST do it near the center of the rink. Etiquette dictates that slower skaters should skate more towards the center, with faster skaters on the outside.


After warm-ups, there will be an ice cut (Zamboni), then each group will skate in order.  Skaters should keep track of which group is skating, and get to the heat box to get skates on and be ready to skate when the group before theirs is competing.  There will be a person at the door calling names and directing skaters to organize into 4-6 person “heats.”   That person will let you know the order you need to line up at the start. You need to remember this.

When it is time for you to race, you will be directed onto the ice.  You have maybe a minute to skate around slowly while officials finish duties from the previous race.

You will get called to the line.  Line up a bit behind the start line.  We have practiced the starting commands at Saturday morning practices.   

All skaters must complete the full distance of their race, so if you get lapped, you may still be racing after other skaters have finished.   WHEN IN DOUBT, KEEP SKATING UNTIL SOMEONE TELLS YOU TO STOP.

If you are getting passed, you should skate wide and allow faster skaters to have the inside track.  The officials will likely direct you to do this, but if you have the opportunity, it is polite to do so even if not directed


Most local / regional speedskating meets are run using an “all points” format.

Skaters are grouped by age and seed time.  Multiple age groups may skate together, then be sorted out at the end.   For example, the under 6 juniors may skate with the 7 and 8 juniors.  45-55 may skate with 55 and over.  Male and female skaters frequently skate together.   At the end of the meet, results are sorted out by age and sex.  So you can finish 3rd in your skating group and still win your age division.  A skating group will typically be 8-20 skaters.  

Each skating group is typically given a clever name, such as the host cities of the last olympics, or Santa’s reindeer or…..   Learn your group name, and pay attention when you are called to the heat box.

You will typically skate 4 distances.   Adults and older juniors normally skate:

  • 1000 m (9 laps)
  • 500 m (4.5 laps)
  • 777 m (7 laps)
  • 1500 m (13.5 laps)

Younger juniors skate shorter distances.

For the first 3 distances, you will skate twice:   a  heat and a final.

The skating group will be divided into heats of 4-6 skaters.  The “heats” serve as qualifiers for the “final” at each distance.

The “finals” are classed as A, B, C….  Skaters in the A final are skating for the top, say, 5 places (if there are 5 skaters).  B final skates for 6-10.  C final skates for 11-15.

You are seeded into a final based on finish position and/ or time in the heat.   So a heat may pick top 2 skaters plus next fastest from all heats into the A final.   Seeding into the B, C, or D final is completely on time.  So even if you are last place in your heat, skate the whole race as fast as you can, because it affects which final you will be in.  If you don’t make the A final, you want to be seeded in the highest final you can get to maximize your placing.

The longest distance is typically a “super-final.”  There are no heats.  Seeding is based on placing in the first 3 events.  

For each distance, you are given points for your placing in the final.  Heats are worth nothing except seeding.  Your overall placing for the meet is based on the total of the points you earn for each distance.  

Your ranking in your age group is then based on total points of other skaters in your age and sex.   Some meets also separate out skaters by ability within their age group (so, for example, there may be an “A” group and a “B” group for 12 year old girls.)

Confusing?   Skate as fast as you can and have fun.