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HIGH LIFE : Freshman Has an Edge on Racing : Speed skating: Fullerton's Kelley Cawthra, who's been on the ice since she was 3, hopes her fast short-track times take her to the Olympics.

April 15, 1993|STEPHEN LEWIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Stephen Lewis, a senior at Fullerton Union High School, is a writer and photographer for the Pleiades, the student newspaper

Kelley Cawthra's future looks sharp--as sharp as the blades on the ice skates that hold her on course while going almost 22 m.p.h. during her 500- and 1,000-meter sprints.

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Kelley, a freshman at Fullerton Union High School, is ranked seventh nationally in her speed skating division, junior girls. She has been ice skating since the age of 3 and competing since she was 5. Her parents, both speed skaters in the early '80s, introduced her to the sport as they toured the country on the race circuit.

"I soon made friends and skating became almost a habit," says Kelley, 15, of her early years as a skater. "I've always been a speed skater. You get to meet a lot of people from all over the country, and I've made a lot of good friends."

Kelley stays in form by skating each Wednesday and Saturday at Paramount Ice Rink in Paramount. She also does jumping exercises, sit-ups and pushups, and uses in-line skates as a dry-land alternative to ice. A member of her school's track team, she competes in sprints, shotput and discus, and runs on the cross-country team in the fall.

The short track in speed skating is 111 meters long, contrasted with 400 meters for the long outdoor tracks. Short-track races can be held at any regular ice rink, making speed skating possible throughout Southern California.

Because of the close confines and high speeds of short-track racing, skaters are required to wear helmets, shinguards, kneepads and gloves. A skintight neck-to-toe suit, similar to the hooded suit worn by long-track skaters, reduces wind drag.

Kelley began skating nationally five years ago and competes in four meets annually in Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri and New York.

"My parents pay for my travel now, but we're looking at getting a sponsor for next year," Kelley said.

For 10 days in December, Kelley trained with World Team coach Stan Klotkowski at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center in New York. In 1991, she went to Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center for a development camp, joining skaters from across the country.

Short-track speed skating became a 1992 Olympic sport after it was an exhibition sport in the 1988 winter games.

"I didn't try out for the '92 games; my parents didn't think I was old enough or ready," Kelley said. "For the 1994 games I'll try out, but I'm really looking forward to 1998. I'll have a better chance."

Her current goal is to make the Junior World Speed Skating Team, which consists of the five fastest skaters under 17. The world team travels to various countries to compete and is considered the best preparation for the Olympics.

Last month she raced in the Olympic Sports Festival Team Trials in St. Louis as a member of the Southern California Speed Skating Assn.

At the trials, she placed 17th in a system that awards points for first through fourth places. Since points are not based on time but on how the skater places in the heat, a certain amount of luck is involved.

"In my 1,500 heat, I placed sixth, but my time would have beaten any of the fastest girls in any other heat," Kelley said.

Although she was eliminated early, her times were good, and she is hoping for better luck at the Great Lakes Open in Milwaukee, coming up in November.

In the meantime, look for her gliding to the beach on her in-line skates.

"When I'm not on my ice skates, it's good to be out in the sun on Rollerblades," she said. "It's the same motion and everything, except for falling. You don't slide, you hit the cement."

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