Jayda Parker has been inline speed skating since she was 5. Now 12, she's amassed a collection of trophies.
"We have boxes and boxes of medals and trophies and you name it,” said Parker's mom, Brandie Aldrich of Austin, Texas. “They hide in the garage and eventually I sweep them out to the garbage can; there’s just not a place for them. She doesn’t mind so much.”
Parker has competed in roller skating nationals six times and has earned medals in relay events. This year she’ll be competing in the 300-, 500- and 700-meter elementary girls inline speed skating races.
Parker is one of more than 3,500 skaters, including Olympic athletes, who have rolled into Lincoln for the USA Speed Skating National Championships.
The competition, held at Speedway Sporting Village, started July 6 with the roller derby national championships. Speed skaters began competing Sunday and race through July 21. Rink hockey runs through July 20, and the figure skaters take the floor July 21-Aug. 4.
There are many different sports and divisions, and competitors range in age from 5 to 95, said Danny Brown, co-chair of the national championships planning committee and a member of the board of directors for USA Roller Sports, which is based in Lincoln.
He said Lincoln has frequently hosted nationals. It’s a convenient location for athletes traveling from everywhere in the country.
Inline speed skating quietly but consistently produces Olympic-caliber athletes who cross over into ice events, Brown said, including Apolo Ohno and Brittany Bowe.
Notably, inline skater Erin Jackson became the first black woman to make a U.S. Olympic long-track speed skating team, he said. She qualified after only four months in the sport and has multiple Olympic speed skating medals.
“Speed skating has been in more recent years the feeder for ice speedskating,” Brown said. “You don’t get the ESPN mainstream recognition, but from a grass-roots level, it’s very developmental.”
Those involved with roller skating see it as a sport that supports athletes and gives them a framework to succeed both on and off the track.
"We pride ourselves on building structure within the kids themselves to ... be not just world champions, but good adults," Brown said. "I know the coaches in our organization make a really strong effort to make sure there’s good sportsmanship."
Aldrich said it’s a sport where not everyone earns a trophy, but there are enough local-level competitions to build athletes’ confidence and skills.
“Once you overcome the initial aches and pains … there’s enough fun and reward that it’s worth it,” she said. Aldrich is a coach for Texas Speed, the team Parker competes for, and has skated since high school.
“Even though you have to work hard to earn the trophies, it’s pretty easy to stick with," Parker said.
For the events this year, officials are introducing new technology, including a video wall for spectators, and they're testing chip timing and video review for officials.