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'Skate of the Union': Hundreds Race for Special Olympics

Two hundred skate on police department emergency vehicle course.

It was celebration of motion on Sunday when about 200 skaters participated in the Skate of the Union Race on the Fairfax County Police Department Emergency Vehicle Operations Course in Chantilly.

The race capped a weekend of events in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia dedicated to physical fitness and the freedom that comes with strapping on a pair of skates and soaring almost effortlessly on a summer’s morning. The event also raised money for Special Olympics Virginia, a non-profit sports organization that provides opportunities for nearly 13,000 children and adults with mental disabilities.

“The idea is to bring together all sorts of skaters for a weekend to race and enjoy the sport,” said Nathaniel Mills, event co-chairman, past member of the US Olympic speedskating team and now the head coach of DC Inner City Excellence, a youth sports organization. “There are all sorts of skaters here.”

Skate of the Union tried to give equal time to in-line skaters, roller skaters (the kind you see in roller derbies) and skate-boarders. However, skate-boarders were not allowed on the track Sunday because it was held on the police department course.

Mike Smith, of Manassas, during the day is a computer network administrator, but after work he laces up a pair of roller skates and works out with the East Coast Devastation Roller Derby league, based in Northern Virginia.

“Most of my free time is spent in roller derby,” Smith said after he finished a race on the police course. “This is way different than roller derby. There you have 90 seconds of action and then you sit down. Here you go a long way.”

Greg Scace, a speed-skater and mechanical engineer from Maryland, said he remains intrigued by the subtleties of his sport. Speed skates have much larger wheels than regular in-line skates and require a significantly different technique.

“Speed skating really is an engineer’s sport,” Scace said. “You have to be efficient and conserve energy to be successful. It’s all hard in the end, but with speed skates you get to go a lot faster.”

Krista Schreffler, event co-chair, said the Skate of the Union event has been around in various iterations since the 1990s. Members of various skating clubs, including her own Skater’s Quest team, showed up to compete.

“People come here from all over the country,” Schreffler said. “We have past Olympians here and we certainly hope we have future Olympians here too.”

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