GLEN ELLYN – For 75 years, the Glen Ellyn Speed Skating Club has built a legacy, helping skaters pursue their Olympic dreams and offering fun for multiple generations.
"It's a great sport, and it's one of the best-kept secrets, especially among people in Glen Ellyn," Head Coach Carl Cepuran said.
The club's 75th season has seen its share of successes, with three skaters achieving personal bests at the U.S. Olympic Trials in December.
Brandon Molenda, 15, of Aurora, competed as the youngest skater at the trials and shaved at least a half second from each of his races to skate his personal bests in the 500, 1,000 and 1,500 meter, he said.
"I felt really good about it," Brandon said.
Another young skater from the club who competed at the trials is Sarah Warren, 17, of Willowbrook, who placed eighth in the 500 meter and ninth in the 1,000 meter.
For Sarah, it was exciting to compete against some of the best speed skaters in the world.
"To be in the top 10 with them was a great experience," she said.
Jaclyn Rowe, 20, of Wheaton, skated with the Glen Ellyn club until she started college at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, but continues her affiliation with the club.
She received a third-place finish in the 5,000-meter race at the Olympic Trials and placed 12th in the 500, 10th in the 1,500 and sixth in the 3,000.
"It's an amazing feeling being there and being able to watch everyone race," she said.
All three skaters hope to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2018.
The Glen Ellyn Speed Skating Club draws from across the Chicago area, and, in some cases, other nearby states. The club currently has 66 members, Cepuran said.
Local speed skaters make up a tight-knit community of clubs that often practice together.
The club practices Sundays at the Addison Ice Arena and Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Oakton Ice Arena with the Park Ridge Speed Skating Club.
For some of the Glen Ellyn members, skating runs through their family tree.
Cepuran became involved with the Glen Ellyn Speed Skating Club in the 1990s, when his son joined.
Brandon's sister, Brianne, also is a member of the club, and Rowe's mother was once a figure skater.
The Sundstrom family, which saw two daughters make it on past U.S. Olympic teams, made the club a family affair, with both parents, three daughters and one son as members, Cepuran said.
In the Glen Ellyn Speed Skating Club's 75 years, four skaters have qualified for the U.S. Olympic team while they were members, beginning with Keith Meyer in 1960 and ending with Becky Sundstrom in 2002.
Olympian Mitch Whitmore, who won the men's 500-meter race at the trials this year, got his start speed skating with the Glen Ellyn club.
For the club's recent group of skaters who competed for a spot on the Olympic team, the best part of skating with the club is its sense of community, they said.
"We're like one big family," Brandon said.
New to speed skating?
Learn to speed skate with the Glen Ellyn club's Introduction to Speed Skating program.
The three-week program is held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sundays at the Addison Ice Arena, 475 S. Grace St. in Addison.
The cost for the program is $60, which includes speed skate rental.
For more information, call 630-403-8310, email email@example.com or visit www.glenellynspeedskating.org.
The club also plans to hold Novice Ice Skating Races every Saturday morning this winter at Lake Ellyn, if weather and ice conditions permit.
The free races are open to children from 4 to 12 years old.
Registration occurs from 9 to 9:30 a.m., with races at 10 a.m. Each skater will have the opportunity to compete in two races, with ribbons awarded for first, second, third and fourth places.
Parental assistance for the races is appreciated.
The Novice Ice Skating Races were started by the late Bill Lussie in the 1930s. Lee and Judy Marks took over the races in 2000.
"It's a wonderful tradition that's gone on for a long, long time," Lee Marks said.
To check ice conditions at Lake Ellyn, visit www.gepark.org/pro_weathercancellations.html or call 630-984-5075.