Numbers are up for every sport as Bay State Games begin
A year ago, Bay State Games executive director Kevin Cummings said he was told to be prepared to see slumping figure skating numbers.
Instead, participation has taken off for the 28th edition of the Games.
"We haven't seen [a drop]," Cummings said. "People have put our skating competition on their calendar. You can never take that for granted. It puts more pressure on you because you want to sustain it."
Numbers are up across the board for the three-day event, which features figure skating, Alpine skiing and masters ice hockey. This year's skating competition will feature nearly 600 participants, one of the largest ever, while Alpine skiing has 54 registered, including 50 who are high school age or younger. Hockey has added an over-30 division and now has 14 teams signed up after nine teams competed last year.
The annual Bay State Skate Show on Saturday night at Williams College's Lansing Chapman Rink will also feature U.S. silver medalist Ross Miner, who is headed to his second world championship next month. The event is the only part of the Games that requires a ticket, which is $10 and will be on sale at the rink today and Saturday.
"We're excited about having Ross come out," Cummings said. "Over our 28-year history we've been fortunate to get some high-caliber skaters. I got to tell you, Ross is right in that echelon."
Cummings said Alpine's growth is indicative of the overall rise in interest the Games have seen. Last year only about 50 or 60 raced at Bousquet Ski Area in the midst of a mild winter that was tough on skiers. Cummings expects to eclipse that number this year with race-day registration.
Traditionally, it's been tough to get younger skiers to compete because the Games are in the middle of the Tri-State season. But this year, the lion's share of the early registrations are youth skiers. Race chairwoman Jill Johnson said her son Drew Dunham, who can't compete until next year, loves the event.
"I have a sixth grader who can't wait to get up to seventh grade to race," Johnson said. "One more year of forerunning for him."
The hockey competition has seen a similar spike after a new division was added for over-30 competitors. Still, as has been the case for years, figure skating is the premier event. Registration sold out nearly three weeks before it was scheduled to close.
Becky Goyette, treasurer for event host Christmas Brook Figure Skating Club, said the Bay State Games are one of the last major qualifiers for the State Games of America.
"It's just a wonderful opportunity for the skaters to show what they work for all year long," Goyette said. "It's one of the biggest competitions."