Top of the Morning, Feb. 29, 2024

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As of Wednesday, 155 speedskaters had registered for this weekend's Land of Lincoln Short Track Championships at the UI Ice Arena. The impressive turnout is due to both timing and site: It's a tuneup to next month's national champioinships in Midland, Mich.; and it's where the likes of Bonnie Blair once performed.

"Part of it is the rich tradition of speedskating in Champaign," said Ryan Hastings of the host Champaign Regional Speedskating Club.

Blair was in her heyday when Hastings — growing up in Gibson City — joined the club. The 1998 GCMS grad has passed along his love of skating to his son, Roman, an eighth-grader at Unity Junior High who will compete this weekend. Blair was happy to join Roman and fellow club skater Liam Sears for a photo in 2022.

"Roman was starstruck and a little nervous to approach her. She noticed that the boys' skin suits said 'Champaign' on them and came over and offered to take a photo with them together practicing their starting positions," Ryan said. "Roman has since attended camps with her in Milwaukee and they are buds now."

Racing starts at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday (open to the public and free admission).