Sugar, spice and downhill on ice

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 11, 2012 - 5:21 PM

Out of 164 qualifers for the borderline-insane Crashed Ice races, only five are women -- a former Dartmouth hockey player, a Boston University lacrosse player, two Minnesota RollerGirls and an Olympic hopeful .

A former Dartmouth hockey player, a Boston University lacrosse player, two Minnesota RollerGirls and an Olympic hopeful stand out among the daredevils queuing up for the dizzying downhill ice race starting Thursday in St. Paul.

The five are the only female contestants among 164 qualifiers for the Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships. All of the women are lifelong skaters who see the race as a once-in-a-lifetime chance for downhill ice-track racing through drops and hairpin turns.

The course, expected to take about 40 seconds, starts with an aggressively steep drop from the Cathedral of St. Paul on the hill overlooking downtown.

"It's pretty crazy," Amanda Trunzo of Andover said of the course. "But my mom's probably more scared than I am."

Trunzo, who coaches girls' hockey at Eden Prairie High School, heard about the crashed ice competition from her Canadian skating friends, who encouraged the speedy forward to try it. "They thought I would be good at it," she said. Quebec often plays host to similar contests.

The runs Thursday and Friday will be solo time trials, with the top 64 advancing to the finals Saturday. That's when four skaters will come out of the chutes together, creating high potential for wipeouts and crashes.

The women competitors come experienced at rough-and-tumble.

Trunzo, 22, played high school hockey at Benilde-St. Margaret's and won a full-ride Division I hockey scholarship. Brittany Salmon, 25, is a short-track speed-skater from Utah who hopes to contend for an Olympic berth. Jenny Taft, 24, played hockey at Edina High School and lacrosse in college. She's also a Fox Sports North TV personality. Jessica Sawicki, 25, and Lisa Sarne, 28, are both on a roller derby team.

Trunzo trekked to the tryouts expecting to compete in a women's division, but saw mostly men. "I was like, 'Oh, great, here we go,' but I wasn't going to back out," she said.

Starting with her big brother and dad when she was 3, Trunzo has skated with guys until high school.

RollerGirl Sarne said, "We do co-ed scrimmages with guys, and it's not a big deal. It's not like anyone's going to hurt you on purpose -- but I'm not expecting anyone to be nice to me."

So far, the women have competed only on flat obstacle courses.

Trunzo and Salmon skate regularly, but the other three women had to get their skating legs back under them in the past couple of months.

Sarne said she hopes her effort doesn't include "having to hop over the boards and walk home in my skates."

Salmon said she's eyed the Crashed Ice competition for a couple of years because it combines her favorite sports of skiing, skating, hockey and mountain biking.

"I love going fast. I've been on the ice since I remember; it's more natural than walking," she said.

Taft comes from a skating family. "When I found out about it, I felt like it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up," she said.

None of the women confesses to fear.

Taft said she'll be wearing all her protective gear. "I'm going to try to get down safely and quickly," she said.

Sarne got one tip: Jump before you hit a ledge to create a softer landing. She said she has been visualizing the competition while doing her gym cardio workouts, and nervousness has turned to excitement. She likened the races to taking on tough world championships, saying, "You've got to go in with confidence or you're going to fall, right?"

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

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  • Amanda Trunzo, one of five women who qualified for the Crashed Ice competition starting Thursday in St. Paul, admits the event is “pretty crazy.”

  • Amanda Trunzo, assistant girls’ hockey coach at Eden Prairie, was encouraged by friends to test her skills in the Crashed Ice event in St. Paul.

  • IF YOU GO

    Where: Track starts next to the Cathedral of St. Paul and ends by College Avenue W. near Interstate 35E.

    Schedule: Thursday, 1:30 p.m., time trials for U.S. skaters. Friday, 12:45 p.m., time trials for international skaters; 7 p.m., elimination round. Saturday, 4 p.m., gates open; 7 p.m., finals.

    Entrance gates: Top of the course via John Ireland Boulevard and end of the course via College Avenue W.; concessions and portable toilets available at both locations.

    Admission: General admission is free; "Crash Zone" entertainment/viewing area is $15.

    Viewing: There is no place where the entire track is visible. Large video screens will show the action.

    Parking: A shuttle bus will run starting at 4 p.m. Saturday from parking lots near the State Capitol. There will be four pickup stops: at the intersections of Sherburne Avenue and Park Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Cedar Street, John Ireland Boulevard and W. 12th Street and on John Ireland Boulevard in front of Department of Transportation building.

    Warning: Parking in the neighborhood immediately around the track is limited to vehicles with resident parking stickers. Others will be tagged and towed.

    More information: www.startribune.com/a940

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