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Empire State Winter Games a success

Jaylyn Orwig competes in figure skating.

Jaylyn Orwig competes in figure skating.

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Gretchen O’Leary of Tupper Lake won the Gold in the 2-K freestyle and 5-K classic scholastic cross country ski races during the Empire State Winter Games last weekend. The games featured over 1,000 winter sports athletes in the Lake Placid, Wilmington and Saranac Lake areas, competing in 16 different event categories.

— “I like it because you get to watch other things besides skating,” said fellow figure skater Simona Lee, 16, of Pierrepont, who placed second in the junior ladies category.

“A lot of people train here in the summer and it’s nice to come back,” added her friend Margot Krisberg, 16, of Chappaqua, who placed first in the same category.

Indeed many athletes cite the fun atmosphere and the chance to spend time with friends as a major draw of the games.

“I’ve been coming here for the Empire State Games since I was about twelve, and it’s a lot of fun; it’s a great environment,” said speed skater Emily Elbers, 18 of Syracuse, who won both the 100m and 500m events on the Olympic oval in the women’s open division.

“It’s a great racing opportunity to improve,” added fellow Syracuse speed skater Alex Zamojski, 15 who earned a bronze in the 500m, and a gold in the 800m long-track events.

While the competition and experience of the games is good, said Mauro, “It’s a fun competitiveness.”

Ethan Wood, 12, a cross country skier from Saranac Lake, who placed third in his age class in the freestyle event and fourth in the classic event, was just happy to be able to find some snow.

“There’s no snow anywhere in the Adirondacks this year, and this is the only place with snow – and I love skiing.”

“That’s what makes if worth doing,” said McKenna, citing a similar response from an athlete. “We are already starting to think about next year.”

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