FORT WAYNE – Local inline speed skater Brian Gettys and his grandson, Aaron, have been training and competing together for years.
In November, Gettys dropped his grandson off at the airport and sent him to Seattle for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The National SpeedSkating Circuit, the only professional inline skating league, was holding qualifications for its fifth season.
Aaron was going to Seattle on his own.
It was time to let him go out by himself and see what he could do, Brian said.
Aaron, 16, relished the opportunity to prove that he could not only compete with the professionals, but that he could do it by himself.
It was one of the first times in my life that I felt grown up, Aaron said. The only down part about it was that I didn’t really have a cheering section.
While Aaron was competing to become one of the top 28 skaters at the NSC trials, Brian and the rest of the family were at home in Fort Wayne watching the trials online.
He would call up in between races and talk to coach Chris (Kessler) and my son, Jared, and get some advice, Brian said. They were essentially able to coach him from here.
From Aaron’s viewpoint, the coaching he received from back home was a crucial part of his skating.
They could see things from the outside of the race that I wasn’t able to see, Aaron said. They were also watching the other skaters so they were able to tell me where the passes would be open for the next race.
After two full days of racing different distances, Aaron qualified as an endurance racer for the National SpeedSkating Circuit.
He was awarded the No. 11 racing suit and will be paid for each of his inline appearances.
It’s a great feeling to be able to do this coming out of Fort Wayne. Ever since I made it all the younger kids have been looking up to me and asking me questions at practice, Aaron said. It’s the best feeling in the world.
Not only do the younger skaters at Bells Skating Rink have Aaron to look up to, but they also have his teammate, Christian Keesler. After being selected as a member of the Junior World Team, Keesler traveled to Belgium where he put up the third best U.S. Junior Men’s performance in the 42k Marathon event.
Although Keesler focuses on the outdoor side of the sport and Aaron focuses on the indoor side, the two young skaters still find time to practice together.
We practice together multiple times a week. He pushes me to get better and I push him to get better, Aaron said. We’re constantly working together to get each other to the next level.
For Aaron, his next level started Saturday when he competed in his first professional race in Tacoma, Wash. His grandfather was expected to make the trip with him.