Spring Lake middle schooler holds 20 state titles in speed skating

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MUSKEGON, Mich. -- Winter sports go year round in Michigan with full time hockey leagues and figure skating so it's no surprise that a middle schooler has set state records...except that she's doing it in speed skating.

12-year-old Catherine Vandergriff started out amongst the millions in figure skating, but thanks to the influence of her older brother her ice career took two left turns for the better.

“I got drug along to my brother’s practices and I kind of wanted to beat him," Vandergriff tells FOX 17, "because we have that sibling rivalry I went out and tried it.”

The Spring Lake Intermediate School student turned her focus to speed skating and now holds 20 state titles; 4 for Illinois and 16 in Michigan.

Vandergriff is still working towards that original goal of beating her brother, "He’s still a little faster than me.”

Speed skating requires a unique blend of athletic skill. Coach Mark Jastrzembski explains, “The speed skater is a blend between the hockey player and the figure skater. You’ve got to have the power and the speed of a hockey skater, but you also have to have the grace and technical efficiency of a figure skater. And that kid is a hard kid to find.”

But Coach Mark has found it in Catherine. Joking with FOX 17's Tracy Hinson Jastrzembski says, “In the interview you just did you’ve seen the very sweet and charming Miss Catherine Rachel, but when she’s on the ice she’s tenacious and fearless.”

Her tenacity and fearlessness helping her train hard and dream big. “Well there isn’t really a college for speed skating, some colleges have ice but not really a scholarship," explains Vandergriff, "so I want to go to the olympics with it."

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