(ThisWeekLive) Andy Rogers
The Red Bull Crashed Ice World Championships season opener was the talk of the town last weekend.
Everyone was asking “What is going on in St. Paul?” and saying “It looks like hockey on a roller coaster.”
Brave athletes skated through the 400-meter track near the Cathedral of St. Paul. It featured quick turns, uphills, downhills and jumps – just about everything you can do on skates.
Cameron Naasz got some firsthand experience.
The 2008 graduate of Lakeville South finished 24th overall and was the top USA Skater and Rookie of the Year at the meet last weekend. He was the Cinderella of the ball, that’s for sure.
Naasz took an interest in the event about a year ago. He wasn’t able to make it to the qualifiers in Duluth or St. Paul earlier this year, but a friend who works with Red Bull offered Naasz a prospect pass.
That was less than two weeks before the event in St. Paul.
“I didn’t have much time to prepare,” Naasz said. “I play intramural hockey, but that’s been over for a while and I haven’t skated for about a month.”
He doesn’t spend much time in the gym either, but he’s an extreme sport enthusiast willing to take a risk on anything new.
He dug out his hockey gear and headed to St. Paul to register the Wednesday before the event. His first time on any Crashed Ice course was Thursday. Officials allowed participants to skate around in the morning before time trials.
Out of 97 competitors from the United States, Naasz came in with a time of 44.19 seconds. That put him fourth overall and ensured him a spot in the race on Friday.
After the international time trials, Naasz was ranked 36th and he made it to the second round on Saturday with the final 32 racers.
His first time stepping out onto the starting line is something he may never forget.
“It was a rush,” Naasz said. “When you’re sitting on top of that course, you have so much adrenaline. You’re in front of 80,000 people, about to skate 406 meters in under a minute. It’s pretty wild.”
There were 19 rookie skaters in the final 64. He was not only the best rookie, but the fastest racer from the United States two weeks after not knowing whether he’d get to compete.
“It’s been pretty surreal,” Naasz said. “I had no expectations coming into it. I just listened to my dad and friends. I even contemplating not going. Everyone said, ‘you may as well do it and have some fun.’ ”
There’s a certain amount of risk involved in skating 50 miles per hour along an obstacle course. During practice Naasz noticed at least 10 competitors leaving with injuries ranging from dislocated shoulders to broken legs.
“It’s not quite as dangerous as it looks,” Naasz said. “I fell a couple times, but I’ve taken harder hits in my day.”
He feels his willingness to take a risk was key to his success. A common thread among the more successful racers was a diverse athletic background.
“I snowboard, mountain bike, wakeboard,” he said. “I do a lot of extreme sports. The cross-training helped. A lot of kids I talked to were just really good hockey players who only skate on flat ice. There’s nothing like going upside down or going off a jump. You had to stay calm in the air and stay under control and handle the transitions.”
His strong showing at the Crashed Ice event could signal a new direction in his life. He went from working 25 hours a week at Office Max and studying for 16 credits to potentially traveling around the world to feed the budding love for his newfound sport.
While the competition alone had its rewards, by finishing as the top racer for the United States he made the national team coached by Charlie Wasley, former University of Minnesota hockey player and Crashed Ice veteran, with three other skaters from around the country. He’s invited to compete in the Netherlands and Sweden next month and in Canada in March.
As a student at St. Cloud State University, that poses a little bit of a problem.
“That’s the debacle of the day here,” Naasz said. “I’m going to end up missing 10-12 days of school. I’ve been going up to all my teachers to see if they can work with me.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Everything is paid for. I’m willing to take a semester off to do this. I’d like to see how far I can take this sport.”
Naasz admits he’s a little out of shape, meaning there’s room for improving his times.
“I only skated, like, twice a week and I mountain bike during the summer,” Naasz said. “I’m hitting the gym in about a half hour to start a new training regimen.”
He plans on putting Crashed Ice at the top of his list of activities.
“This is going to be a huge sport,” Naasz said. “We’re trying to get it to become larger. Last year’s team, not many people came out for it. We didn’t get the best of the best skaters, so we’re not able to compete with the international team.
“I have a couple cousins that are little hockey players. Now they want to do it. I know the younger kids are super excited about it. The event in St. Paul was a huge success. I hope this is just the beginning.”