Third generation Lake Forest resident Bruce Mcilvaine was hoping to regain his two time barrel jumping championship title at Saturday's Lake Forest Parks and Recreation Department’s 90th annual Ice Skating Races, Skating Exhibition, and Barrel Jumping Competition at Lake Forest College.
But, gravity wasn’t on his side this year.
Mcilvaine, along with four other Lake Forest men, braved the unforgiving ice and jumped over industrial size barrels to the cheers and applause of the spectators who watched from the bleachers. The competitors could touch the barrels with their skates, but they had to land upright and skate away from the barrels without falling to continue on.
The first competitor left the ice after falling on his first jump, but Mcilvaine cleared five barrels before he fell trying to jump over six. His winning record several years ago was eight barrels. (Check the accompanying video).
“I’ve been competing in the barrel jumping competition for 12 or 13 years. I cleared eight and landed eight, and I’ve won this event twice,” said Mcilvaine.
Floyd Culbertson, a long time friend of Mcilvaine, no longer participates in the jumping event but helps set up the barrels and referees. He talked Mcilvaine into the barrel jumping competition over a decade ago, and Mcilvaine hasn’t missed an event since. One year he even cut short a vacation to get back in time to compete.
Barrel jumping was once an Olympic sport and there are definitely risks involved. Mcilvaine broke his ribs while jumping several years ago. But, that hasn’t stopped him. He was back with his skates on ready to jump the next year.
“It’s fun. I don’t train, I wish I did, I should. I keep saying I’m going to but I don’t,” Mcilvaine said.
Friendships and the thrill of the competition are also keeping Mcilvaine returning year after year.
“I grew up in Canada and had been skating my entire life and wanted to turn my kids on to skating. My wife at the time found the Saturday morning skating through the Lake Forest Recreation Department so we started skating. That’s where I met Lloyd. It’s funny how many people I only see 8 to 10 consecutive weeks here; this is it. We get a half an hour one day a week,” Mcilvaine said.
Although Mcilvaine didn’t win this year, he was more than happy to cheer on those who remained in the competition after he missed the sixth barrel.
The final jump in the competition came down to two young Lake Forest competitors and nine barrels. Tom Lachance, a former hockey player and skating instructor, was able to stick the landing and claim victory.
“I was a little scared, those barrels look really big when you’re coming around the corner,” said Lachance.
And then, Dan Deuel, event emcee and program manager for the Lake Forest Recreation Department, made Lachance an offer he couldn’t refuse. Deuel offered Lachance the chance to tie the barrel jumping record of 10 barrels.
The crowd was silent as Lachance raced toward the 10 blue barrels, and it looked as though he had tied the record, but unfortunately he lost his footing and fell as he skated away from the barrels.
“I thought that I stuck the landing but I guess not, my weight was probably too far back. I really wanted to beat the other guy,” Lachance said.
This was the second time Lachance has competed in the barrel-jumping event. “I did it back in 2004 and jumped eight or nine back then,” added Lachance.
Like Mcilvaine, Lachance didn’t train for the event either. “Bruce talked me into it; it was spontaneous,” said Lachance.
Thanks to the Lake Forest American Legion Post 264 and the Women’s Auxiliary, sponsors of the event, Lachance walked away from the competition with a $50 prize and a few bruises.
Lachance said that he might be back next year to retain his title, and fans can count on seeing Mcilvaine.
“Next year I want a 10-barrel handicap for over 40 year olds and another for over 50,” said Mcilvaine with a smile.