The Wolverines began in 1988 when Coach Robb Dunn with Co-Coach Roger Briddick established the team at the Great Skate in Roseville, Michigan. At that time Jay Ingram was a competitive skater for the Wolverines with no interest in coaching what so ever. Rewind 16 years, and that would be the time frame of Robb Dunn's competitive skating, the last 7 of those years being coached by Virgil Dooley, where much of his competitive success would be noted. Jay had skated two years with Virgil as his coach and with Robb Dunn as his team mate, those years were very pivotal in creating the competitor and coach that he is today. Roger retired from coaching a few years later, placing Jay, who was team captain at the time, into an unofficial role as coach when he was needed to cover for Robb. In 1991 Robb asked Jay to make it official and actually paid for Jay's first set of coaching credentials marking the start of Ingram's coaching career with the Wolverines speed team.
Robb Dunn’s seven years and Jay Ingram’s two years with Virgil were basically an established basis for the beginnings of the Wolverine team heritage. A Heritage that had been handed down twice to date, that now reaches over 30 years and then some. A "program that isn’t for everyone", would be part of the speech that Virgil would tell new athletes and later on the same words would hold true from Robb. This is a team that works hard both physically and mentally at every competitive level, it has always been more than just a sport, it is an extended family with pride that has touched and shaped many lives in a positive manner.
That legacy was started with Virgil Dooley, way before Robb Dunn himself showed interest in becoming a speed skater let alone a coach, way before Jay Ingram knew what a Roller Rink was. Virgil along with wife Sue Dooley coached and created several State, Regional, and National Champions as well as several USA World Team members, Sue and Virgil them selves being some of them. The Dooley’s coached these athletes out of several Michigan Roller rinks, the most notable ones being Riverside Arena, Bonaventure, Brighton, Fenton, and lastly in 1984 Virgil and team ended back at Riverside Arena in Livonia.
Virgil coached "for the athletes" he often let the skaters know that his thoughts actions and words were based on what was best for his athletes, and the team as a whole. This fact has been the bases for the Wolverine coaching staff in the past and still holds true today.
By 1985 Mr. Robb Dunn decided to retire from competitive speed skating and started a new path where the coaching duties of the then famous, Riverside Striders was passed over to him. Virgil traveled to sunnier pastures moving to Florida with many of the Riverside Striders following him. With Mr. McCloud ("Mr. Mack") at his side as assistant coach, and a bit later some help for a few months from Coach Dean James whom, also later moved to Florida to coach. Robb continued the tradition, the TONE that was set by Virgil and grew the Striders success into a team that rivaled and in its own way surpassed that of his coach, mentor and friend.
Back in those days this sport was an all-quad thing as there were no inline skates at the time, well at least not any that could be used to go faster than the quad skates. Robb Dunn coached the Riverside Striders from 1985 till USARS 1987-1988 competitive season with great success in every division possible. Take a look at history of this on the USARS web site at the National level of quad championships and you will see this to hold true. The move to the Great Skate in 1988-1989 competitive season established the Great Skate Wolverines Speed Team where Speed Skating on quad skates was a big thing not only here in Michigan but all over the country. One would have to qualify first, second or third at the Michigan State Championships in order to skate Regional. Michigan competitions throughout the year alone would have 200 plus competitors just from this state.
Inline skates were introduced in January of 1991 at the then famous Orlando Classic; five wheel frames were the norm with the 76mm wheels that basically everyone skated on. Later that year also marked the Wolverine's first Sr. World Team Member, Jennifer Boschman, a "Quad speed skating Goddess" who was one to reckon with whether it be sprints or long distance races indoors and out. 1991-1992 Roller Speed Skating season was the start here in the United States that eventually thrusted inline speed skating past the quads. Those 76mm skates along with the "dinosaur skates" were very common place in the early years. Those dinosaur skates where basically skates that looked like what you can buy now at Wall Mart, Meijers etc. The races were run together on both quads and inlines, later on that would all change. With the separation of skates the Wolverines were still going strong nationally and internationally on the quads, there were wins and placements on the inlines at the 1992 indoor National Championships but not in abundance for the team as in years past when the quads were the norm.
At that year's indoor National Championships Lindsay Cobb was the Teams and the Nations first Inline Speed Skating Elementary girl winner, Rob Brodbent was the teams second place National winner in the Master Mens division while Lindsay and a young Brian McCue were the elementary two mixed second place holders, these athletes helped to keep the team alive on these "Roller Blades" which was the common name at the time for these skates.
The lack of placements on inlines at those 1992 National Championships created a rush the proceeding year for the Wolverines to learn how these things worked. A lot of new techniques had to be learned; the team looked towards ice speed skating for those answers. Some of those techniques worked while many did not, so the team devised many of its own which are still being used to date throughout the Country and World. The team even flew in multiple time National and World Champion Tony Muse to help jump start the Wolverine inline program, Tony created many of the circle drills and outdoor technical styles that the team still utilizes to date. That along with the tradition of much physical and mental hard work pushed the Wolverines back to the top of the National game on inline speed skates and a few years later into and on top of the international scene in the speed skating inline World.
The 1992 and 1993 Indoor National Championships were truly the start of what the future would hold for the Wolverine speed team on inline speed skates. Some of these past athletes (some who still compete today) helped set that tone, they were Lindsay Cobb second year Elementary Girls, Jessica Smith, Jay Ingram, Alexander Seczney, Rob Brodbent, Ken Yee, Michele Paollelo, Charles Craven AKA CHARLIE, Angela Cruice, Denise Marsack ( known to some in the past and present as McCloud or Koziara), and last but not least Lynn Costanza, along with these wins there were many other placements on quads to which those quad athletes contributed to what the Wolverines are known for.
The competitive season's that followed would prove that the Wolverines were once again on track producing greatness within the sport both nationally and internationally. Not only as a coach but competitor Jay Ingram's four consecutive wins in the classic men’s division from 1994 -1997 and breaking records, some his own, helped "establish" that divisions” reputability". Not only did Ingram do great at the National Level he would skate down or up a division, it all depends on how you look at it, often winning the classic division at invitationals accross the country while placing if not narrowly winning the Sr. Men's Division, for some reason with a successful go at doing both it oddly became disallowed to do? Ingram, as most know, still competes to date and is one of the original Wolverine skaters dating back before the team set foot into the Great Skate.
Jessica Smith in her second year as an elementary girl in 1995 would go on and win a total of five straight National titles in three separate divisions. ( need to take a look at the records but she still may own a few in those younger divisions) Smith was not allowed to participate at the 1999 Championships due to making the Sr. World Team that year, which was her first Sr. World Championship. Jessica would go onto to win at these World Championships four events and placed high enough in others to win overall for Team USA both on the track and on the road. But wait, there is more on Smith; you need to go back again to 1996 when Smith at just 12 years of age qualified for the Jr. World team, that would have made her a last year elementary girl indoors. That year she was the USA’s first Jr. World Gold Medalist, where she too attained countless others in the years following as a USA Jr. World team member. Jessica through those years was the most winning Jr. Female for World Championships and that title she still holds to date. Indoors Jessica was a power house nationally winning 99.9999999% anything and everything she skated individually, both sprints and endurance races. Often in the relyas depending on who she skated with she was the key and would pull it off. Smith at times was known to over train and would often be told to stay home by the coaching staff and or take it easy so she would have legs for competition. She had the will to win no matter what, she always skated to win instead of skating not to loose. (THERE IS A BIG DIFFERENCE) Jessica has officially retired from inline speed skating to pursue short track ice skating, though she was after the long track at first but realized what potential she has at the later.
Rewind again to 1995, Julie Brandt (now Julie Glass) won overall both track and Road at the Outdoor National Championships and attained her first World Gold Medal at the 95 Championships held in Australia. Julie would go on to win more outdoor national titles for several years to come, those win's placing her on the USA World team, where again, she would be succesful at those various World Championships. Brandt (Glass) was also an accomplished indoor skater winning events against several rivals, one inparticular being Cheryle Ezzele who was also and accomplished indoor and outdoor champion and later a close friend of Mrs. Glass. To date she is noted for being one of the most publicized athlete on the female side of this sport nationally and at one time internationally. She has competed at World Championships with home town Wolverine team members Charlie Craven, Theresa Cliff and Jessica Smith. She has skated a three lady relay at Worlds with Theresa and Jessica bringing home the Gold to the United States. Julie still competes from time to time but not as a Wolverine. She followed her husband to the west side of the Country where they run a skating business and are raising two twin baby girls.
1997 Charlie Craven became the Wolverines first male skater to make a USA World Team, at 16 years of age Charlie made the Jr. World team and captured two Gold and 4 silver medals at the Championships held in Argentina. In1998 Charlie was that years UNITED STATES most decorative Jr. World male skater capturing five Gold Medals in 98 in Pambino Italy with two silver, in all he ended his Jr. World Championship career with seven Gold and six silver medals. Often with the style of his Idol Chad Hedrix the crowd would mistake him for Chad or state that he skated just like him. Charlie set the tone and sites for future USA Jr. World team members to go after and beat, some of those being Jordan Malone, Ex Wolverine Steven Krawalski and Joey Mantia who was the first American athlete in 2003 to best Charlie Cravens USA Jr. World performance. Charlie took an early retirement from Inline speed skating in 2001 due to medical reasons, upon his return in 2007 – 2008 season Charlie has decided to make a come back, though his medical issues still exist but his passion and drive for this sport is an amazing thing and has been a great asset to this team, especially the young ones to which he tends to relate to the most, and they him. Charlie basically has been giving back to this team what he had been given in 1991 when he first came to the team. Though he has been pushed by both coach and teammates to a level much like that of what was easy for him in the past, well it is not so easy anymore. He has been helping his teammates realize their dreams, this being that they can become Regional, National and World Champions some day.
1997 also brought to the Wolverines Theresa Cliff a power house indoor and outdoor skater who already had a fair share of Gold, Silver and Bronze placements both outdoors and indoors. Theresa actually came to the Wolverines from a coach who had connections to the team Legacy, that coach being Dean James. Theresa was and still is the Worlds most decorative World Female Champion with a pretty impressive indoor record to boot both individually and in relays. Many of her relay championship titles were with the likes of Jessica Smith, Candace Rosekopf, and Julie Brant just to name a few. Theresa was known for having great endurance and gained many of her World Championship Gold medals in those races as well as in relays. The last two years of her World Championship skating she placed in sprints while still winning the long distance races, this just showed Theresa versatility, something that is sure to carry over to bicycle racing creating much success for her there. Theresa has been winning just as much on the bike, she took her competitiveness to the World of Bicycle racing where she has been a power house too. Theresa ended her career in inline speed skating in 2004 but will always remain a Wolverine like those before and after her. Theresa skated her last World Championship race in 2003 by winning the that years Marathon with help from all the other seven women skating for team USA in that race, one of those being Jessica Smith who ended up with a second place for that same event. Theresa has hopes of making an Olympic team for the United States in the sport of cycling, most of her Wolverine team mates present and former believe it is a task that she will attain.
The Wolverines have been a perennial top five finishers in National Championship point standings several years standing. One of the most storied programs in the U.S, the Wolverines Team landed 4 members on the USA World Championship Teams in 1997, the same in 1998, three in 1999, two in 2000, five in 2001, three in 2002, three in 2003, three in 2004, two in 2006 with an abundance of Gold, Silver, and Bronze finishes at these Indoor and Outdoor Nationals Championships (to many to research and list right now). The Wolverines have earned over 60 World Championship Gold Medals. The Wolverines offer competitive skating to all levels of skaters - Recreational, Novice (beginning racers), Standard and Pro-Elite on all types of skates for seasonal and or weekend worriers.
Robb Dunn, who was U.S. Coach of the Year in 1988, and is a member of both the Athlete and Coach's Hall of Fame for USARS coached the Wolverines from 1988 until 2005 when he retired.
Jay Ingram as stated earlier began coaching with Robb in the 1990-91 season and continues to coach the team to date. Jay was Developmental Coach of the Year in 1999 for USARS & USOC for the sport of inline speed skating; he was the 2000 Jr. World Team Coach and is a former four time Classic Men's National Champion, three time Master men Champion and Grand Master men Champion that is eight total not counting relays.
At the start of the new millennium the Tarry Hall Roadrunners of Grandville, Michigan joined forces with the Wolverines. Doug Kraai coached with the assistance of Lee McCormick and former Jr. World Medalist and National Champion Candace Rosekopf. Tarry Hall has at one time or another housed such standouts as Theresa Cliff, Julie Brandt Glass, B.J Steketee and Candace Rosekopf as well as the person who has taken up the coaching duties due to the retirement of those listed above, that person being Jenny Steketee.
Athletes from that side of the state now train out of the Kentwood Roller rink in Kentwood Michigan where Jenny works hand in hand with Jay and with the help of her husband B.J. to bring fresh new faces with some old into the mold of the Wolverine tradition.
Virgil told Jay that he coached for the athletes, Jay states that “this thing we do is for the athletes for without the athletes there is no need for us, meaning coaches, skating associations, competition etc. etc.
The Wolverines motto is that nothing replaces hard work, a fact that was derived from the VIRGIL DOOLEY days of this team’s history. That history, tradition, that legacy, lives on with this team THE WOLVERINE SPEED SKATER'S, YOUNG AND OLD, AND THOSE IN BETWEEN.