From cold to gold: local skater breaks into national competition
Samantha Bray to compete at 2017 U.S. Championships
January 13, 2017
Figure skating. It is a sport of early mornings and heavy commitment, of shiny stones and chilly arenas. Credit the Olympic Winter Games for showcasing a sport that offers children a dream of themselves atop blades and a podium. Skating can be tranquil and graceful. But reaching higher levels demands an intense passion.
Figure skating is thriving in a snow sport town. At the arena, a legacy product of the 2002 XIX Olympic Winter Games, that passion has shown itself. For the first time in the Figure Skating Club of Park City's (FSCPC) nine-year history, an athlete has qualified for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Annually, U.S. Figure Skating sanctions nine regional and three sectional qualifying competitions, where skaters must place in the top four of their level to advance. Athletes Brynn Roberts, 11, and Samantha Bray, 12, both qualified at the 2017 Central Pacific Regionals in Ogden, Utah, placing 2nd and 4th respectively in the Championship round of the Juvenile Girls Freeskate. Bray went on to qualify at the 2017 Pacific Coast Sectionals in Salt Lake City, Utah to advance to the 2017 U.S. Championships, to be held in Kansas City, MO, January 14-22, 2017. There, she will face the 11 other Juvenile Girls' competitors who qualified from all nine regions and three sections, for the national title.
"We're beyond excited for Sam to represent Park City and the club", said Adrienne McNamara, current president of the FSCPC.
Founded in 2007 as a program offered by the newly-built Park City Ice Arena, the FSCPC quickly established itself as an independent non-profit in 2008 with 15 youth skaters. Current membership sits at 88. Both the arena and club support the skill progression and effort necessary to develop competitive skills, offering social and fitness supplements to skaters.
"This program was built from the ground up and our coaching staff here is exceptional", said Skating Academy Director, Erika Roberts. "Everyone has something to complementary to offer to each other and our skaters. It's a unique team environment unlike any other I have experienced."
Additional support and encouragement comes from the Youth Sports Alliance (YSA), a unique organization particular to Park City, which supports developing athlete skills and pursuit of excellence in sport.
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Finding success on the ice, FSCPC provides exceptional training for skaters, offering a Bridge Program boasting more than a dozen members, two synchronized skating teams, a partnership with American Ice Theatre providing members with lessons, a solo dance program, off-ice training in ballet, jumps, strength and conditioning, annual show productions, and frequent clinics featuring nationally recognized coaches. Access to athlete training need-based funding is available through YSA.
While recreational skating often includes group lessons and a little practice, competitive training comprises five to ten hours weekly, mornings before school, afternoons and evenings. Supplemental activities involve ballet, dance and off-ice training. It is an investment of time and money and a commitment families makes. In Bray's case, motivation is derived from goals she sets with her coach, Tiffany McNeill.
"Qualifying felt like a dream", said Bray. "I was happy and it gave me even more determination to train hard."
Top in her region, Bray held the 11th highest score of 317 competitors at her level nationwide in pre-season events. An average of 35 competitors per region attempted to qualify for three different sectional events.
"I want to have fun and perform my best", says Bray, who is aiming for the top eight in Kansas City and a new personal best score.
Today's world demands more and more instant gratification in almost everything. Skating, however, is not instant in any manner.
"You definitely have to work for it", says McNeill, herself a former nationally competitive skater. "The ones who are driven love it so much you can't get them off the ice. You have to love it that much to push yourself that far."
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