Skaters land dreams of making nationals

Two local athletes qualifying is rare, their coach says

Nicole Deitrick, 14, and Kayleigh Elliott, 11, circled the ice, landing jumps and executing dizzying spins with ease. For spectators it was a brilliant figure skating performance. For the girls it was just another day of practice at Eagles Ice-A-Rena.

The two local figure skaters recently qualified for the U.S. Junior National Figure Skating Championships in Lansing, Mich., Dec. 10-14. Both are part of the Lilac City Figure Skating Club.

The girls’ coach, Randy Clark, said it’s rare to have two local skaters qualify. “They faced some pretty tough competition,” he said.

Deitrick started skating at age 9. “The coach told them to jump up and down on their toe picks and she jumped as high as she could,” said her mom, Kristen Deitrick.

Clark grinned and said, “She likes to jump big.”

Elliott began at 3 when her grandparents took her to a preschool skate class. “She just loved to go fast and picked things up very quickly,” said Clark.

While he watched from the bleachers, Deitrick worked on perfecting the difficult double axel she hopes to add to her program. When she took a spill, Clark said, “She falls every day – they both do.”

It appears the road to figure skating championships is paved with bumps, bruises and a tremendous amount of effort. Clark said being a champion takes, “hard work, dedication and lots of social sacrifices.”

The girls practice at least three hours a day and often more during the summer. Figure skating also requires a large financial commitment from families. The price of skates, lessons, coaching, travel and costumes can quickly add up.

“Every music change requires a new costume,” said Kayleigh’s mom, LaVonne Elliott. She and Kayleigh’s grandmother usually make her costumes, but sequins and glittering beads are not cheap.

“We haven’t spent more than $400 on a costume, but we could,” said Nicole’s father, Wes Deitrick. “It costs $17,000 to $20,000 a year to keep her skating.”

The Deitricks have set up a website for Nicole (www.nicoledeitrick.com) in hopes of attracting sponsors.

The girls took a short break from practice to talk about their passion for figure skating. Deitrick, a freshman at Mead High School, said, “I love working on everything and getting better. I like doing repetitive actions over and over to see if I can get it.”

Elliott, a sixth-grader at Indian Trail Elementary School, still enjoys speed. “I like the wind when I go fast. It makes me feel good!”

The effervescent 11-year-old is looking forward to meeting other skaters at junior nationals, but she also knows what she wants from her program. “I want to land all my jumps clean and do my spins all nice.”

She’s matter-of-fact about her spills. “When you trip and kind of belly flop – that really hurts!”

Deitrick smiled and said one of the first lessons you learn in skating is the correct way to fall.

Elliott remains philosophical and confident about Junior Nationals. “If I don’t do so well, it’s not a big deal – I’ll have another chance.” And she’s set a big goal for herself: “I want to go to the Olympics someday.”

Both agree the competition will be intense in Michigan, but Deitrick said her focus is not on the other skaters. “It’s really not about what they can do. I just concentrate on what I can do.”

She plans to continue competing as long as she can. “Most lady skaters are done by age 20. I want to do really well with the years I have left.”

Looking out over the ice, she smiled. “The best part is when you stick a jump. It feels wonderful! It makes you feel like, ‘Yes! I did this!’ It’s so satisfying.”

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