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Young skaters find inspiration at Team Challenge Cup

With the competition over, Sunday was time for fun.

The inaugural Team Challenge Cup figure skating contest wrapped up with an exhibition skate. The skaters all have exhibition programs they perform through the season, and the music ranges from Frank Sinatra and Billy Joel to Ariana Grande and Jamiroquai.

While the final-day gala event is routine for the competitors, for 42 youngsters, it was a new big deal.

Kicking off the gala exhibition was “I Believe,” a routine presented by skaters ages 6 to 17 from four local skating clubs, with a few participants from as far away as Wenatchee and Vancouver, Washington. Maureen Herr, skating director of the Spokane Figure Skating Club based in Coeur d’Alene, said many of the skaters were making a lot of “first time” memories this weekend – first time skating at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, first time before a big crowd, first time meeting some of the athletes they admire.

A few volunteered to be sweepers – the skaters who go out between routines and scoop up the stuffed animals tossed onto the ice. Most went to the red-carpet party at Northern Quest Resort and Casino on Thursday to meet the competitors and coaches.

“It’s been a great experience,” Herr said. “Not just to see the skaters they idolize, but to meet them as well. The athletes have been awesome and kind and sweet.”

The 41 girls and one boy, whose skill levels range from basic to competitive, began practicing their number in early April, meeting for four two-hour rehearsals before the weekend’s event.

“The kids have come together and worked really hard to make the program amazing,” Herr said.

Jennifer Bashoor, a 17-year-old senior at Lewis and Clark High School, said she especially enjoyed working with the younger kids during the preparations for Sunday’s skate.

“Just watching the little girls be so happy, it’s honestly inspiring to me,” said Bashoor, a member of the Lilac City Figure Skating Club. “It’s really sweet to see the way they’ve come together and made friendships and had fun.”

Angel Cowan-Esquivel, 11, takes ballet, gymnastics and jazz dancing in addition to skating. She travels from her home in Moscow to Coeur d’Alene twice a week to train. Being at the Team Challenge Cup has fueled her passion for skating.

“I really love the feeling of skating, just getting to have fun,” she said. “It’s so beautiful.”

Shortly before the kids took the ice, reigning U.S. men’s champion Adam Rippon came back to meet with them, pose for photos and offer words of encouragement.

Afterward, Rippon said he remembers being a young skater and having a similar opportunity, and how that inspired him.

“When I was younger, I skated in Stars on Ice. I remember when Kristi Yamaguchi came over, and that meant a lot to me,” he said. “And now that I’m sort of in that position, being an older skater in the event, I want to come over and cheer them on and tell them that I’m as excited for them to be in the show as much as they are excited for me to be in the show.”


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