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Monday, June 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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No ice? No competition? No problem for Spokane-hosted virtual figure skating contest

UPDATED: Sat., April 4, 2020

Ten-year-old Morgan Herr competes in the Lake City Figure Skating virtual competition from her back yard in Spokane on Saturday, April 4, 2020. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Ten-year-old Morgan Herr competes in the Lake City Figure Skating virtual competition from her back yard in Spokane on Saturday, April 4, 2020. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Morgan Herr leaped across her lawn and pranced by play equipment in her backyard to the tune of Madonna’s “I’m Going Bananas” while wearing a pink figure skating dress Saturday morning.

Her parents livestreamed her routine via the meeting application Zoom so judges could grade her choreography and style. Applause rang out from computer speakers as she struck her final pose.

The 10-year-old from Spokane had been practicing the routine for the now-canceled Glacier Challenge figure skating competition in March and the Lake City Classic in May, so it wasn’t exactly how she imagined performing the routine she’d been working on for two years.

But it was the next best thing – and likely the first of its kind – for bringing figure skaters across the country together amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spokane Figure Skating Club coach John Saitta came up with the idea for the virtual competition, the Lake City Lawn Classic, when he realized athletes were already sending in videos to their coaches showing practice runs of their skating programs on dry land.

Moe Herr, the skating director of the Spokane and Lake City programs, who is also Morgan Herr’s mother, said she loved the idea. So did local figure skating judges.

“We’re not sure how long we’re going to be locked down for,” Herr said. “We wanted to give our skaters an opportunity to have a performance outlet and we wanted to bring together as many skaters across the country as we could.”

After national organizations spread the news, including U.S. Figure Skating, more than 100 competitors – kindergarten age to people in their 50s – signed up for the novel competition and broadcast their routines via Zoom from as far away as Georgia and Vermont.

“We didn’t really expect this to take off the way that it did,” Herr said.

“I keep having to put Zoom down because people keep texting me about how much fun they’re having,” Morgan’s mother said after her routine. “It’s helped a lot of kids get out of their pajamas and put on a skating dress and feel really strong about themselves.”

The Tri-Cities figure skating club has since reached out for support in hosting its own virtual competition after Herr tagged regional clubs in social media posts. Herr hopes many organizations around the country and into Canada will follow suit.

Morgan Herr said it took some creativity to adapt her routine for dry land because some moves, like a sit spin, just don’t translate. It started to snow on her bare feet when she was practicing outside Friday, so she moved indoors.

“Hopefully, we’re back on the ice soon,” Moe Herr said.

Lily Joubert, 13, of Hayden, performed a mashup of songs with some theatrical elements for her showcase figure skating program.

“We’re all bored at home, and it was a nice way to get outside and do a performance,” said Joubert, who had been working on her routine for about three months to debut at the Glacier Challenge in Missoula. “It’s a good way to redeem our hard work.”

Joubert’s mother, Dene Joubert, was impressed that the usual judges for local competitions agreed to help.

“I just felt like it was really innovative and a creative way to bring people together,” Dene Joubert said. And “to not let it get us down that there’s no ice.”

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