Janesville Figure Skating Club fosters friendships, competition
The stamina of a distance runner.
Now add razor sharp blades, and you've completed the trifecta that is figure skating.
For 34 years, the Janesville Figure Skating Club has been teaching boys and girls the basics of skating and introducing them to the highly competitive world of their chosen sport.
On Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings, the Janesville Ice Skating Center, 821 Beloit Ave., Janesville, is filled with the scrape and click of metal blades as club members practice with their coaches.
The club has about 50 members, all girls.
"We have had boys in our club, too," said Mardel Wien, club president. "Our girls range in age from 6 years old to juniors in high school. We also have a member who is attending medical school at UW-Milwaukee."
The club follows the U.S. Figure Skating guidelines for skating divisions that run through a series "Basic" and "Freestyle" skill levels.
Each level includes elements to master.
For example, in Basic 2, skaters must be able to execute a two-foot turn, forward to backward and in place.
By Basic 5, skaters are working on a one-footed spin of up to three revolutions.
The system comes with its own lingo. A "swizzle," for example, is moving forward or backward with an in-and-out motion of the feet. A "Mohawk" is a turn from one foot to the other with the edge of each skate forming parts of the same curve.
From there, skaters move into more advanced categories, starting with "pre-preliminary" and running through six more categories to "senior."
Senior has to do with skill level, not age. However, some categories do have age restrictions.
The system is designed so as many skaters as possible can participate in competition, Mardel said. Skaters compete against others at their level and are judged on their abilities to perform the skills specific to that level.
"Sometimes, if you perform a skill above your level, they can actually deduct points for it," Mardel said.
During the Thursday and Saturday session, skaters meet with coaches and work on skills or programs for competitions.
Because of a shortage of ice time, the many skaters and their families end up traveling several days a week.
"During the hockey season, there just isn't enough time," Mardel said. "The skaters arrange to meet their coaches wherever they're going to be—Rockford, Oregon, McFarland, Madison."
It's not the Janesville Jets hockey team that causes the lack of ice time but the number of people using the arena. Youth hockey, high school hockey and figure skating all are competing for time slots before and after the school day.
"The youth hockey clubs have to travel, too," Mardel said.
Currently, figure skating club members are working on their programs for the Badger State Games, which will be held February.
On television, the life of a competitive skater looks isolating. The normal story features a young adult who spends hours at the rink every day, working with grown-up coaches. The skaters are either home-schooled or privately tutored, and miss out on the delightful lunacy of middle and high school.
While members of the local club are serious competitors, they're also great friends.
More than one young skater described the club as "a family."
Mary Hackman, 15, is a sophomore at Milton High School and has been skating for eight years. She's at the novice level.
"Novice" might sound like "beginner," but it's the third tier from the top, which is "senior."
What keeps her in skating?
"Well, you get really attached to the sport, but you get really attached to the people, too," Hackman said. "You get into it and just don't want to leave."
Hackman and her friend Sara Kaveggia, 16, a sophomore at Craig High School, are coaching two groups of skaters for the "entertainment" division of the Badger State Games. The competition involves having 12 skaters of different levels on the ice at the same time for a choreographed number.
"I really enjoy the whole artistic end of it, the choreography, the interpretive expression," Hackman said.
She recently started coaching the kids in the learn-to-skate program.
"I love working with kids," Hackman said. "I love seeing their faces when they accomplish something."
Lyn-Le Wien, 14, is serving as an assistant coach for Hackman and Kaveggia. She's in eighth grade at Franklin Middle School.
She started in ballet, and when she quit, her mom wanted her to be involved in other activities.
"Skating was hard at first, but then I liked it," Lyn-Le said. "It's still challenging, but I still love it."
Like Hackman, she loves coaching the younger kids.
Is it hard to get the kids to listen to her?
"They're pretty good," Lyn-Le said. "During the first class, we make a set of rules—you have to pay attention and listen closely."
Lyn-Le is at the "preliminary" level of competition. Although she finds competition "nerve-racking," she enjoys it once she gets out on the ice.
Competition has given her the chance to travel throughout the state and the country—and make good friends.
"You make a lot of good friendships in skating—some of your closest friends, too," Lyn-Le said.
She said she'll keep skating as long as it continues to be fun.
The way things are going, that will be a long time.
TO LEARN MORE
Interested in learning more about the Janesville Figure Skating Club or learning to skate?
Call the Janesville Ice Skating Center at (608) 755-3015 or go to janesvillefsc.org.
The Janesville Ice Skating Center's learn-to-skate program offers lessons for ages 4 to adult. The program includes weekly group lesson, rental skates, eight weeks of classes and a public session admission.
The classes run for eight weeks on Saturday mornings, and family rates are available.
The fee for the 30-minute tots, Snowplow Sam, Basic 1-8 and adult classes is $80.
The fee for the 40-minute accelerated class is $80.