Ice Network

We're all adults here: Reports from Wake Forest

Daily updates from U.S. Adult Championships highlight event camaraderie
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A group of adult skaters, who have placed an emphasis on enjoying their experiences at the 2017 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships, showcase their Rudolph-inspired red noses following a practice session. -Lexi Rohner

Anticipation for the 2017 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships was truly at an all-time high, with entries for the 23rd annual event swelling to numbers higher than initially expected. Due to this added excitement for the competition, the state of North Carolina is in for a real treat!

As has been the case with the previous 22 championships, this year's version is expected to carry the signature camaraderie and light-hearted shenanigans that have become a staple of the event. Skaters have trained hard, packed their suitcases with enough clothing and equipment to last for the week and successfully arrived at this beautiful section of the United States.

April 22

So many new faces and names! It's exciting to see new skaters joining or returning to the adult ranks. We had a chance to connect with a few of them this week to get their perspective.

"It's the most amazing experience," said Marie McGlathery, a championship silver qualifier from Cleveland. "I'm meeting people I've only talked to on Facebook. I'm excited to skate, and I already have 15 tossies. Thank you for including me!"

Longtime competitor Margaret Wasielewski is joined by both of her daughters this time around, in their U.S. Adult Championships debut.

"I watched mom skate for years," Karen Moran said. "I haven't yet competed so I feel like a spectator, and I'm excited to get out there."

Daughter Lynn Wasielewski has found lots of support and was nervous, having not competed since she was 17.

"This is nothing I anticipated when I signed them up for group classes!" mom Margaret said.

Pat Giorgio is enjoying her introductory nationals experience. Her bronze ladies IV light entertainment and dramatic events have brought her fun times meeting new people, along with friend Denise Duffy, also a first-timer. Missing is friend Bridget Woodward, who left early due to a broken wrist.

"Hopefully, we're coming back again!" Giorgio said.

Kids in the hall

Adult skating involves, well, adulting, and sometimes that means children. It's a wonderful thing for children to see their parents participating in sports and competition, and enjoying something they love. Along for this event's ride are several competitors' kiddos, including championship dance qualifier Dianna-lynne Webster-Wells' twins, Cory and Cora, and toddler big brother Quinn; Claudia Brown's daughter and son; Lisa Royan's son; and Lisa Chisholm's cutie pie daughter Ellie, who has made previous appearances on this blog providing creative tossie arrangements. Maria Reynolds' son, Emerson, in his first visit to nationals and his mommy's 10th, was spotted trying to outdo Miss Ellie with his new "presents." He thinks he like this "adult nationals'' thing. Parents, train them young to appreciate the tossie.

Target and tiaras

Rob Lichtefeld, you've been replaced. There's a new live "tossie target," complete with glitter. Ready, aim -- bingo! By the way, chief referee Lori Dunn provided clarifications on the rules for bingo.

"'Tossie hits skater' must take place ON the ice," Dunn said. "All items must be witnessed to count."

Remember, no aiming for the sweepers!

Team Tiara, led by Bonnie Goranowski, Aviva Cantor and Elaine Larson, can be seen daily with glittering tiaras perched on their competition coiffures. While "T" stands for tiara, it also stands for "trouble," in the form of Becca Guthrie, Mike Barnard, Wendy Hanson Barnard, David Tsai, Donna Farver, Elizabeth Murdock, Jean Travers Paradise, Heather Stables, Stephanie Hao, Kylie Marie Self and Nancy Riggs. This lively southern group can always be counted on for comedy and unique antics, as well as wonderful competitive programs. #livetossie #2004Lussiparty

ASC meeting

Friday's ASC meeting was well attended. Lori Fussell shared all proposed Governing Council RFAs and a fantastic compilation video of the past year's #AdultsSkateToo videos from the committee's Facebook page, which will also be shown at Governing Council. In attendance were chief referee Lori Dunn, who was presented with a gift from the ASC; Hal Marron, competitions committee chair: Lynn Goldman, technical group coordinator; and Brett Mueller and Barbara Reichert from U.S. Figure Skating. New projects and programs were revealed, including social media revitalization; awards (Skate Forever Young, Adult Special Achievement); and new resources online, including new eligibility charts, pattern dance timing charts and resources for club growth and management. The entire presentation will be available on the ASC Facebook page next week.  

Getting sentimental

Dorothy Ray is not a rule breaker. However, the exception stood in her silver ladies V dramatic program yesterday. Her husband, James, was wheeled onto the ice while Ray performed an incredibly emotional and touching program to "Wind Beneath My Wings" for him. While people are not customarily employed as props, Ray wanted to skate the program in this way more than she cared about winning, and, thus, was willing to receive any potential deductions. It was quite an amazing moment.

Allison Manley was honored to have competed with a formidable and talented group of ladies she also calls friends in masters junior-senior II-III. Coach Doug Mattis said this might be his favorite backstage photo from any competition, at any time.

"I'm floored at the fortitude and intellect in this one photo," Mattis said.

The group includes Amy Entwistle, Beth Delano George, Maria Reynolds, Deborah Spence, Pamela Federbusch and Dianna-lynne Webster Wells.

Reports of Elizabeth Ozorak's demise are greatly exaggerated. While Ozorak did sustain a broken ankle in three places during her free skate performance, she was so dismayed to not skate the last 30 percent of her program that the ER staff kindly voted her "Wake Medical Champ." She is resting at home in Pennsylvania with surgery scheduled next week.

"Thanks all for your support," Ozorak said. "Special shout-out to Jeanne Clavel for sticking with me through thick and thin and to Wendy Hagen Bauer for helping to return my rental car."

Around the arena

Given the concerns with North Carolina's recent laws, many competitors had misgivings about traveling to this competition. One such competitor is Serafine Ong, who shared with me that she was fearful but intended to compete and let her passion for skating overcome her anxiety. A self-described "gender illusionist," Ong is biologically male but lives as a female. Allowing her skating to speak for her, Ong, the Pacific Coast Sectional gold men's winner, made her way to North Carolina to the waiting support and open arms of all in attendance. Barb Reichert, U.S. Figure Skating's communications director, interviewed Ong, who was commended by friends for her bravery. Ong came away with the pewter medal and an increased sense of belonging in this amazing family that is adult skating.  

Wanda Gelsebach's performances are always creative. This time she adeptly portrayed Johnny Weir swimming with Tara Lipinski in masters light entertainment IV-V. Burton Powley "can't stop the feeling" of skating as a troll. Alan Emerick was seen grinning and pleased to receive his special achievement awards. 1980 Olympian and three-time Canadian medalist John Dowding took gold with partner Molly Johnson. They stood atop the podium with training mates and friends, Carol Lewis and Peter Sasmore, who took silver. Rumor has it that mimosas are available in the corner of the Wake rink. Former ASC chair Tony Conte took gold in championship adult gold men today. His name will be engraved on the trophy he endowed years ago when he was a bronze skater. Well done, Tony!

Championship trophies

Housed in the World Figure Skating Museum and Hall of Fame, the U.S. Adult Championships trophy case proudly displays all the trophies that generous donors have established for the competition. Who will be next to be engraved on these perpetual trophies and earn their place in U.S. adult figure skating history? Three championship events (championship masters pairs, championship intermediate-novice men and championship silver men) and the two new team awards (Large Club Award and Club Award) do not yet have trophies established. If you (and any friends) would like to give back to the adult skating family by sponsoring a new trophy, contact Lori Fussell to help walk you through the process!

Party time

Don't forget the competitors party tonight in the Mill Room at The Factory! The party starts at 9:30 p.m., or until the DJ shuts it down. There will be complimentary hors d'oeuvres from Sweet and Savory, complimentary beverages and a live DJ. Stop yelling in the stands so you have a voice left for karaoke! Buy your ticket at the registration desk any time today.

On to 2018

Friends, as the competition winds down, and each of your sore muscles is telling a different story, take the time to reflect at your good fortune to be part of this difficult and rewarding sport. I hope you experienced connections with other like-minded individuals and new friends in this skating family, and hope you return next year and beyond. Plan ahead! 2019, when we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the U.S. Adult Championships, is only two years away. This means we'll be a quarter of a century old in this competition. Happy skating and safe travels home! #AdultSkateToo #skatingisafamily

April 21

Age is a tag

The very dapper Dan Brown touched hearts with his "When I Was Your Man" program in Bronze 5, finishing his routine by handing a rose to a lucky lady in the audience, à la Richard Dwyer. In Bronze Dramatic IV-V, competitors and supporters of Coralie Raunig wore bunny ears to complement Raunig's high headpiece. A slew of 'paparazzi' snapped podium photos of Raunig, 85, as she received the inaugural Yvonne Dowlen Trophy and event medal. 

Balance

Miranda Young was seen using the High Performance Movement Screen (HPMS), which is a new addition this year. Lori Fussell is a big fan herself and was the first one to test it out.

Rob Lichtefeld has skated pairs with longtime partner Sara Panzer, but on Thursday, he was seen lifting and partnering Donna Farver, Marie McGlathery and Wendy Barnard.

U.S. Figure Skating will be hosting a silent auction to benefit Equality NC. The organization will have a representative on site daily with giveaways and donation gifts. Anyone who purchased a Rainbow Teddy can collect bears from the lobby booth. 

U.S. Figure Skating will also be holding the annual S.T.A.R.S. Program on Saturday.

Chickens little

There's a been a foul invasion in the tossie realm. Eva Meyer's Ukrainian dance coach was teaching arm movements during an entry-level adult class.

"We had no idea what he actually said when he threw his arms up in the air and demonstrated the element," says Meyer. "We all looked at each other and asked, 'Did he just say to throw the chicken?' They now proudly display their chicken mascot at nationals, along with signs, t-shirts and other chicken memorabilia. Other notable feathered tossies include 'Sir Bocks-a-Lot,' a wannabe rapper and his BFF, 'Jumpin' Joe Sa-bock-chick.'

Lifers

The number of skaters who have competed at all U.S. Adult Championships thus far has reportedly been reduced to seven in 2017. Those members include: Colleen Conroy, Angela Eden, Julie Gidlow, Ted Gradman, Walter Horton, Thom Mullins-Schwartz, and Dorothy Ray. Congrats to No. 23!

Outside the rink

Local skater Lisa Chisholm has solicited restaurant opinions throughout the event, and, if you're looking for a place to eat, there are plenty of options. Terryl Allen suggests Thai Café, close to the rink on Rogers Rd., which offers a good variety. The balanced dishes are accurate, and options for those with stricter food preferences exist as well. Rachel Firlik and Rochelle Revor enjoyed dinner at Yardhouse, with enough leftovers for lunch. If comfort food is your taste, Mac House offers many varieties of mac and cheese, as well as grilled cheese, salads and vegan options.

"Leli's diner has good burgers and farm to table foods," says Kimberly Coxe.

Aviva M. Cantor recommends Over The Falls, two miles from Polar Ice House, noting the wide variety of vegetarian and gluten-free options. Tracy Martin Edgerly advises that The Pit in downtown Raleigh is great for barbeque, and highly recommends the carrot cake for dessert.

Missing in action

We miss all of those who are not in attendance this year, including the following individuals:

June Palazzo, Samantha Lindenberg (home with her own "Shenanigans, Second Generation"), Linda Biggs, Joanna Ramberg, Kim Merriam, Ellen Dunkel, Renee Wensel, Jen Schmidt, Jennifer Schindler, Dianne Miller, Sara Smith, Audra Bandy, Brenda Tarkinton, Julie Moore, Michelle Laroche, Teresa Nielsen, Brandy Lokken, Melissa Garland, Ian Catindig, Theresa Chadwick, Melinda Speer, Michelle Lansel, and many others.

And now for something completely different

Danielle Donaldson was undeterred about attending nationals. Though she did not pass the required tests to compete, she is volunteering daily. Offering a distraction to any competition stress, Donaldson offers something silly to ponder. While stirring her coffee, she noticed that she stirs the same direction in which she spins.

"Trying to stir the other way is difficult," says Donaldson, musing whether 'lefty' skaters all spin and stir the same direction.

The results: Same direction -- 13. Opposite direction -- 8. Both directions -- 5.

Donaldson concluded there seems to be absolutely no correlation whatsoever. Patti Amparan had no answer, but now desires a cup of coffee. 

Tomorrow, the Championship events take place!

April 20

Parents in the house

Did you know parents of these adult skaters travel to watch their children compete? Century Leigh's father, a longtime staple of this competition, is here, and Brenda Witmann made the trip from Alaska. Wynnae Dyess (Champ Silver qualifier from Jackson Hole, Wyoming) and Connie Achtenberg have their parents along as well. ASC Chair Lori Fussell' s mother will also arrive today. Dianna-Lynne Webster Wells was seen showing her dad, brother and father-in-law around.

Stand-in parent, Lauren Day (ASC Vice chair) is playing 'mom' from afar.

"Competitors, there's not much I can do to support you from L.A., other than to tell you to GO TO BED. It's after 11:00pm and you gotta skate tomorrow!"

Shout outs

• If you haven't seen the adorable sweepers, they have their hair done with special competition ribbons. Thanks kiddos!

• Please also remember to thank your officials. Chief referee Lori Dunn is back for a second turn, and we're thrilled to have her. The same can be said for dance referee Kim Buchanan, longtime esteemed judge Lucy Brennan, and the entire team of officials. Thank you!

• Olympian Mark Ladwig was spotted chipping in to hang podium drape in time for Gold Men's IV.

• Jillian Paciello, your team in Knoxville is very proud of you, and feels fortunate to have you represent your club. "Every kid in Knoxville looks up to your artistry, talent, dedication, drive and positive attitude," says Denise Rivers. "You give to this sport and these kids with all your heart. Now let us cheer on your accomplishments!"

• The ever-lovely Wendy Bauer (of Wendy Bear fame), was seen with her former Wellesley college students, Alexandra Dunne-Bryant and Lisa Royan. Professor Bauer was instrumental in both ladies becoming involved in adult skating, and instructed them in Astronomy as well. This time, she is the star with a silver medal in Bronze Ladies V!

• Rohene Ward is on his way; local coach and Olympic Silver Medalist Elena Bechke is in attendance, as are Charlie Tickner and 'Jumpin' Joe Sabovcick.

Fitting in

Silver and Gold competitors Aviva Cantor, Cara Scudner, Kim Kell, Kathleen Westmoreland, Shari Lentz, and Cheryl Morrison brought their year-long Fitbit step challenge to nationals. Morrison is playing along with the home game and caring for her newborn daughter, also known as "Shenanigans: Second generation."

Westmoreland is leading with 41,948 steps this week, with Cantor in second at 36,554. Maureen Lindhart even wore her band while competing, and to no surprise, it matched her costume color. On the subject of style, Molly Johnson and Megan Brown were window shopping for skating dresses, prompting the query: Do we skate for the joy of gliding across the ice, or is it really all about the dress?

Don't answer that. 

Making music

Adult Gold Men's II-III competitor Reuben Jenkins owned his program and thrilled the audience while skating to "Big, Blonde and Beautiful." For anyone watching -- two bingo squares for mismatched music and wardrobe malfunction. Rueben executed the extra difficulty element of helping his pants fight gravity. Let' s hope it's not too early to sing a high note, as word on the street is that the first performance of the Gold Solo Dance event is going to feature the full catalog of Lady Gaga's hits. #bornthisway

Tossies

The first 'Skate Forever Young' Awards were distributed yesterday in Bronze Ladies V and Bronze Men's V. In case you didn't know, Lori Fussell's 'Adults Skate Too' motto started as a tossie over 10 years ago. It has evolved into a well-received mantra for adult skating. We're missing Mr. Lauren Day and the famous Beanie Baby Bazooka tossies of the past. Perhaps they'll return next year.

What interesting tossies are you all seeing on the ice this time around in North Carolina? 

Bingo

Aviva M. Cantor notes that if everything goes according to plan, spectators will quickly fill a few squares of Bingo during Silver Ladies I: fake eyelashes, shoulder shimmy, Latin music. She can dish out an additional square if you hit her with a tossie.

Mo Lindhart almost has a full card already. It seems skating is not the only competitive event. 

Get some sleep and gear up. More tomorrow!

April 19

Coffee, please

Rise and shine! The first day of competition is here! Day 1 is always nerve-wracking, but a cup of coffee -- or perhaps three -- may help settle those nerves. There's a Starbucks across the street from the rink on Rogers Road, but good luck getting across Main via left turn. Depending on the time of day, walking across the street can be benign or simulate a game of 'Frogger,' so please use caution either way.

Speaking of caution, driving in Wake Forest is like being in a maze due to all the trees. We've had numerous reports of people going the long way because they got lost, and the lack of street signs is definitely not helping. Make sure you leave a little extra time when heading to the rink. 

Cautionary tale

A word of advice when it comes to ending your program(s): 'Ice Dying' is not allowed. In trying to figure out the best ending position for his singles program, Rob Lichtefeld is entertaining suggestions, including bending at the waist, hands on knees panting, and lying on his back on the ice panting. A plethora of ideas have ensued, not the least of which was Lichtefeld's coach recommending he train harder to build stamina.

"She has a great sense of humor," says Lichtefeld.

Zuzka Polishook laments that if it were a Showcase program, Lichtefeld would "totally nail it using a stretcher and oxygen tank as props."

Rochelle Revor suggests looking the youngest judge in the eye, panting and stating, "I'm old enough to be your dad," followed by a mock 'mic drop' and a slow retreat.

Let's also be sure not to dismiss Cara Scudner's point that lying on the ice will help fellow skaters achieve a 'Bingo' square.

"I guess I should have started on this program and the training before the entry deadline," said Scudner. "I think I may have learned some sort of lesson."

Side note: Bingo cards are available in the Wake rink bleacher stands during Silver Ladies III, II and I, courtesy of Cara Scudner and Shari Lentz.

Seen and heard

• If you "run into" Marcia Richards, you'll notice her practice session defensive wear in bright orange.

• The Florida crew is also in the house, so greetings and best wishes to Dana Opsincs, Todd Maine and Carley Miller Sullivan.

• We also found trouble waiting to happen in the lobby in the form of Athena Katharina, Amanda May, Amanda McGowan, Fernan Balsalubre and Burton Powley. Coach Karen Sulpizio and competitor Wendy Coates were spotted at a practice session inside the Wake rink.

• Best wishes also go out to Bridget Woodward, who was forced to withdraw due to a fall on practice ice that resulted in a broken wrist. Woodward would have received two 'Skate Forever Young' awards had she been able to compete this week. Heal quickly Bridget!

• Competition coordinator Brett Mueller continues to help with registration. Thanks Brett!

• The Champ Masters Junior-Senior men's group appears to be smaller this year. Rochelle Revor was even heard questioning where the boys are. We're super happy to see Davin Grindstaff, Grant Huang, Daniel Palmieri and Edward Van Campen at the competition. Larry Holliday, Charnell Evans, Sam Gordon, Ben Bagocius, Brooks Jones, Michael Orr, Mike Ferlic, Zachariah Szabo, Bilal Kheir and Joshua Murphy, on the other hand, are definitely missed.

• Stephen Johnson at least has the excuse of living abroad. Elizabeth Risberg is also MIA, though her crown jacket has made a photo appearance.

Noteworthy

Though he is not competing, 2016 Adult Bronze dance winner David Bakke -- who won with partner Sue Schwaegler -- drove for a day and a half from Michigan to North Carolina to award the Richard D. Stutzke Memorial Trophy to this year's Adult Bronze Dance winners.

Wendy Bauer has also arrived, along with her signature 'Wendy Bears.' This year, Wendy has hand-knitted over 150 mini-sweaters for the stuffed animals, though instead of throwing them as tossies, she will be offering them for a donation at the Equality North Carolina table. I have it on good authority that an anonymous party has collected and donated over 240 additional stuffed animals to contribute to Wendy' s efforts. Lisa Chisholm also helped in setting up the donation table.

You can find them in the lobby if interested.

Now, on to the first event -- Bronze Ladies I -- which is being held at the Forest rink.

Skate great everyone!

April 18

Pregaming

What did skaters do in the weeks leading up to these championships?

While many were taking extra time in the practice rink or attending send-off parties, Rachel Firlik and Rochelle Revor took the time to decorate their costumes, with the attention to stoning detail a crucial element to their designs, especially since the process requires packing E6000, Arlene's and plenty of stones. Firlik actually ran out of stones, disbelieving she only brought a total of 12 gross, so here's hoping she's able to get the situation rectified.

Marie McGlathery is also into the fashion aspect of skating, but she's no doubt looking forward to another area of the event.

"I'm totally in it for the tossies!" she said shortly after arriving for the practice sessions. #tossies

Weather cooperation

Participants will also be happy to know that the weather for the week appears to be pleasant, even though there may be periods of cloud cover during the championships. The positive weather report is surely a great way for each skater to head into the event. #2017AdultChamps

Red-nosed Tuesday

It is reported to be cold at the Polar Ice House in Wake Forest, but that doesn't mean the skaters aren't having their fair share of fun.

"It's not meat locker cold," said Yana Ginsburg, "but bring layers."

Even with the chilly temperatures, a group of adult skaters, in an attempt to loosen up the atmosphere among the competitors, have taken the ice at times sporting Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer noses.

The lively group -- consisting of Merry Neitlich, Connie Curry, Terryl Allen, Colleen Conroy and Olympians Charlie Tickner and 'Jumpin' Joe Sabovcik -- was spotted sporting the iconic costume piece, a gesture that is sure to bring an added level of entertainment to the forum.

66 'til death

What is the meaning of this headline? To be tough, funny and able to laugh at oneself, which is what this event is all about. Each skater in North Carolina this week possess these traits, especially the ability to crack their fair share of jokes. The spirit among this group of competitors is truly unmatched.

Despite the loose atmosphere, some attending the championships, including Marcia Richards, admit they get forgetful during the time leading up to major events. As she began her travel to these championships, Richards says she flew into Charlotte instead of Raleigh, necessitating a 165-mile trip from Charlotte to Wake Forest.

"At least I got to see areas of North Carolina I'd not been to before," Richards said.

Well, she's here now. And that's all that matters!

One person not in attendance this year is Carole Dale. Although she may not get to take in all the action from the stands, Dale still gets a mix of shock and guffaws when referencing the official group title.

"I always say that some of us are too stubborn to give up!"

You're a figure skater?

This seems to be a question adult competitors constantly encounter, for whatever reason. Michelle Laroche says that when she tells people she's a figure skater, they ask if she competes and if she's any good. Janis Houston takes a light-hearted approach to those inquiries.

"What really cracks me up is when they ask how much I get paid," she said. "I tell them, 'I have to pay people to watch me.'"

"I like to say that I can do the reciprocal of a triple axel," said Wendy Bauer. "A waltz jump is one third of an axel."

Laura Hutchings, another participant with a great sense of humor, added a personal touch to her answer.

"My friend and I describe our competitions as, 'We skate, then we go have wine.'"

Pamela Sexton, on the other hand, says people focus on her age.

"I usually get 'Aren't you too old to be a figure skater?' I want to reply, 'I'm older than you, but I look younger and can kick your backside.'"

"I'm always shocked how many of my neighbors ask me where could I possibly go ice skating around here," said Laurie Krueger. "I live less than two miles from the rink. But, I'll bet they could tell you where every Pickleball Court is from here to Naples!" #whatispickleball

Event notes:

• Seating in the lobby and inside both rinks is seriously lacking. Locker rooms for the Forest rink are not the in the best of shape either. I'm not yet sure about the Wake locker rooms, but skaters are noticing some of these flaws.

• While the condition of the Forest rink locker rooms is substandard, I can happily report that the ice here is excellent. We hear the Wake rink ice is in solid shape, and at the perfect time, since the vendors have started to arrive.

• People here are friendly and helpful! On Monday, local skaters and coaches were open to sharing the ice, helping to play music during practice run-throughs and offering whatever help was needed. One coach even had her students give up the right of way and wished the adults good luck.

• Early practice sessions at the competition site have been successful, and, even with mixed levels and disciplines, the practices appear courteous and respectful.