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U.S. Junior Championships diary

Getting a taste of competition

The author's children, Rebekah and Joel, show off their juvenile silver medals.
The author's children, Rebekah and Joel, show off their juvenile silver medals. (Jo Ann Schneider-Farris)

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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to icenetwork.com
(12/14/2008) - Jo Ann Schneider Farris, one of icenetwork.com's reporters, is writing a diary of her experiences this week at the 2009 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships.

Saturday, 11 p.m.: A silver performance

It is late in Lake Placid, N.Y., as I begin this final junior nationals diary entry. Today was no ordinary day!

It began early to get to both juvenile dance and juvenile pairs warm-up practice sessions. After just a short break, my children competed, first in the free dance event and then in the pairs event. It felt like we never stopped.

When it was all over, the children -- Rebekah and Joel -- had won a medal. They now had a title; they were the 2009 United States Juvenile Dance Silver Medalists. They had skated one of their best free dance performances ever, and that pulled them up from third place after the compulsories to second overall.

It brought forth tears of happiness as I watched my children on the podium receiving their silver medals in the award ceremony that followed later in the evening. I couldn't help but identify with my own similar experience over 30 years ago, when I stood on the podium at "nationals" to receive a medal -- also a silver in dance. I am so happy that my love of ice dancing and figure skating was passed on to my children!

The arena was filled with joyful and happy skaters tonight, and also with loving and proud parents. I know from my own family experience how much hard work, perseverance and dedication has gone into what we saw this week in Upstate New York, where wonderful young people in figure skating from the entire country came together.

Tomorrow, all of us who congregated in Lake Placid for the U.S. Junior Championships will go our separate ways. I know I certainly won't forget this week, and I know also that many, many other people will never forget this exciting event.

Happy Skating!

Friday, 11:04 p.m.: Let It Snow!

This morning, the city of Lake Placid was covered with snow. In fact, the snow did not stop falling, and was it cold!

Snow doesn't stop figure skaters. In fact, the snow didn't stop my family from traveling to the nearby village of Saranac Lake so that my children could work on pairs and free dance with coach Dalilah Sappenfield. The only mishap that affected our adventure was when our rental car could not make it up the hill to Sappenfield 's hotel! The drive to the rink at Saranac Lake took about 25 minutes.

After practicing, more snow was falling, but the drive back to Lake Placid seemed faster. My husband didn't tell me until after the drive how apprehensive he felt about driving in all that snow!

Since the children had to get to their compulsory dance warm-up, we spent just a brief time in our hotel. Then, after lunch, everyone had a brief rest.

Then, it was back to the competition. As my children prepared to compete, I took the time to attend the Reach for the Stars seminar, "So, Your Child Has Talent," presented by B.L. Wylie (the mother of 1992 Olympic silver medalist Paul Wylie). Every parent at this event has a child with talent, so it was very interesting to hear what Mrs. Wylie had to say.

Finally, the juvenile compulsory dance event began. Just before it started, I ran into a childhood skating friend, Wendy Burge-Dickinson, who is at the championships coaching a juvenile pairs team. Wendy competed in the 1976 Olympics in ladies singles.

My children were the first team to do the Fiesta Tango. They did the Ten-Fox much later in the evening. For those who don't know dance, ice dance events take a very long time. The juvenile dance event began at 4:30 p.m. and ended at 7:00 p.m.

We were delighted to find that Rebekah and Joel placed third after the compulsory dances ended. The free dance event will be Saturday.

This day was so full! Since the children will compete in BOTH free dance and pairs tomorrow, it was "early to bed."

Tomorrow should be another very exciting day!

Thursday, 11:00 p.m.: Long Day

It's been a LONG but also a fun day!

I arrived at the arena just before noon. It seemed like no matter where I went, I ran into someone I knew. A big highlight of my day was seeing my childhood skating friend, Erica Susman Shorr. Erica and I began skating together as young children -- I think maybe on the same day! She is at the junior championships coaching a juvenile pair team. In fact, her team will be competing against my own children.

After I watched the juvenile pairs practices, I ventured over to the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena to watch the intermediate ladies compete, but I got side-tracked when I saw all the vendors. I didn't buy anything, but I looked and looked! One display especially caught my eye: it was a display about a new children's figure skating book called Cammie and Alex's Adventures in Skateland. Since I have read the book, I introduced myself to the husband of the author. The book is a fairytale-type story that teaches that the joy of figure skating really comes from mastering ice skating fundamentals.

I also stopped at a display that was geared towards off-ice training and introduced myself to Lauren Downes of Sk8strong.com and David Lipetz of the "Off-Ice Edge." Both are physical therapists who hope to work together to help figure skaters with off-ice training, injury prevention, strength and conditioning.

Then, it was back to the hotel for a brief rest, but soon our entire family returned to participate in the Reach for the Stars classes. All three of my children took part in Paula Wagener's Style and Presentation class and also took the ballet class taught by Michela Boschetto. My youngest daughter also took part in the nutrition for figure skaters class. (She has now learned NOT to eat food at the most popular fast-food restaurants, to eat energy bars instead, to drink lots of water, to eat every 3 hours, and much more!)

I actually wanted to get to the parents' class about nutrition for skaters, but as I walked from the 1932 Jack Shea Arena to the 1980 Herb Brooks Arena for the class, I kept running into people I knew and stopped to chat. By the time I found the classroom, I decided I'd missed too much of it, so I went back to the 1932 rink to see some of the juvenile boys compete.

Some of the boys were quite good! I saw lots of double jumps, some double Axels and some very creative footwork and spins.

Then, our family returned to the hotel for a short break. We returned to the rink late in the evening for my children's compulsory dance practice. It was almost 9:00 p.m. when we left the arena and began to walk back to our hotel.

As we left the rink, snow began to fall. There are rumors that a "big storm" is coming into Lake Placid.

What a day! I look forward to tomorrow. More excitement is sure to come!

Wednesday, 9:30 p.m.: Arrival

We had a long day of travel today. It began early this morning before the sun rose, and we arrived in Lake Placid, N.Y., at about 8:00 p.m.! (We realized we'd spent over 12 hours traveling).

As we drove up to our hotel, we saw warmly dressed competitors walking to and from the rink. Yes, it was proving to be icy and cold in the city of Lake Placid. Brrrr!

We are staying at the Golden Arrow Hotel, which was the same hotel favored by the news media during the 1980 Olympics!

Speaking of media, the only person related to figure skating that we've spoken with so far is figure skating writer Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz, who writes for the U.S. Figure Skating Web site and also for Skating Magazine.

As we checked into the hotel, she heard my name and introduced herself!

All of us look forward to a big day tomorrow. I'm sure we'll have some great stories to tell about our 2009 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships adventure!

Tuesday, 7 p.m.: Preparing for departure

It's been exciting preparing to leave for the U.S. Junior Championships! My children qualified by winning medals in both juvenile pairs and juvenile ice dancing at the Midwestern sectionals, which were held in early November outside of Houston in Sugar Land, Texas. The excitement created there continues, and we're all eagerly looking forward to the competition in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Tomorrow morning, our family boards a plane scheduled to leave very early in the morning. Our trip isn't non-stop, and we'll still have a two-to-three-hour drive from Albany, N.Y. So, I imagine we won't arrive in Lake Placid until about 8:00 p.m. local time. Since we've been to Lake Placid before, at least we know where everything is!

The children compete on Friday and Saturday. Their practices start on Thursday. I look forward to sharing our "Lake Placid Junior National Adventure" with readers this week!