By Eileen Persike
Four Rhinelander figure skaters are headed to national competition. Lauryn Cook, Grace Hoger, Joyce Hauser and Nicole Brunette leave this weekend for the State Games of America, 2015. Held every two years, is very much like the Olympics, with opening ceremonies and ‘Olympic villages’ to house the more than 13,00 athletes from around the United States.
To qualify for the State Games of America, taking place in Omaha Nebraska, the girls had to win a medal at Badger State Games, which they all have done. Several times. The zip lock bags full of heavy gold, silver and bronze medals are evidence of their accomplishments.
“In addition to their skating here, they attend camps around the area,” explained Joyce’s mom, Beth Meyer. “They bring coaches in from all over the country to work with the girls and get them ready for the competition.”
The girls are in fourth grade, middle school, and two in high school.
Competitions, they say, are divided by skill level, and then by age. Jumps, spins, free skate, interpretive and dance are some of the categories in which they will compete in levels that vary from beginner to junior to ladies.
“I want to tour with the program, Disney on Ice,” Rhinelander High School senior Grace Hoger said. “I would need to send in an audition tape and fill out a bunch of papers.”
But there is more to it than that.
“You have to test high enough to even have the opportunity to try out,” said Meyer. “And Grace has tested high enough.” Testing is done separate from the competitions, and involves judges flown in to score the skaters. There is a lot to figure skating, Meyer said. But, she added that Grace has a very good chance of making her dream come true.
“I think I have a good chance. If I make it, I would be assigned a Disney character, then have to learn the routines,” Grace said. “If I sign up for the two year plan, I would tour the country; longer than that and you get to tour the world.”
Lauryn Cook and Hoger both currently mentor and coach the young skaters, including Nicole. Cook would like to make coaching a part of her future. “I like working with the kids and helping them out,” she said. “The ‘learn to skate’ program is fun.”
Basic skills competitions are held throughout the year, many of the girls competing thirteen times in one year in order to get the points required to move up levels. It’s a sport that involves commitment from the skaters and their parents.
“Whenever they get the opportunity to be on the ice, they are,” said Meyer. “It is a big commitment, but the girls really enjoy skating.”