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Skaters on Parade

Dartmouth-Based Teams Have High Hopes

  • Peily Heitzman, 10, of Lyme, executes a scratch spin while practicing her routine during freestyle skate practice at Campion Rink in West Lebanon this week. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Peily Heitzman, 10, of Lyme, executes a scratch spin while practicing her routine during freestyle skate practice at Campion Rink in West Lebanon this week. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Instructor Alexa Halford shows Malena Devlin, 5, of Hanover, how to do “swizzles” by using fish drawn on the ice during a beginners’ ice skating lesson held by the Skating Club At Dartmouth at Campion Rink in West Lebanon this week.(Valley News — Sarah Priestap)

    Instructor Alexa Halford shows Malena Devlin, 5, of Hanover, how to do “swizzles” by using fish drawn on the ice during a beginners’ ice skating lesson held by the Skating Club At Dartmouth at Campion Rink in West Lebanon this week.(Valley News — Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Katie Naughton, 10, of Hanover, high-fives instructor Alexa Halford after a successful jump during a freestyle skating practice at Campion Rink in West Lebanon. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Katie Naughton, 10, of Hanover, high-fives instructor Alexa Halford after a successful jump during a freestyle skating practice at Campion Rink in West Lebanon. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Skaters practice their routines during a freestyle session at Campion Rink. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Skaters practice their routines during a freestyle session at Campion Rink. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Peily Heitzman, 10, of Lyme, executes a scratch spin while practicing her routine during freestyle skate practice at Campion Rink in West Lebanon this week. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Instructor Alexa Halford shows Malena Devlin, 5, of Hanover, how to do “swizzles” by using fish drawn on the ice during a beginners’ ice skating lesson held by the Skating Club At Dartmouth at Campion Rink in West Lebanon this week.(Valley News — Sarah Priestap)
  • Katie Naughton, 10, of Hanover, high-fives instructor Alexa Halford after a successful jump during a freestyle skating practice at Campion Rink in West Lebanon. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Skaters practice their routines during a freestyle session at Campion Rink. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

West Lebanon — As head coach of Dartmouth College’s figure skating team and the Skating Club at Dartmouth’s executive director, Jacki Smith has a packed schedule. Yet her sacrificing of free time is worthwhile when she views the freedom her pupils enjoy on the ice.

Whether working with the more than 100 members of SCaD — all striving to improve their U.S. Figure Skating Association rankings — or mentoring the defending national champion Big Green, Smith helps her charges enhance their style and grace with each stride.

The season is winding down for both groups. SCaD’s winter session culminates next Saturday with the Skating Spectacular on Ice demonstration, an hour-long show featuring 34 skaters of various levels and abilities performing group and solo numbers. Two of the top Dartmouth skaters, juniors Maria Sperduto and Joseph Miller, are guest performers.

“It’s so worth it to see the kids do well, the smiles on their faces and to see all of their hard work and dedication pay off,” said Smith, a National Sports Academy and Green Mountain College graduate who holds gold-level rankings in four figure skating disciplines. “Everyone has different goals, but they all do their best and that’s what it’s about.”

The Big Green, which won its sixth Intercollegiate National Championship last year, is skating this weekend at the University of Delaware in the last of two qualifying competitions. On April 13-14, Dartmouth will host the national meet at Thompson Arena for the first time since 2007.

Back at Campion, SCaD skaters and parents are looking forward to next weekend’s Spectacular on Ice, where the athletes will showcase the fruits of their season.

Penny Loschiavo, SCaD’s secretary and a Bradford, Vt., resident, has noticed a lot of improvement this winter from her 12-year old daughter, Paige.

“It’s amazing to see the confidence they develop, because it’s not easy to do what they do,” Penny Loschiavo said. “It’s not like other sports where it’s a team effort and you have (teammates) to fall back on. You’re exposed out there. What you do is up to you.”

USFSA rankings include “freestyle” (spins and jumps) and “moves in the field” (edge work and power) divisions, with eight levels, ranging from pre-preliminary to senior, for each. The level of difficulty increases significantly between the ranks.

Maintaining their kids’ involvement isn’t easy for the parents, either. Many drive their children to practices at Campion from far distances, and the commuting only expands after Campion closes for the summer. To stay active in the sport, SCaD skaters enroll in competitions in southern New Hampshire, the Lakes Region and northern Vermont, while some venture to week-long training sessions in Lake Placid, N.Y.

“One of our biggest challenges is that it’s a year-round sport, but not really around here,” said SCaD vice president and Lyme resident Andrea Heitzman, whose 10-year old daughter, Peili, has been skating with the group for five years. “If you look at places like, not only Boston, but a lot of (smaller) areas in the Midwest, for example, there are more year-round rinks and training for figure skaters on and off the ice.

“Here, our season is from September to April. For the rest of the year, we kind of have to go all over New Hampshire and Vermont to keep the kids involved and keep it going.”

Fifteen-year old Elizabeth Greenan, of Quechee, and Hanover High junior Andrea Boitnott have both been working on 2-minute solo numbers to perform at the Skating Spectacular on Ice. They each look forward to executing axels — 11/2 spins while in midair — to show off to friends and family while gliding to music.

“It’s the first really big jump you get to do,” said Boitnott, 17.

Added Greenan: “It’s a good way to show the progress we’ve made.”

SCaD coach Rose Grenier hopes the skaters continue in the sport for as long as she has. The 38-year old Etna resident has been a figure skater since age 6 and still loves it.

“It’s a lifetime activity, that’s what’s great about it,” Grenier said. “(USFSA rule changes) come up from time to time, but no matter what, you can always have new goals. That’s why it’s great to see what these girls have done. They’ve been achieving goals all year.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3306.