The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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July 13, 2013

Area skaters sharpen up for national event

JOHNSTOWN — With temperatures soaring, a number of locals have been spending a lot of time on ice.

Figure skaters who practice at Planet Ice in Richland Township are practicing for hours each week in preparation for the State Games of America, coach and program director Jan St. Clair said.

The biannual Olympic-style event, featuring competition between State Games medal winners from across the nation, will be held July 31 through Aug. 4 in the Harrisburg-Hershey area.

“I don’t remember the last time the games were held in Pennsylvania,” St. Clair said. “They have two locations, and they have several rinks.”

This marks the eighth year for the State Games of America, which is being held on the East Coast for only the second time, according to the event’s website, http://stategames2013.com.  Medal winners from 31 states are to compete.

Among the competitors will be many Pennsylvania skaters who train at Planet Ice along Jari Drive, St. Clair said.

“We have 25 kids going this year,” she said, “and we have five coaches going from Planet Ice.”

The skaters had to qualify at the state level.

“It’s typically an elimination process where the people who compete in the Keystone State Games go – the top three,” St. Clair said.

Planet Ice and its participating skating organizations – U.S. Figure Skating Association and Ice Skating Institute – have produced medal winners in multiple age groups, she said.

“That’s all different age groups, all the way down to a 5-year-old, and they have an adult category that is separated from the rest of the group,” she said, adding that a 26-year-old skater will be competing. “They compete against others in their own age group.”

Competitors also are separated by the events in which they are competing. Dance, freestyle and team competitions will be held, as well as production themes – a theatrical event involving costume and music changes – and an artistic competition.

“(In the artistic), they’re not so much involved in judging their jumping. They are evaluated on their footwork,” St. Clair said.

Planet Ice was opened in 1999, and St. Clair said its figure skaters have been participating in the games since 2001.

“We have sent kids to world competitions,” she said. “The skaters have competed across the country.”

St. Clair said the Planet Ice skaters historically do well in the competitions, and she hopes the State Games of America will be no exception.

“I believe everybody that is going has competed before, but they may not have competed in such a large event,” she said. “When they win this, they take the highest honor they can get from this level of competition.”

The local skaters have been putting in a lot of practice.

“The typical training would be five or six days a week, and most of them take lessons four or five days a week,” St. Clair said.

Eleven-year-old skater Lily Carone can attest to that. The Indiana girl said she has been commuting an hour each day, five days a week, to and from the rink to train for the games.

“I’m specifically working on double jumps, posture, artistry and presentation,” Lily said, adding that she hopes her skating will look polished.

After placing first in four events at the Keystone State Games, Lily said she remains hopeful that she will do well in the national competition.

“I hope to skate my best and to experience healthy competition,” she said.

Lily’s mother, Stacy Carone, said her daughter has participated in large competitions before, but this will probably be the biggest.

“It’s just neat that it’s in our geographic area,” Carone said, adding that the coaches at Planet Ice have had a great impact on her daughter’s skating. “We really have great coaches that commit to this.”

While the skaters’ talents and excellent coaching obviously contributed to their wins, St. Clair said it wouldn’t be possible if they were unable to practice at Planet Ice.

“You can have the best skaters and coaches in the world, but you need the facility. We have a very large team considering the area we are pulling from,” she said, explaining that some skaters come from as far as State College to practice.

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