Onto the ice: Figure skaters glide through a socially distanced season


Photos courtesy of Rachel Buchanan and Amanda Lee

Skating stars: Smiling through their program, Team Elite strikes a pose.

From leaving school early to traveling for competitions, nothing will stop a determined athlete from achieving their goals, sophomore Zoe Kaiser said. South figure skaters devote their time and energy to their sport while managing a heavy school schedule and a global pandemic. 

One of those skaters is freshman Amanda Lee, who competes on Team Elite, a synchronized skating team which Lee said is made up of 16 skaters who perform a program and travel to competitions. Since she first stepped on to the ice, Lee explained that she has grown as an individual while skating three days a week during competition seasons.

“Ice skating has really taught me to work hard for what I want to achieve and persevere,” Lee said. “Especially during this year where we’re unsure of what our season’s going to look like, it taught me to work hard even when I’m not sure what the outcome is going to be.”

Junior Meghan Blomberg, another member of Team Elite, has traveled to Italy, France and England to skate. 

 “[Ice skating] taught me to be hardworking and detail-oriented because we have to pay attention to every little thing we’re doing in order to be in sync,” Blomberg said. 

Junior Alyssa Hjelmgren, also on Team Elite, said she has spent 11 years on the rink. However, like other skaters at South who need to balance their skating and school lives, Hjelmgren acknowledged that the sport is a major addition to her already busy schedule. 

“It [has] very much shaped my life,” Hjelmgren said. “If I want to plan to do something, I have to make sure I don’t have practice. Especially on the nights when we have late practices, it can be really difficult to get all my work done.”

When the initial Covid-19 lockdown began, very few places were open and skating rinks were no exception. Kaiser chose to drive hours out of state just to get in a practice. 

“We had to drive [about] two hours to this rink in the mid dle of Wisconsin,” Kaiser said.

 In addition to practice hours and the number of competitions being restricted, junior Rachel Buchanan, who has been skating for 13 years, has struggled to connect to her team while following Covid-19 guidelines. 

“For synchronized skating, [our team members] have to connect with each other,” Buchanan said. “With Covid, this whole past season [has become] a training season. There were some virtual competitions, but since we couldn’t connect [in-person], my team was unable to participate in anything.”

Kaiser stated that there are strict guidelines set in place in terms of practicing, including social distancing and wearing masks. Kaiser mentioned that the energy that used to be in the space has faded.

“The rink is a lot more empty, which would seem good, [as] there’s more room to skate, but I miss having a lot of people there because it was really fun,” Kaiser said.

Even with the restrictions on the rink, skaters bonded over their love for the sport, Buchanan added.

“I like the energy of competitions,” Buchanan said. “We get to bounce our energy off of each other and really have a fun time skating together.”