Arts and Entertainment

Kitsap Vim and Vigor | It's lace up, toughen up for Bremerton figure skaters

Skaters with the Bremerton Figure Skating Club have nabbed both regional and national titles since 2006. - Jennifer Morris/Staff Photo
Skaters with the Bremerton Figure Skating Club have nabbed both regional and national titles since 2006.
— image credit: Jennifer Morris/Staff Photo

For breakfast each morning, 14-year-old Amber Cheremsak eats a chocolate muffin. It’s a tasty superstition. She’s been starting her days that way since summertime, when she ice skated her way to a third-place finish at the 2009 State Games of America. She hadn’t eaten anything the day of competition, but downed a chocolate muffin just before taking the ice, going on to land a coveted axel and skate a clean performance — all despite a stress fracture in her foot.

“I’m a really nervous person. I get the shakes before going on,” said Cheremsak, a pretty, pixie-like blonde wearing a bright orange skating dress.

She’s tough, too: Aside from the fracture, Cheremsak has twice sprained her knee, fractured a growth plate in her leg and sprained her wrist in her five years skating.

But it’s not that her lucky chocolate muffins aren’t working — injuries like these, along with the dedication to power through them, are par among the members of the Bremerton Figure Skating Club.

Of its 43 members, roughly half are skaters currently active in training and competition. Most others are parents of those skaters.

Christina Schmitt pulls double duty. She’s the club’s founder and president, and parent to Alec, 13, the club’s only male figure skater. Since the group’s 2006 incorporation, they have earned both regional and national titles and purchased a jump harness to be used in training, she said.

Beginning in May, skaters focus on competition, many going as far as Colorado to nab titles. After October, when most of the competitions are over, coaches Brenda Peterson and Outi Francis help the skaters to test into higher levels and create new programs for the upcoming season.

Alec took to the ice at age 6, when Schmitt signed him up for the Bremerton Ice Arena’s Learn to Skate program. That program is where many of the club’s members began, including Jackie Ashley.

But unlike many of her bladed peers, Ashley enrolled in Learn to Skate when she was 38, after taking her kids to the class. She continued skating, and calls it now a “sport for a lifetime.” She later joined the figure skating club, and has also become a private coach and Learn to Skate instructor. At 48, she is working on landing her “holy grail,” the axel. (Her kids have since moved on to archery.)

“It’s something that I completely fell in love with and intend to continue until I can’t anymore,” Ashley said. She is one of a handful of adult skaters in the club. “There’s always something new to learn and work on.”

Under U.S. Figure Skating Association guidelines, skaters work to meet various skill levels in both Moves in the Field (skills such as skating artistry and fine edging) and Free Skate (jumps and spins). There are separate level paths for youth and adults, and both groups can compete around the country.

Sherry Shopshire, mom to Shannon, a top skater at the club, said the sport offers more than just sharp skills on the ice. Mental toughness and dedication come too. Her daughter, 14, suffered an injury last year after colliding with another skater before a competition and taking a blade to the shin. But she has rebounded, and missed going to junior nationals by just two points last year. Shannon skates six days a week, usually two to three hours a day. She also trains off the ice with ballet and stamina workouts. She volunteers to teach kids to skate twice a week as well.

“You can’t be in this sport and not absolutely love it,” said Shopshire.

Still, she and many of the moms watching practice say the kids are just regular teens, despite their involvement in the sport. They go to movies, text and use Facebook.

Skating may be a major commitment for those on the ice, but it’s also quite the undertaking for parents, especially financially. Skates alone can cost upwards of $1,200.

Upon entering the rink, through the arena’s double doors that stand between the warm lobby and the frozen ice, the cold hits like a strong wind. Blades make a scraping noise against the frozen surface.

Kendal Reynold’s grace belies her young age. It’s Honeynut Cheerios at breakfast for her, an 11-year-old with a stellar sit spin. Reynolds began skating at age 6 using an old pair of hockey skates. Now she’s a regional champion working on landing a double loop. It’s events like the Olympics, which she’ll watch beginning today, that help to inspire her.

“They make it look so easy,” she said of those skaters who will complete for gold, silver and bronze. Reynolds especially likes Seabeck’s Ashley Wagner, who didn’t qualify for this year’s games, as well as U.S. team skater Rachel Flatt.

“They’re all Olympic hopefuls,” said Schmitt of the Bremerton club members. “Anything is possible. I would love to see one of these kids represent Bremerton and hear it announced at nationals.”

Ashley, who is taking the year off from competition to move up in levels, summed her decade of skating into a word: “joy.”

She serves as club secretary and chair of the adult skating committee. It is that group’s hope to encourage adult skaters in the area.

Get out on the ice

To learn more about the Bremerton Figure Skating Club, visit www.bremertonfsc.org. To find more information on the Learn to Skate program, visit www.bremertonice.com. The Bremerton Ice Center is located at 1950 Homer Jones Drive.

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