With about a month to go until the 2018 Winter Olympics figure skating will be front and center in most people’s minds. Two Rapid City skaters perform and compete and have made the sport much of their lives.
Lauren Eccarius is one of a number of athletes making daring leaps and spins into the air look effortless.
“I do like all double jumps and some in combination. Jumps are the hardest thing.”
Eccarius has been skating for more than 10 years, practicing, competing and performing with the Black Hills Skate Club.
She’s one of two Rapid City skaters who have passed the highest ranking skills test from the U.S. Figure Skating Association. The test includes jumps and figure skating tricks. Eccarius is now ranked at the senior level, the same levels as Olympic skaters.
“I took the last test in August and it was a long journey of about 10 years. I had to pass eight moves in the field test which are like skating skills and edges. And then you had to pass 8 free skate tests which are programs with jumps and spins.”
Only a handful of skaters in the Black Hills have completed the senior level test. Eccarius typically competes and performs about half a dozen times a year. She also teaches figure skating lessons. The 17 year old says double jumps the took her the longest to get right.
She says, to get into the air..
“You usually push off with your toe and then you always what to land on your toe.”
Then when you’re off the ground...
“You rotate up in the air kind of like spinning.”
She does that twice per leap. Eccarius says the whole thing lasts...
“It’s Like, I don't know, like point four seconds. It’s really short.”
She says the next step is learning how to do a triple jump.
Alison Eccarius watches her daughter perform from the stands.
She says it took a long time for her daughter to build these skills.
“The first time we skated, we went with some family friends and they were in Learn to skate lessons in Rapid City. And they taught her how to get up. And that day she went home and asked me to sign her up for lessons.”
Eccarius says being the parent of a figure skater is consuming and requires hours of travel for coaching sessions.
“It’s a lot of driving from Rapid City and being supportive. And getting them in touch with the right people. And just encouraging them to do their best and not to ever give up.”
Eccarius says her daughter has worked hard at the sport and it’s rewarding to see her skate. Other parents say watching from the sidelines can be difficult. Chris Rogers’ daughter, Alexandra, also tested into the senior level.
“They train and train and train, and then they compete for four minutes. You’re so hopeful for them and you want them to succeed on the ice for that short period of time. It’s a little bit stressful as a parent but I’m not the one out there skating.”
From a young age, Rogers noticed her daughter seemed like a natural on ice skates. So next came skating lessons. Chris Rogers’ says the figure skaters she meets often train really hard and her daughter is no exception.
“It’s brought a lot of joy to my life watching her fulfill some of her dreams and set such specific goals and learn so much in this sport.”
Rogers and her daughter have sacrificed for the sport. The two moved to Denver from Rapid City to train at a higher level facility.
18 year old Alexandra Rogers misses out on parts of a normal teenage life to skate. She says her days fill up quickly.
“I got to school from like seven to 12 and then I’m on the ice by 1:15 until four. And then I usually have some off ice for an hour or so. And so some days I don’t really get back home until like seven or eight at night.”
Even when she’s off the ice, there’s still training to do. She does different workouts like lifting weights, dancing and cardio. Rogers has to balance hours of figure skating with homework and a social life. She dedicates much of her time to training and performs or competes about 10 times a year.
She says skating is a sport you do until you’re you don’t want to anymore or you can’t. But she doesn’t see herself giving it up anytime soon.
“Since the first time I stepped on the ice, skating was a way for me to be free and express myself. And it was a way for me to fly.”
Young kids watch her performance and twirl around in their street shoes. Rogers says she used to watch from the side lines just like them.
“Just having those role models were like such an important part to my skating career. I guess it’s kind of great that now I can be the role model. It’s kind of amazing.”
Right now, Rogers is taking it slowly, recovering from an injury. Both senior level skaters are considering college, professional gigs like Disney on Ice, and coaching figure skating. They agree that the sport is worth the effort.