Fundraising, early morning practices don't faze figure skaters

Posted on Wednesday, January 13, 2010
From left to right: Lori-Ann MacLellan, Caitlin Singleton, and Nina Mikalachki cheer on teammates Brooke Levis and Sarah Falk during the McGill figure skating team’s Holiday Ice Show at McConnell Arena Dec. 18. / Photo: Andrew Dobrowolskyj

From left to right: Lori-Ann MacLellan, Caitlin Singleton, and Nina Mikalachki cheer on teammates Brooke Levis and Sarah Falk during the McGill figure skating team’s Holiday Ice Show at McConnell Arena Dec. 18. / Photo: Andrew Dobrowolskyj

By Jim Hynes

The next time you buy a beer at a McGill hockey game, try to throw at least another quarter into the Tips jar. Your spare change just might help fund the activities of some of the University’s lesser-known – but by no means less worthy – sports teams.

Take the McGill figure skating team for example, a club-level team that must pay for everything from its uniforms to the coaches who help train them, not to mention travel and costs related to ice-time. With all of the fundraising they must do to pay for it all, and all the co-ordinating that goes along with it, they work just about as hard off the ice as on.

Not to say the team doesn’t train hard for the handful of competitions it enters every year. You want commitment? How do 6:30 a.m. practices grab you? The 17 members (16 women and one man) of the team hit the ice three times a week on average, more as they prepare for competitions, where they compete in singles, pairs, fours and a synchro event, which involves all 16 female skaters on the ice together.

Most of the team members, who hail from all over Canada and the U.S., have extensive skating backgrounds.

“That’s one thing that really connects us – the love of skating, said skater and team co-president Alexa Gavaga. “We may come from different backgrounds and study different things at McGill, but we all like doing this. Sometimes we don’t like getting up at six in the morning, but we all love the skating and being part of a team.”

“The team aspect of it is so much fun,” said Hayley Ellis, the other co-president. “I come from a competitive skating background where you are pretty much on your own. So the university level, where you are part of a team, is pretty unique in figure skating.”

As the only Quebec university with a figure skating team, the McGill squad competes against Ontario schools like Western, Guelph, the University of Toronto, Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier and Queens in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) association. In late November, the team came seventh out of 10 schools at the Queen’s Invitational, where they got a number of encouraging performances from team members. The team of Lori-Ann MacLellan and Geneviève Rougeau finished second in the Senior Similar Pairs category while Jill Barbano (Gold Solo Dance) and Haley Ellis (Senior Silver Solo Dance) had third-place finishes.

“The pairs and fours events are also a lot of fun,” Gavaga said. “Because a lot of us competed as singles skaters before coming to McGill, and now, competing on the ice with somebody, it’s just completely different, because you have somebody to depend on. You have so many steps to do and you can’t change any that.”

In December, the team performed at the Principal’s skating party a few weeks before before putting on its own McGill Holiday Ice Show. The squad is now preparing for the Toronto Invitational at the UofT on Jan. 21, its last competition before the OUA Championships at Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo on Feb. 17.

“We have high expectations for the rest of the year,” said Ellis. “The team is looking really strong.”

The team caps off the 2009-2010 season with their own exhibition at the McConnell Arena on Mar. 12, a performance that will feature the routines from their competitions as well as a few fun numbers. Some special guests will also be on hand.

For more information on the McGill skating team and its activities, visit: www.mcgill.ca/athletics/varsitysports/teamshome/figure_skating/

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