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Beyond the skates

Junior finds passion in skating

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Ten years ago, Katie Connick tagged along with her mom, Gail Connick, and her aunt to go Christmas shopping at the Stonebriar Mall. While at the food court eating her favorite food, grilled cheese, Katie looked over the ice rink and saw figure skaters gliding on the ice. She was inspired. She saw how happy they were, radiating energy, and she knew she wanted to be a part of that community.
Years later, she joined a figure skating class at the Grapevine Mills Mall Polar Ice Rink. Katie remembers being impressed with herself because she didn’t fall over as much as other kids due to her past experience from rollerblading and ballet. Katie skated to her heart’s content, twirling and jumping for her family and friends on the ice.
“Once she set foot on the ice, you could tell we found the right thing for Katie,” Gail said. “It was just the right fit.”
After seeing a woman on the Olympics skate around the rink in a purple sparkly dress, Katie wanted to feel like her. She pointed out the dress to her mom and said that she really liked it, but her mom said that she wouldn’t buy it.
Next time she went to practice, Gail told her to go change. Katie questioned her. Suddenly, her mother pulled out of a bag a similar dress to the one Katie saw on TV. She said that putting on the sparkly purple dress with long sleeves, was like transforming into another person, or stepping into new shoes. This was going to be a new part of her life.
“When you take private lessons, it’s when you start getting into it,” Gail said. “All the other kids were practicing for a competition that they had in the spring, so they were showing off their new competition dresses. We got one for Katie so that she could feel inspired.”
Katie began to get more involved with figure skating and realized that her favorite figure skater was Ashley Wagner, an Olympic bronze medalist in the team event in 2014. Katie looks up to Wagner. She says the Olympian is original and performs how she wants. She makes every piece her own and has serious guts.
“She tends to skate to songs that are out of the box,” Katie said. “It really shows her personality.”
There was a bump in the road for Katie because of problems with the rink that she skated at. Over the course of several summers, the air conditioning wasn’t up to what it needed to be, so during summer the ice would melt and turn to a pool of water for about three months. Polar Ice eventually ran out of business.
Since she didn’t have many recitals due to the closing of the other rink, Katie entered in competitions. In 2013, she went to the State Games of America in Hershey, PA. Connick said that the competition is like the Olympics, but for kids. She skated to the famous song, Hallelujah, and connected to the music like she never had before. Her mother was nervous for Katie and was at the edge of her seat.
Katie won first place in the competition, the first time she had done so. Her mother was shocked yet proud of what she had accomplished. Katie scored high in criteria such as how well she did elements like jumps and spins.
“She shines when she’s out there,” Gail said.
Now a junior, she has practice three to four days a week at the Dr. Pepper Star Center that usually last up to an hour. During her practices, Katie either has lessons where she works on technique and new moves for programs, or she may run through her program by herself.
A couple of her favorite moves to do on the ice is the lutz jump and the camel spins. The lutz is when a skater jumps into the air, does a full spin, and lands back onto the ice. When figure skaters make a T with their body and spin around, that’s the camel.
“Sometimes it seems like the easiest thing in the world…but when you’re learning something new, it’s really hard to figure it out,” Katie said. “You’re not used to doing something like that, so you’re just a mess at first.”
Ice skating, at times, takes a backseat to the various clubs and organizations that Katie is a part of, but she never leaves it behind.
“It does have some effects on my grades,” Katie said. “But it’s not that huge of a difference for me that I would get stressed out and quit.”
Katie wants to attend a college in Colorado due to the good skating programs that they have to offer. She visited Colorado Boulder University once for a skating tournament and loved the campus and their figure skating program. She remembers when she stepped out of the airplane, she saw the white snow spread over the city. She soaked in her surroundings as she had never seen that much snow all at once.
Although the university doesn’t have an ice rink on campus, it is really close to the school. Katie hopes to do her studies while still being able to do what she has loved to do since her childhood, figure skating.
“It’s my happy place,” she said.

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Beyond the skates