Every journey has a first step, even a journey to a national championship. For figure skaters across New England, that step will be taken in Warwick.
Beginning on Friday, the Warwick Figure Skaters and Thayer Arena will host the New England Regional Figure Skating Championships. The event continues through Tuesday, and each day’s slate will feature some of the region’s best skaters.
They’ll be shooting for the stars.
“It’s very exciting,” said Beth Flanders, the vice president of the Warwick Figure Skaters board and the event organizer. “There are regionals across the country and the top four at each regional advance to sectionals. From there, they go to the national competition. This is the first step in that process. We’re excited to be part of it.”
WFS submitted its bid to host the regional championship last year. The club has played host to big events before and felt this one would be a perfect fit. In July of 2011, U.S. Figure Skating awarded the event to WFS and Thayer Arena. Kent Hospital stepped up as the presenting sponsor.
“We were all really excited,” Flanders said. “Once the excitement wore off, we realized how much planning we had to do.”
With more than a year to get ready, the club is well-prepared. But it certainly hasn’t been easy.
“We’ve had monthly meetings for a year, organizational charts, a local organizing committee,” Flanders said. “It’s a huge coordination effort.”
U.S. Figure Skating has a lot of requirements for its events, as well, so there’s been a lot to do on that front. And with 44 officials coming to town, there are a lot of people to get into the right place at the right time.
But once the skaters hit the ice this weekend, all the planning will be worth it.
“The first reason we wanted to do it is the love of the sport,” Flanders said. “That’s what WFS is all about. It also gives us good exposure as a club, and for our kids that skate, it’s going to be amazing to see the higher-level skaters and be exposed to this level of competition.”
U.S. Figure Skating is the national governing body of the sport and the road to its U.S. championship features some of the country’s biggest events. Top skaters from nine regions move on to three sectionals, and then to the Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championship in Omaha, Neb., in January.
At that level, the top skaters are some of the best in the world. Last year’s U.S. Ladies Champion Ashley Wagner, of California, went on to place fourth at the World Championships. In 2010, the second-place finisher in the Senior Men’s Division at the U.S. Championships was Evan Lysacek, who went on to win an Olympic Gold Medal.
While the event in Warwick is far from that level, it’s not too far – and Warwick is part of it all.
“It means a lot to our club,” Flanders said. “For our skaters, it really gives them insight into what they can accomplish and what it takes.”
While plenty of WFS skaters will be watching, a few will also be competing. Alizee Ballarin, Sybrinna Allen and Taylor Spinnard of Warwick; Kayla McCarthy of Ashaway; and Daniel Kuyoth of Coventry will all represent WFS in the competition.
“It’ll be awesome for them,” Flanders said. “They’ll have a little home-ice advantage.”
The event begins with official practices on Friday, before the competition starts Saturday. Skaters compete in the juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior levels. Nearly 200 skaters are slated to take the ice.
General admission tickets for the event are $10 per person and free for children under 4. An all-event pass may be purchased for $30. Tickets will be available at the registration check-in desk during the event.
For more information and a full event schedule, visit newenglands2013.com.