PDD Calendar intern Shannon Kinley takes us behind the scenes of Duluth events in this new series.
Over 800 figure skaters from across the United States and Canada met in Duluth this past weekend for the Northland Competition, one of the largest events of its kind in the Midwest. The 34th-annual gathering was organized by the Duluth Figure Skating Club.
“This year is by far the biggest we have had so far in terms of skaters,” said Kathy Jensen, co-chair of the competition. “We are very pleased with the turnout.”
Skaters of all ages and levels competed in a variety of events at Amsoil Arena and the DECC, some of which include: solo compulsory, team compulsory, artistic, spins, jumps, free skate, synchro and basic skills.
The basic skills competition started four years ago and is designed for young skaters.
“It gives the beginning skaters a taste of what its all about,” said Jensen, whose daughter is a skater with the Duluth Figure Skating Club.
“I’m a skate mom who kind of got wrapped up in it all, but I thoroughly enjoy it,” Jensen said.
The competition would be nonexistent if there weren’t volunteers to put in their time. Jensen said planning for the event goes on throughout the year.
“We have a tremendous pool of volunteers. These people put in well over 1,000 hours of their time,” she said. “We basically kind of move into the DECC. It is dark when we get here, and dark when we go home.”
Jensen added that the judges are all working on a volunteer basis as well, but are reimbursed for their travel. Jensen thinks it is their way to pay back their appreciation for the sport.
“These kids, adults and coaches put in so many hours into this, so it is fun to watch them spend a fun weekend in Duluth,” Jensen said.
Coach Molly Johnsen, from the Duluth Figure Skating Club started skating when she was 11 years old and has been a coach for nine years.
She has seven skaters, but in the past has had up to 16 skaters at a time.
“You really have to put a lot of time into it, which gets really hard with two jobs,” Johnsen said.
When Johnsen is not coaching she can be found at her other full-time job as a teacher in Moose Lake. Her favorite part about being a coach is the connections she is able to make with her skaters throughout the years.
“I like making connections with the students. Sometimes you get to teach the same student for eight to nine years and you develop a friendship,” Johnsen said.
She typically brings her skaters to four or five competitions each year.
If she could give one piece of advice to skaters it would be, “Only do it if you love it. You really have to love it and let that show. Let that be the reason you skate,” Johnsen said.
Skater Paige Kirkpatrick, from the St. Paul Figure Skating Club, competed in the adult competition. This was her first time at the Northland Competition. She received first place in her artistic program and fourth place in her spins event.
“I love to perform and having an audience,” Kirckpatrick said.
Kirckpatrick has been skating since she was 3 years old. Her favorite event category is artistic and she loves the choreography aspect of it.
“I actually choreographed my artistic program about a week ago,” Kirckpatrick said.
She wants skaters to remember that, “It may not seem worth it in the winter, but once you get to the competition it’s worth it.”
Rebecca Johnson, Kirckpatrick’s coach, still considers herself a skater and has been coaching for five years. This was her first time in Duluth as a coach, but she has competed here before.
“It is a nice competition. They really do a nice job organizing it,” Johnson said.
Kirkpatrick is one of the three skaters that Johnson brought to the competition.
“The hardest thing about being a coach is standing by the boards and watching them compete,” Johnson said. “You are hoping that all those things you talked about come through.”
Johnson said she loves to be a coach because she is able to share a great experience with the skater no matter what the outcome is.
If she could give one piece of advice to skaters it would be, “Enjoy what you do for yourself. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.”