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The art of mixing school and skating

Skaters prove they can excel on and off the ice

2007 senior ladies gold and silver medalists, Linsey Ann Stucks and Lindsey Weber, had a great week last year in Oxford, Ohio.
2007 senior ladies gold and silver medalists, Linsey Ann Stucks and Lindsey Weber, had a great week last year in Oxford, Ohio. (Suzie Marie Flynn)

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By Suzie Marie Flynn, special to icenetwork.com
(08/06/2008) - Linsey Ann Stucks, the senior ladies titlist at the 2007 U.S. Collegiate Championships, said that balancing school and skating isn't difficult, but good time management is essential. The 21-year-old has class four days a week, skates four sessions a day five-to-six days a week and adds off-ice training.

Stucks, a sophomore at Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla., will join more than 60 other student-athletes at the 22nd annual U.S. Collegiate Championships, slated for Aug. 7-9 in Arvada, Colo. The event is open to full-time college students, including incoming freshmen, who are also test-eligible to compete at the junior or senior level.

"I think these competitions are a lot of fun," said Stucks, who plans to unveil a new short program in Colorado. "Everyone roots for everyone else."

Lindsey Weber, a 24-year-old senior at Oakland University in Auburn Hills, Mich., finished runner-up to Stucks in 2007. And like Stucks, Weber said she must be organized to succeed in the classroom and on the ice.

"I am balancing school and teaching skating full-time, so using good time management skills is a must," Weber said.

Weber described college mid-terms and finals as a "walk in the park" compared to the intense competitive atmosphere of skating.

Back surgery in 2004 and a demanding school schedule restricted her to skate just twice a week for half an hour each day.

"I always wanted to end my skating on a good note, and the U.S. collegiate championships allowed me to do this," Weber said. "You always want to be able to look back at that last performance and remember it with a smile."

The collegiate championships, she said, meant more to her than any other skating accomplishment.

Weber does not plan to attend the event this year. She serves on 12 U.S. Figure Skating committees, including the Athletes Advisory Committee. Weber wants people to know that there are many other ways to remain involved in skating.

The U.S. collegiate championships provided the perfect competition after sitting out a year due to an injury, said three-time men's champion Ryan Bradley.

Event though he does not intend to compete in 2008, he said the event "is really a great way to continue skating and enjoy skating for what it is."

Bradley is a junior at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. He is majoring in business marketing. His goals are to compete at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games and possibly skate in shows or coach.

Michael Peters, who claimed the silver medal in 2007, spends three hours on the ice every day, lifts weights and attends ballet class twice a week. Representing the University of Illinois, Peters recently graduated with a degree in molecular and cellular biology.

"The discipline and time management that it took all the years before college definitely helped my discipline and time management for studying and keeping focused while in college," Peters said.

Peters wants to see collegiate skating expand into a varsity or club sport.

"Kids are not ready to give up what they worked too hard for in high school," Peters said.

Peters enjoyed competing in an environment where adults were all dealing with the same challenges: balancing college and skating.

"Skating has helped me develop a thick skin," 2007 junior collegiate champion Laura Stefanik said. "I've learned how to deal with disappointments and setbacks, and I've learned that nothing pays off more than persistency and dedication."

The 19-year-old is in her senior year at the University of Delaware, double majoring in math and English with a concentration in business and technical writing. She tries to fit in one or two 40-minute, on-ice sessions in between classes and works out off-ice two-to-three times a week.

Skating, she said, gave her "a niche on campus that helped distract her from feeling homesick and alone."

Rachael Nevares, 19, claimed the silver medal in 2007 at the junior level. She will attend George Mason University in the fall and major in sports management.

"Just because you don't have a double Axel at 12 or 13 years old doesn't mean you can't be competitive," Nevares said. "The work I put in is paying off now. My career is just beginning."

Nevares, who landed her first triple jump in January, skates five days a week and coaches on Saturdays and Sundays. She hopes to compete this year in the senior division, if her commitments allow it.

Taylor Toth, the 2007 junior men's titlist, maintains a tough schedule: mornings on the ice, early afternoon classes and hour labs until as late as 10 p.m.

Skating, Toth said, has provided a solid foundation for his collegiate experience. Scheduling, time management and discipline are qualities that have transferred over to his school responsibilities. He is a biology major and hopes to attend medical school. He is working toward the Junior Grand Prix Series in pairs with partner Lauren Ryan.

Pine Kopka-Ross, who will be a senior at the University of Michigan, finished second to Toth at last year's competition. While skating five-to-six days a week for about three hours a day, he is a student in the school of kinesiology majoring in movement science. Kopka-Ross also includes dance and off-ice conditioning and plans to compete at the 2008 U.S. Collegiate Championships.

"Holding such a commitment throughout your life [skating] makes you put forth everything into what you do later in life," he said. "For me, it helped me to realize what I am interested in, which is the study of human movement."