Figure skaters excel at LaHaye Ice Center in first Southeast Sectional event since pandemic
Hosting this past weekend’s LU Classic, the first of three Southeast Sectional competitions this spring, Saturday and Sunday at the LaHaye Ice Center was a phenomenal success for Liberty University’s figure skating team.
The Lady Flames won the event for the first time with 230.5 points, edging runner-up Delaware (223). The two programs dominated the rest of the field as East Carolina came in third place with 86.5 points followed by Pittsburgh (84), South Florida (74.5), Duke (66), Virginia (58.5), Carnegie Mellon (35), William & Mary (33), North Carolina State (32), Towson (30), Mercyhurst (23.5), and West Virginia (17).
“It’s always an advantage when you’re at your home place, but I think after not competing for two years in-person, there was just kind of a vibe among all 13 teams,” Liberty Head Coach Dawn Harter said. “Competition definitely keeps people motivated because they know what they’re working toward. Even those that competed for the first time all did really well and attained points for the team.”
Senior co-captain Marissa Harter, junior Sarah Hicks, and junior Kristine Neumeyer formed the first-place low team maneuvers trio.
“That’s the first time in the history of having a team here that we’ve gotten first,” said Marissa Harter, who also placed first in Excel Pre-Juvenile and Juvenile Solo Freedance and second in Preliminary Solo Patter Dance. “There were definitely tears of joy. Everyone showed up.”
Neumeyer also won her Pre-Silver Solo Pattern Dance and placed third in the Excel Pre-Juvenile competition and Hicks finished second in both her Excel Pre-Juvenile routine and Juvenile Solo Freedance.
Marissa Harter said the skaters have remained disciplined in their workouts over the past two years without the promise of competition as a reward.
“We’ve been working hard these past months, going over our programs and working diligently every week, just showing up to practice and off-ice workouts,” she said, noting it was especially sweet to finally have the opportunity to compete in-person, in front of a live audience. “There’s other schools cheering for you and you don’t even know them and they’re still out there just as loud as your own teammates. It’s very uplifting and encouraging and you feel that energy.”
The Lady Flames reciprocated that love and support for the other programs on hand, covering and encouraging opposing skaters with their prayers.
“We definitely talked to a lot of other teams, and especially USF, (since) it was their first competition forming a team and going somewhere,” Marissa Harter said. “We tried to pray over as many people as we could just before we skated so that was really cool that the Lord opened those doors for us and gave us those opportunities, so I hope it made an impact on the other teams. That’s why we do it. We’re just trying to spread the love of Christ.”
The intermediate team maneuvers trio finished fourth and the high team maneuvers, composed of junior co-captain Claire Rivas, senior Courtney Kirschke, and junior Olivia Ford-Walker, placed second.
“It’s the first competition, so there’s definitely still some things to improve on,” said Rivas, who also landed in second in her Excel Senior long program and third in her Senior short program. “Compared to our mock competition, the improvement the girls have made already has been astronomical.”
Kirshke also took first in her Senior short program and fellow senior Hannah Bruckner won the Excel Preliminary division in their first times competing for the Lady Flames.
Ford-Walker won her PreGold Pattern Dance competition and debuted her Senior Solo Freedance and placed third in a challenging group of exceptional skaters.
One skater who stood out for the Lady Flames was freshman Emma Richards, who found out on Saturday night that her father had died unexpectedly. She had placed first in Saturday’s Excel Intermediate long program and managed to take second in Sunday’s Intermediate short program.
“She skated to an emotional performance in her Intermediate short program and dedicated it to him,” Dawn Harter said.
Sophomore Sophie Flatt claimed second place in her Excel Junior program while freshman Rachel Berger placed third in both her Excel Novice long program and Intermediate short program and sophomore Rebekah McBrayer finished third in Excel Intermediate.
Junior Jamie Gordon landed in third place in her International Pattern Dance and fifth in her Senior Solo Freedance.
Freshman Kamden Carrera (Excel Juvenile), graduate Sarah Embry (Excel Pre-Preliminary), and freshman Greta Snukis (Excel Intermediate) each placed fourth and junior Alecia Bernau (Excel Preliminary) finished fifth.
“We filled up all of our starts, from high beginner up to senior level, and had a lot of people medal and place,” Embry said. “Everybody represented well. It was great. It’s a pretty tight competition with Delaware and the next competition will be on their home ice so it will be close.”
The team completed filming its 28 performances for the virtual Princeton University Southeast Sectional competition on Monday and Tuesday, with results expected to be posted by March 4, before traveling to Delaware to compete on the Olympic-sized Fred Rust Arena for the final Southeast Sectional meet on March 12-13.
The top four teams out of the section qualify for the April 1-3 United States Figure Skating Collegiate National Championships in Adrian, Mich.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videos by Kylee Ligle (top), Caitlyn Brown (bottom); Club Sports Video & Media Assistants