Jayna Mason has big goals for her first spring skating competition.
"I'm going to try to go for silver and gold," said the nine-year-old member of the Northern BC Centre of Skating (formerly the Spruce City Skating Club) about going to the Super Series Victoria Day event, May 17-19, in Surrey.
Mason is one of four skaters in the Stars 4 under-10 program that will represent Prince George at the competition. The other skaters are Asia Gill, Valyce Mamic and Ally Norum. The Stars 4 under-10 program is for figure skaters on the cusp of moving into the more competitive stream and are preparing for the national level.
"I think it's going to be very competitive because there's going to be a lot of girls so it's going to be very hard to place," said Mason.
In addition to the four under-10 girls the Prince George club is sending five other skaters to Surrey - Star 3 skaters Erin Brown and Jessie Drover, pre-juvenile ladies under-14 Shelby Scott, pre-novice men under-16 Justin Hampole and novice ladies under-17 long program Samara Thaw. Rory Allen, director of skating for the Northern BC Centre, said it's a huge accomplishment to send nine athletes to the competition after not sending any two years ago.
"It's not typically a competition that northern athletes participate in," said Allen. "We've been working really hard to extend our season so we can become more competitive with other places in B.C."
Allen coached Hampole at the Super Series last year where the 11-year-old won gold his first time out, which helped spark interest in the competition among his peers.
"He's a very social kid," said Allen. "He comes home and talks positively about his experiences without bragging. He's very levelheaded and he's set a very positive example for the skaters."
Allen added that Hampole was nominated for, and won, the leadership award at the club's awards banquet Saturday.
"He shows up early," said Allen. "He warms up properly. He trains his solos everyday. He does all of the right things and that just raises the bar and sets a higher standard for all the new Star 4 under 10's that are coming up. It just starts creating a whole new generation of dedicated and determined athletes that this area has not seen in a long time."
Hampole placed fifth in the province last November and served as an alternate for Team B.C. at the Canadian junior skating championship. Allen said he's set a goal of a top three finish for Hampole, who normally competes against boys between 13-15 years old.
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Prince George has become a home to the third centre for skating in British Columbia.
The Spruce City Skating Club formally became the Northern BC Centre for Skating at its AGM on Saturday when the club's director of skating Rory Allen put the initiative, first proposed by Skate Canada, to a vote. The other Centre for Skating programs are in Kelowna and Burnaby.
"Those two centres have had fantastic results due to some coaching models and a little bit of a different approach," said Allen. "We've already started to initiate some of those approaches like team coaching, coaches specializing in certain areas and all the athletes benefit.
"There's not necessarily an ownership on, my athletes versus your athletes, it's more of a collaborative approach," he added. "I think that has been instrumental in building towards becoming a centre of excellence which is the ultimate goal."
Allen said by becoming the third Centre of Skating in the province it gives him and his coaches other sources to go to for information in enhancing the skating program.
"We're hoping to do that more where we can ask for feedback and have their directors of development come up and inspect our programs," said Allen. "They've done some auditing on what type of work we're doing and given us feedback. It's certainly a good way to stay connected because the north can be fairly isolated."
Allen said by changing the club's name it opens up areas for other types of skaters, not just figure skaters, to participate. The club already incorporates the national CanSkate objectives into its program.
"It's called the Northern BC Centre for Skating for a reason, just like the university provides a very large scope of education to the north, we see the Centre providing a large scope of coverage for all athletes in the north," said Allen. "The CanSkate program is just our flagship learn to skate program. It provides the basic fundamentals for all ice sports,whether you plan on getting into hockey, ringette, speed skating, recreational skating or competitive figure skating it all starts with CanSkate."
Skaters are already coming into Prince George from Vanderhoof, Quesnel, Fort St. John, Fort St. James and other northern communities to participate in the Centre's programs, said Allen.
The ice is available to the skaters at the ElkSentre until May 13 this year and then, Allen said they'll move to off ice training and conditioning at the Northern Sport Centre and work with PacificSport on fitness assessments.
Interest in figure skating, and skating programs in general, has gone up recently as the 2015 Canada Winter Games approach.
"We have a lot of athletes coming forward to do goal setting because they'd like to be a part of that," said Allen, who skated for B.C. at the 1999 CWG in Newfoundland. "As an alumni I have to say, the experience is out of this world. To see that light in their eyes and to see it as a potential possibility is just so tremendous and has given them an open horizon in terms of places they can go."
Skaters eligible to participate in the Canada Winter Games are in the pre-novice and novice programs. Two ladies and two men will be chosen from each province along with two pairs and two ice dance teams.
"Having three or four northern skaters chosen for Team B.C. would be fantastic but we'll just have to see what happens," said Allen. "It kind of gives us, as a coaching team, a goal of something to work towards."
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