“When I step on the ice everything from the day disappears from my mind,” Katherine Johnson, 13, says.
“I like the feeling of defying gravity when you’re jumping,” says Chaska High School senior Morgan Simon, 17. “It helps you believe in yourself.”
For these figure skaters, the sport can be a stress-relieving, confidence-building activity. Along with nearly 70 other skaters, Katherine and Morgan are members of the Chaska Figure Skating Club, which is in its 20th year.
Katherine, an eighth-grader at Our Lady of the Lake in Mound, has been figure skating for eight years. “It’s a sport I found interesting, and I kept wanting to go back,” she explains.
She likes spending time at the rink, feeling a sense of family with her teammates, “I like that we’re close and supportive of each other,” Katherine says.
Garrett Kling, formerly of Watertown, skated with the club for about 10 years, and while he now skates around the world, he still feels a connection to the club, returning—as his schedule allows—to skate in the annual ice shows. “I felt I could nurture my skating in the right way,” he says of the club, adding that it allowed him to cultivate his interests in the many avenues skating offers. “[The club] has genuine, good people in it for the right reasons.”
Kling completed a skating turn on Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas and is performing in a holiday ice show in Wolfsburg, Germany. When he’s not performing, the Chicago-based Kling is a choreographer and co-director of the Chicago branch of the American Ice Theatre.
The Chaska Figure Skating Club’s mission is to promote skating throughout the Chaska area and to “to stress sportsmanship, discipline, friendship, goodwill, community values, and cooperation within its membership,” notes its website.
Founding club members Jean Buller, Barb Swanson, Sharon Goodwin and head coach Kristie Mitchell began with about 20 skaters. “We wanted to offer kids the opportunity to pursue figure skating, and there was nothing like that out here,” Mitchell says.
Skating has been a part of Mitchell’s life for 40 years. “I always had a passion for skating,” she says. “It’s challenging, yet it’s so beautiful.”
Today, there are about 70 members, hailing from Chaska, Chanhassen, Jordan, Minnetrista, Shakopee, Victoria and Waconia, who skate under the governing body of the United States Figure Skating Association. “We’ve had a huge growth, specifically in Chaska,” says Mary Ament-Johnson, a coach and club president.
She explains that interest in hockey is leveling off, and girls are exchanging black skates for white ones.
Mitchell notes the program has matured, “We’re at the point where we can offer enough ice time, so it’s beneficial for competitive and recreational skaters.”
For those teetering on whether to join a skate club, the Chaska Figure Skating Club offers a junior membership, with one year free club membership and discounted developmental classes. (Skaters still pay for ice time.) “They don’t have to make a huge commitment,” Mitchell says.
Ament-Johnson believes the commitment, whatever the level, is worth it, “(Figure skating) teaches them how to goal set and go about achieving those goals and perseverance,” she says. “I think it teaches kids a lot about themselves.”
See them Skate
The Chaska Figure Skating Club’s holiday exhibition is 6:45 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Chaska Community Center Ice Arena, 1661 Park Ridge Dr.
The free event features 20-25 members of the Chaska Figure Skating Club performing holiday-themed programs and competition routines. The event is a nice warm-up for the members, as they prepare for a January competition in Mankato.
As the winter snow and ice should begin to thaw, area skaters will be preparing their routines for the 25th annual ice show, presented by the Chaska Figure Skating Club and the Chaska Learn to Skate Program at 7 p.m. March 7 and 2 p.m. March 8, at the CCC Ice Arena. “I think it’s great for people to come to watch,” Kristie Mitchell, head coach, says. “It’s fun to see the creativity the kids express on the ice.”
Previous ice show themes have included “Broadway on Ice,” “Chaska’s Got Talent,” and “iSkate.” Co-chair Mary Ament-Johnson anticipates between 60 and 80 skaters will perform. Check chaskafsc.com for ticket information and news on this year’s theme.