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WVU figure skaters entertain hockey crowds

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MORGANTOWN, WV -

 

Intermission at West Virginia University hockey games are a switch in the action as opposed to a break.

The tough and tumble sport of hockey is briefly replaced on the ice by the grace and elegance of figure skating. WVU's seven-member Figure Skating Club entertains the Morgantown crowds during the hockey period breaks. The remaining home schedule has events Jan. 25 vs. John Carroll, Jan. 31 vs. Mercyhurst, Feb. 1 vs. Robert Morris, Feb. 7 vs. Youngstown State, Feb. 8 vs. Indiana (Pa.) and Feb. 21-22 vs. Marshall.

The two groups have more in common than sports on ice, according to Alan O'Connor, an assistant coach with the Mountaineer hockey team.

"It's the speed, the grace and the artistry of skaters that electrifies every ice sport audience whether the skating performers are trying to score the winning goal or attempting to land a triple salchow," he said in a release. "The magic of these two sports is that they project on the audience a sensation of what it would be like if a human could fly."

O'Connor says WVU is fortunate in that it has attracted top-notch athletes in both sports.

Mark Brazaitis is an English professor who serves as the figure skating advisor. He notes that club members have previously skated in national-level competitions sponsored by the U.S. Figure Skating Association.

"If you want to see a spellbinding combination of artistic performance and pure athleticism, come see WVU's figure skaters," he said. "This is an extraordinary group of skaters."

Angela Kreger is the president of the Figure Skating Club. A graduate student in nursing, she notes the program went through some growing pains after it was organized in 2008, but is gaining momentum.

"It was a struggle to attain members," said the Somerset, Pa. native. "Figure skaters are hard to come by. I was the only skater on the team until 2011, when I was joined by joined by one other skater."

Three new skaters joined in 2012. The team now comprised of Gina Geils of Bensenville, Ill., Sophie Tobia of Bel Air, Md., Courtney Caldwell of Evansville, Ind., Erin Gales of Detroit, Mich., Claire Schretlen of Baltimore, Md., and Shaun Adams of Grantsville, Md., who attends Fairmont State.

Kreger says figure skating is a demanding sport that's not for everyone. In addition to individual workouts, the team conducts two 11 p.m. practice sessions weekly at the Morgantown Ice Arena.

"We share many of the same characteristics, which makes it very easy for us to be great friends," she said. "We have so much fun choreographing our show performances, working together to push ourselves and talking skating in general."

In addition to the hockey events, the team will be entering competitions this spring at the University of Delaware and Liberty University.

"If we medal and rack up enough points, we could be asked to compete in the Intercollegiate Figure Skating Championships," she said.

Kreger and Geils also will be directing an on-ice performance of "The Wizard of Oz" in March featuring the Mason-Dixon Figure Skating Club.