Share this article

print logo

Two 11-year-old girl buddies figure to be real hot prospects on the ice

Alexandra Rose and Rachel Smolinski look like they're working off a sugar rush whenever they start jumping or spinning around in open space.

It doesn't matter where. At the bank, in the grocery store or in the lobby of Dwyer Arena during an interview.

But these 11-year-olds aren't bouncing around because they munched on too much candy. They move with a purpose. They're working on their figure skating techniques, something they do often -- at times without realizing -- because it's their favorite sport. And it's fun.

"They just like what they do so much," said Don Mitchell, the director of Mitchell Skating Center and the Niagara University Skating Club. "That shows it's something the kids want and not [just] the parents. It comes from within, and that's what you need to be a champion. You have to have that drive, and you can't teach drive."

But you can teach sportsmanship. Thus far, the girls have been a quick study as their friendship passed the first of what will be many tests. They competed against each other for the first time two weeks ago.

>Couldn't watch rival

They dominated the prepreliminary level competition at the Skaneateles Figure Skating Invitational, finishing one-two, with Youngstown's Rose getting the better of her North Tonawanda pal, who has won 18 medals, including nine golds, in five years of competition.

Rachel's reaction upon learning Alexandra won? She hugged her fellow competitor, as both were excited they captured first- and second-place awards for the Niagara University Skating Club.

"They think about each other doing well, not about beating each other," said Rachel's mother, Liz. "They're both the shy girls out there. They're very alike."

Alexandra was more agitated over being prohibited from watching Rachel's performance at Skaneateles than nervous about her program. Young skaters aren't allowed to watch competitors unless they've already completed their routines.

"They want to root for each other, but you've got to keep them focused," Mitchell reasoned.

Both girls have been focused on having fun skating and being respectful, ever since enrolling in Mitchell's Learn to Skate program as 4-year-olds. Alexandra and Rachel didn't befriend one another until about two years ago, when the two ended up in the same skating clinic group. Both are kind to fellow skaters and simply want to be role models for the younger skaters in the club, Mitchell said.

Their similar personalities help them click.

"She's a good friend, kind and polite," Rachel said of Alexandra.

"She's very supportive . . . a very nice person," Alexandra added.

Mitchell and his staff members often stress the importance of good sportsmanship to all of the skaters, trying to instill these teachings when they're still impressionable. Still, there's only so much a coach and staff can do when dealing with 150 or so skaters Monday through Friday. Sometimes, attitudes change as youths enter the teenage years.

"If the parents are calm and let us coach, it's easier to keep the kids in line and keep the sportsmanship there, and that makes my job a lot easier," said Mitchell, who won the national junior pairs championship in 1976 with his sister, Lorene, and finished second in the World's that year.

Nancy Rose and Liz Smolinski tell their daughters similar things before they take to the ice. The gist of their advice: smile and have fun.

"They just have a bunch of [great] qualities," Liz Smolinski said. "At this young age, they're good role models to the younger skaters."

Nancy Rose said, "It's more than just winning. . . . It's about the values [they learn]."

>Sportsmanship Award

Alexandra has been more than a good sport in the eyes of her peers.

She received the Mitchell Skating Center Sportsmanship Award, which is given annually to the youth skater who is hard-working, conscientious, considerate of others, nice to the younger skaters, displays good sportsmanship and possesses good leadership qualities. All of the club's skaters 18 and under are eligible for the honor and vote for the winner.

"When she gives her best she gets the best out of others," Nancy Rose said. "It shows in her friendships and skating."
Rachel is a past recipient of the Mitchell Skating Center Diamond in the Rough Award, given to the young skater with a lot of potential.

Both have shown signs of potentially being able to have future success. They get great height on their single Axels (a 1 1/2 -turn jump, landing on the opposite skate), which bodes well for their ability to learn the double Axel, according to Mitchell. Mitchell said Alexandra is three jumps away from learning that move, while Rachel is four away.

Rachel's favorite move is a flying camel, which is jumping and doing a spin -- something she practiced during the interview before her on-ice time last Monday. Rose's favorite moves are the Axel and a fancy sit spin, in which she squats down while skating, extends one leg out and bends her head so that it touches the knee on her outstretched leg.

While Rachel has amassed quite the medal collection, Alexandra's skill has improved rather quickly. She's only skated competitively for 13 months but has two first-place finishes and a pair of seconds. She's already learned the double toe loop and double Salchow. Next on the agenda are the double loop, double flip and double Lutz.

"Sometimes a kid will get a couple of jumps in a bunch, and then they'll plateau for a while," Mitchell said. "It's good to have two kids at the same level so they push each other."

Still, Alexandra's mother wasn't keen on letting the girl compete until she thought Alexandra was mature enough to understand she's out there to have fun and not win at all costs.

"She's lovely, and I think she should go out there and show everyone the gifts she has," Nancy Rose said. "It brings out the best in her.

"[Both] are just sweet little girls. They like the glitter and glitz and dresses. They get excited about their costumes, their hair . . . all that fun stuff little girls like."

>Other skaters

Also in the Skaneateles Figure Skating Invitational, Sonya Pfohl of Niagara Falls placed first in the special badge level. Other Niagara County placers included Isabella Fagiani of Niagara Falls, second, preliminary girls; Katie DiMatteo of North Tonawanda, second, Badge C girls; Katelin White of Lewiston, third, special badge girls; Nicki LaPorte of Youngstown, third, pre-juvenile girls B; Taylor Artieri of Olcott, fourth, pre-juvenile girls A; Megan Messer of Ransomville, fifth, juvenile girls; Margaret Lorenc of North Tonawanda, sixth, Badge A girls; and Elizabeth Lorenc of North Tonawanda, seventh, Badge B girls.

There are no comments - be the first to comment