The young skaters hope that hard work this month will give them an edge in early August at nationals.
By TRAVIS REED
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
BOARDMAN -- What has 24 wheels and spins in circles?
The answer isn't a riddle. It's Caitlyn Adams, Dean LaSalandra and David Gragg, three area youths from the Skate Connection Skate Club headed to the Junior Olympics national roller-skating competition next month.
The three qualified for the tournament over the July 4 weekend at a competition in Austintown against skaters in their regional bracket, one of nine in the United States. It was the first time since 1992 the regional contest has been held in Ohio.
Caitlyn, 7, of Green Township, and Dean, 10, of Youngstown, compete in team dance competitions wearing a tuxedo and rhinestone-studded leotard. David, 9, of Orwell, qualified in singles competition.
Caitlyn will also be competing in solo and figures events, which test skaters on their command of fundamentals. Dean will be competing individually in figures as well.
Curt and Erica Baun of Boardman and Steve Kuntzman of Deerfield also qualified to compete in the adult divisions of team dance and men's figures, respectively.
The children practice three times a week at the Skate Connection in Boardman, working on turns and twirls with coaches Paul and Donna Pressell of Salem. Donna has coached for 23 years, and Paul has spent six behind the whistle after competing for 25 years himself.
The competitions are scored by either three or five judges, and skaters are split into divisions based on age and skill level and scored on a scale of 100.
This year, nationals will be held Aug. 7-11 in Lincoln, Neb.
How they started
"It's great; it teaches the kids responsibility," said Michelle Adams, Caitlyn's mother.
She said Caitlyn has been skating for two years, and this is her first year in formal competition. Caitlyn became interested in the sport after she went skating for her birthday in kindergarten and "fell on her butt," her mom said.
After that, she was determined to learn how to do it.
She and Dean ended up as partners because they both started with the Pressells at about the same time and seemed to complement each other well, Michelle Adams said.
Dean said after competing for a few tournaments, he could tell he wanted a partner.
The two perform dances such as waltzes and tangos to organ music of various tempos. Visually and technically, the sport is a great deal like figure skating.
"They say the only difference is with roller skates, you have an extra 10 pounds on your feet," Michelle Adams said.
The kids and their coaches are practicing hard for next month's competition.
"The aim is to perfect what they know, and then just go out there and represent our region well," Paul Pressell said.
"We've got a long, exciting drive ahead of us," Michelle Adams said.