The Northwest Pacific Regional Championship for figure skating were held in Tacoma Oct. 3–8. Of the nine figure skaters competing in senior level, SPU freshman Samantha Stevens won first place.
“I actually started crying on the ice mid-program,” Stevens said. “But I was really, really happy. I was super proud of myself. I got off the ice, and my coaches usually have a bunch of corrections for me to work on, [but] I ran over to them, and they were both crying.”
During competitions, figure skaters skate two different programs — a short program and a long program. Depending on a skater’s level, each program has different required time lengths and elements, the figure skating term for tricks. Stevens has competed at the highest level in figure skating, called senior level, for the past two years.
Skating is judged on technical elements and program components. The technical element score includes jumps, spins and footwork. The program component score is based off performance, expression, choreography and costume.
After coming in first at regionals, Stevens will move on to sectionals, held in November in Oakland, Calif., at Sharks Ice Arena. At sectionals, the top four figure skaters at each regional competition compete against one another.
Stevens’ figure skating career began when she was 3 years old. Her mom originally signed up her and her older brother to take lessons when they lived in Hawaii.
“As soon as I took my first class, I loved it. My mom told me I always had a smile on my face,” Stevens said.
Growing up, Stevens also participated in gymnastics and dance. Between the seventh and 10th grade, Stevens did online schooling because of her busy schedule. It wasn’t until three years ago that she became more serious about figure skating and narrowed her sports down to one.
Stevens has three figure skating coaches — Nani Tanaka, Mari Malama and Stella Meneses. Each one takes on a different role. As head coach, Tanaka makes the final decisions, as well as focuses on the jumps.
“She will make me run the program over and over again. She does all the stuff that is boring and hard to make yourself do. She’s the one that pushes you,” Stevens said.
Menses focuses on Stevens’ spins, while Malama helps with choreography.
Stevens and her coaches started out in Hawaii, but now are in Vancouver, Wash. Meneses and Tanaka moved to Vancouver because of their husbands’ jobs, and Malama came to the area for college.
Along with her family, Stevens moved to Vancouver, only coincidentally the same area as her coaches.
“Hawaii got really expensive, and my parents had lived there for 20 years. They wanted to go to a different place,” Stevens said. “They liked the Washington/Oregon area because of schools.”
Now at SPU, Stevens still trains with her coaches, making the three-hour drive home every weekend.
While at SPU, she skates at Olympic View or Highland ice rinks. On an average week, she skates six days a week for three hours a day. Stevens also works out at the gym frequently to stay in the physical shape figure skating requires.
With so much time dedicated to skating, Stevens said it can be hard to balance the added work of college and trying to have a social life.
“I miss the weekend activities,” Stevens said. “So I take every opportunity to bond with my floor and make friends.”
Although Stevens competes, she says her personality isn’t competitive, and that becoming too competitive in figure skating takes out some of the enjoyment of the sport. Due to the level of competiveness in figure skating, after sectionals, Stevens said she will no longer be competing.
“I hate the extremely competitive part of it,” Stevens said. “Girls try to get in your mind.”
After her competitive career is over in late November, Stevens hopes to teach figure skating at Kings Gate Ice Arena, which is 30 minutes away from SPU. This will help her keep her skating skills, as well as getting to do the sport she loves most.
Stevens already has a job lined up with Disney on Ice after graduating college.
“When I was in a competition in May of this year, this guy who is really close with the casting director was at my competition, and he knew exactly who I was, even though I didn’t know who he was,” Stevens said.
The man approached Stevens and started up a conversation on college and her plans afterward. He ending up giving her his contact information and letting her know that she had a spot with Disney on Ice once she graduated college.
All of these years of skating have provided Stevens with both good and bad memories. Other than regionals, her favorite memory was when she preformed at a Winterhawks hockey game in Portland, Ore.
“During the halftime, I got on the ice and did my program. It was really cool because it was a hockey game and I was this figure skater, and then everyone was standing up and clapping when I got off. It was really cool to have thousands of people watching me,” Stevens said.
However, skating was difficult at times. At age 14, Stevens’ coaches were working with another male coach who was very hard on Stevens, as she was the top skater at the time.
“He was very strict, but not in the way to get you better. In a way to kind of degrade you, and so it was really hard, and he focused a lot on nutrition,” Stevens said. “It got really bad. I kind of stopped eating. I wasn’t eating anything I should, especially for being an athlete. I got down to 90 pounds.”
It wasn’t until Stevens fell and broke her tailbone that she realized what was happening was wrong.
For the next six months, she couldn’t jump or spin on the ice, causing her to lose her muscle. At one point, she had to relearn how to do many of her elements.
Stevens doesn’t have a set goal for her final completion, other than to leave the ice on a good note.
“I think, also, stopping now on a good year is an accomplishment, even more because of where I came from,” Stevens said.