For most of the 280 or so skaters in attendance, Let's Skate 2017 would mark the end of the 2016-2017 competitive season. In that sense, the weekend festivities at the Gerry McCrory Countryside Sports Complex provided an ideal opportunity for a year-long retrospective, looking back on whether the goals of spring and summer of 2016 were achieved over the course of the past 10-12 months.
"I wanted to go to Challenge this year, and I ended up getting the wildcard, thankfully," noted Sudbury Skating Club veteran Abby O'Bonsawin, only three days removed from celebrating her 16th birthday.
"I wanted to improve my skating skills," she continued. "I knew that I had the technical ability to compete, but needed to improve my skating skills. My speed is much better. Speed is a big part of your program component, the cross cuts being a little smoother and not so choppy."
"Speed helps you get through your routine," O'Bonsawin added. "When you're going faster, you just do it. When you land a jump, it lets you flow out and continue on with your program."
In many ways, however, Let's Skate is as much a beginning as an ending. Many of the older skaters will unveil either new elements in their routines, or completely new routines altogether, looking forward to the spring and summer to fine-tune all of the details.
"I take this as a trial run," suggested O'Bonsawin. "Obviously, I want to do my best, but this gives us a report card on what the judges want to see. I know what I need to work through all summer to get through to my high competitive season in October."
Yet change is not limited to strictly the on ice skills, as the athletes look to ensure that the music that accompanies their programs plays both to the core of the skaters' talent, but also to the personality within that particular competitor.
"I completely changed my long program," noted O'Bonsawin. "I put it to a tango, where my other one was to classical and very old school. I've done tangos before, but this was a softer, more emotional tango, so I had to work on that and how to perform it."
This reality in the world that is figure skating is never lost, even on the relatively young. "I find being sassy helps me," said 11 year old Vanessa Major of the Nickel Blades Skating Club.
"I make the faces and I really like to push it. I like to skate to my interpretive programs, skating to jazzy songs. I like how it's super sassy, and I can give it my all and go with it."
In that sense, the solo is where Major still has plenty of room to grow, gradually gaining a comfort level for the segment that requires her to mix in her various skills and elements with the artistic presentation that comes quite naturally to the bubbly pre-teen.
"This morning, when I went to go do my solo, I found that I was super nervous," she said. "It's hard for me. With interpretive, I don't get too nervous, because I just go with it."
"I always wanted to include my axel, and I just recently landed it in my last practice before competition," Major added. "In my solo, it wasn't amazing, but elements was way better. I'm getting there."
And of course, one cannot ignore the difference in venue that comes from the vast majority of practice sessions at the Garson and Coniston arenas, versus the quasi-Olympic sized surface that exists at Countryside.
"It's harder when it's big, because you're used to a small little ice that when it grows bigger, you have to push a lot more," said Major. Despite a field that would attract competitors from across Northern Ontario, as well as a solid contingent representing both the Richmond Hill FSC and Mariposa Winter Club, locals walked away with a top two finish in a number of different groupings.First Place in Group
Gillian Dwyer - Sudbury (Star 4 - Group 3)
Lacey MacKinnon - Copper Cliff (Star 4 - Group 1 - U10)
Jennifer Dempsey - Copper Cliff (Star 4 - Group 2 - U10)
Emma Chateauvert - Copper Cliff (Star 4 - Group 2 - U13)
Vanessa Major - Nickel Blades (Bronze Women - Group 3 - IN)
Myla Weiman - Sudbury (Star 5 - Group 3 - U13)
Marina De Paolis - Walden (Star 7 - Group 3)
Natasha Paré - Copper Cliff (Star 8)
Madeline Baron - Sudbury (Novice Women)
Michelle Van Lierop - Copper Cliff (Gold Women)
Mikhellie Hardwick - Copper Cliff (Gold Triathlon)
Jennavieve Hinton-Canard - Sudbury (Pre-Novice Women)
Myla Weiman - Sudbury (Bronze Women - Group 4 - IN)
Second Place in Group
Alyssa Murray - Sudbury (Senior Women)
Hannah Bodson - Nickel Blades (Silver Women - Group 3 - IN)
Elizabeth Vaillancourt - Copper Cliff (Bronze Triathlon)
Kya Weiman - Sudbury (Silver Triathlon)
Natasha Fortin - Walden (Silver Women - IN)
Gillian Dwyer - Sudbury (Bronze Women - Group 5 - IN)
Abby O'Bonsawin - Sudbury (Novice Women)
Mikayla Fabbro - Sudbury (Bronze Women - Group 3 - IN)
Natasha Pare - Copper Cliff (Star 7 - Group 3)
Marina De Paolis - Walden (Star 8)
Madison Burton - Chelmsford (Gold Women)
Taegan Penney - Copper Cliff (Gold Triathlon)