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A world championship on ice

Foothills skaters contribute heavily as Skatetown team wins prestigious crown
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
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In July when many people were heading to local rivers and lakes to escape from the heat, Elizabeth Sands was indoors with a small army of ice skaters finding their own way to stay cool. Under the coaching of Sands and her assistants, more than 150 competitors from Skatetown in Roseville perfected their routines and sharpened their skating skills with months of hard work in the rink. The result was a world championship. The Skatetown Ice Arena team took first place at the International Skating Institute’s World Recreational Team Championships earlier this month in San Jose. The Skatetown team, made up of competitors from age 2 to 69, beat out 63 other teams for the title. “Because it was local we knew we had a good group going,” said Sands, whose 2-year-old daughter Megan was the youngest competitor. “It’s usually the home team that wins. We thought we had a shot, but we didn’t think it would come to fruition.” Skatetown not only won the competition, it set a record for the most points scored at the event with 1,717.5. Sands attributed that accomplishment to the team’s wide-ranging age and talent level. “I think the reason we did so well is we had skaters at every level possible,” she said. “We covered the spread and we had good competitors at every level.” Foresthill High senior Hannah Mullenix contributed to the championship with a third-place in her division for her solo routine and a second place in another event with a partner. She caught the skating bug after watching Tara Lipinski win a gold medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics. “I was sitting in my living room watching it and I knew I wanted to try it,” Mullenix said. “My grandma got me skating lessons for Christmas and I got ice skates from Santa.” Like many of the high-level skaters, Mullenix said she was on the ice nearly every day in preparation for the world championships. Other members of the team competed in recreational and beginning levels, making the event a true test of each team’s balance and diversity. “Figure skating is such an individualized sport, but this is a unique competition because you’re really just representing your team,” said Sands, who has coached at Skatetown for 10 years. “With ISI, recreational skating is their emphasis, but as a skater you can decide if you want to go on to more advanced competition.” Sands first took a team to the ISI World Championships in 2005 in Anaheim. The team has competed every year since, traveling to Boston, Chicago and Denver. The facility emphasized building a team for the competition this year and it worked out perfectly. “We had a history to build on and we wanted the skaters to become a team,” Sands said. With the help of eight assistant coaches, Sands took the team to San Jose, where 1,276 competitors were on the ice over five days of competition. “It kept us busy, we had some long days,” said Sands, who grew up in a suburb of Detroit, Mich., where she started skating at a young age. “On one day we had about 80 skaters on the ice. That facility in San Jose has four rinks and they were all going non-stop for five days.” Mullenix went straight from the ice to cheerleading. She’s on two cheerleading squads right now, but she said skating would be a part of her life for a long time. “I want to take the tests and I want to coach,” she said. Sands said Skatetown already draws people from all over the Sacramento area and as far away as Reno. The foothills were well-represented on Skatetown’s championship team as Valerie Van der Linden, Kiara Danovaro, Jessica Wernke, Anicia Borerro, Haylie Ferriera and McKenna Tooker all contributed to the championship. Auburn’s Kate Barnett was a valuable coach for the team. “Because it was a local competition, it hasn’t really sunk in for a lot of us,” Sands said. “But there were teams there from China and Asia, let alone throughout the U.S.. I think this certainly will make us known.”