While most of her competitors practice four – six hours a day, Juneau Skating Club figure skater Laurie Balstad, like her teammates, is lucky to find “open ice” for six hours a week, eight if she battles local hockey teams for weekend ice time.
“It is not about how much ice time you get, I think,” Balstad said. “It is more about how much you use that ice time.”
Balstad’s dedication paid off with a fourth place medal at the Northwest Pacific Regional Figure Skating Championships on Oct. 4.
“I was excited,” Balstad said of her two-minute program. “And we watched a lot of competitions and skaters.”
It is the first figure skating medal won by JSC according to JSC figure skating coordinator Pam Leary.
“It is very big for Juneau,” Leary said. “She was too embarrassed to wear it when we got home so I wore it teaching. She doesn’t like to brag. All the little kids on the ice look up to her.”
Balstad’s pre-juvenile competition was a non-qualifying event, meaning that the results don’t allow advancement in level or competition.
Pre-Preliminary, Preliminary, and Pre-Juvenile levels do not qualify participants for further competitions. Skill levels dictate placement more than age.
Juvenile and Intermediate levels qualify for Junior Nationals; Novice qualifies to Sectionals and then to U.S. Nationals; Junior qualifies to Sectionals, to U.S. Nationals and then to varying other competitions at the Junior levels (not to be confused with Junior Nationals which is for the lower level skaters); Senior qualifies to Sectionals, then to U.S. Nationals, and then to Worlds, Olympics or other competitions.
In order to advance in levels skaters need to take 2 tests: a “Moves in the Field” and a “Free Skate” test.
“It is a lot of hard work to get through the system,” Leary said. “The tests are difficult and you have to fly three ranked judges here or fly where they are.”
Balstad became interested in figure skating at age four when watching an Olympic competition on television. Then in a Gastineau Elementary K - first grade gym class skating trip she was hooked. Balstad is currently a seventh grader at Dzantik’I Heeni Middle School.
“My friends are excited,” Balstad said. “Skating is just fun. You get to hang out with everybody on the ice and try new things. My favorite moves are the sit-spin, lay-back, or the double-loop.”
Two years ago Rosie Jones was the first JSC figure skater competing at the NPRFSC.
Jones is at the Intermediate level and attending Minnesota’s Shattuck St. Mary’s High School pursuing academics and figure skating.
Balstad first competed at the NPRFSC last year in the Preliminary level.
She is currently developing a show program to be performed during the JSC Holiday Show on Dec. 4 and focusing on passing her next skating tests. Long hours of dedication are hard to fathom when the reward is determined in a two-minute competition on the ice.
“I could have done better,” Balstad said. “You can always do better, but I think I did pretty well. I want to go to Junior Nationals in a year or two.”
To do so from Juveniles, Balstad would have to be under age 14, pass the qualifying round and place in the top four. To do so from Intermediates (no age limit) Balstad would need a top four finish. To do so from Juneau, Balstad just needs to keep on the ice and heed the advice she gives to younger skaters.
“Just don’t’ be afraid,” Balstad said. “Just don’t hold back.”