Lauren Ventrudo worried that when her family left Chicago, she wouldn't have the same opportunities as a figure skater.
In the Steamboat Springs Figure Skating Club, however, Ventrudo found the atmosphere and coaching to blossom. Recently, the 13-year-old became the first skater in the history of the 10-plus-year-old club to pass her senior level moves test before the completion of the eighth grade, a goal she set and accomplished.
Ventrudo has three tests left -- novice, intermediate and senior free skate -- to be at the same level as Olympians such as Michelle Kwan or Sasha Cohen. Ventrudo and coach Kim Haggarty are quick to point out, however, that qualifying for the senior level and competing at the highest level are different.
Still, no one is about discredit Ventrudo's accomplishment.
"Lauren has a certain style judges look for," Haggarty said. "You have to have a certain poise and presence. She's a natural."
Judges frequently find ways to fail skaters once they approach the senior level, particularly girls as young as Ventrudo because of the expectations of a senior-level skater. But Ventrudo passed her early November test on the first try on the Howelsen Ice Arena rink.
"You have to be proud, with good posture on the ice," Ventrudo said. "You have to have powerful skating no matter how difficult the moves."
Essentially, at this point in her seven-year ride in the figure skating world, Ventrudo makes her craft look effortless, though she would never say that.
She is far from achieving all her goals. She hopes to pass the remaining free skate tests by high school graduation. No matter where she goes from Steamboat Springs, she will enter any rink as a highly skilled figure skater.
She is the first, but likely not the last Steamboat Springs skater, to maximize her potential on the ice. Ventrudo got her start spinning and jumping earlier than other teammates, making the move from juvenile, to novice to intermediate to senior much quicker.
Other skaters in the club also are spending upward of 15 hours per week training, depending on the availability of ice time.
The Steamboat Springs Figure Skating Club has 40 members with 20 at a more developmental level. The plan is for the developmental level skaters and the young skaters involved in the Youth Learn to Skate to be the future club members in the years to come.
The next session of the Learn to Skate program is at 4 Tuesdays from Dec. 2 through Feb. 3. Another session is offered from 3:45-4:15 p.m. Wednesdays from Dec. 3 through Feb. 4.
The cost is $52 for the eight-week sessions. That price includes skate rentals for class and a punch card for eight additional public skate sessions.
--To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org