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Local program continues growing

Skaters from the learn-to-skate program perform on Saturday during the Durango spring ice skating show at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink.

Nearly 40 ice skaters showed off their skills on Saturday at Durango’s spring ice skating show at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink.

The skaters, who participate in learn-to-skate and private lessons for freestyle skating through the city’s parks and recreation department, performed in front of a standing-room only crowd, spinning and jumping and twirling and even moonwalking.

“For those who don’t compete, this is their chance to show their skills,” said coach Ali Smith-Wegrzyn. “It takes guts to come and put yourself in front of your friends and family. They only have a minute and a half to two minutes to show all of their skills, but they skated beautifully and did themselves proud.”

Durango High School senior Kiya Hoffman, who started as a learn-to-skate kid and has since become an instructor with the program, was honored at the showcase and was the last solo performer. With her own style, she gracefully glided around the ice in both directions and did some techniques that no one else attempted.

Mia Gurule, 17, performs on Saturday during the Durango spring ice skating show at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink.

Freestyle skaters who performed Saturday also included: Aisy Jordan, Boyd and Winnie Wegrzyn, McKenzie Albright, Saya Lambert, Ava Maynard, Delia Shostak, Mia Gurule, Aileen McManus, Corvin Hendrickson, Madison Capsay, Sofia Naffziger, Ayumi Lambert, Abigail Cordner, Tallinn Kook, Amelia Zalneritas, Lucy VanBuskirk, Cora Dondlinger and Kaitlin McCullough.

The program has seen a surge in popularity in the past few years. At the 2019 spring showcase, seven skaters participated, and 38 took to the ice Saturday.

Aileen McManus, 13, performs on Saturday during the Durango spring ice skating show at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“We’ve had major growth this past season, and we’re hoping for continued growth,” Smith-Wegrzyn said.

The private lessons, which help freestyle skaters test and compete within the U.S. Figure Skating Association, has 25 to 28 participants this season, including two boys. The majority are between 7 and 16 years old.

The younger group of skaters perform on Saturday during the Durango spring ice skating show at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

In the learn-to-skate program, about 100 skaters took part in the program between October and March with about 18 participating in the spring recital.

“We’re really trying to build a community and a place where these girls feel is their spot and where they belong,” Smith-Wegryn said. “I think it’s starting to catch on; there’s a feeling of unity.”

She said this is the first year they’ve really tried to get girls competing.

Ava Maynard, 21, performs on Saturday during the Durango spring ice skating show at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The traditional competition season, however, is from March through October, right when ice season ends at Chapman Hill’s ice season.

The program participants were able to compete in handful of events over the winter with competitions in Aspen, Denver, Fort Collins and Santa Fe.

“I’m excited so many took advantage of the testing structure to become real U.S. figure skaters,” Smith-Wegrzyn said.

Corvin Hendrickson, 13, performs on Saturday during the Durango spring ice skating show at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The program has three coaches, each bringing different skills with them. Samantha Sorber heads up the learn-to-skate program, teaching skaters basic fundamentals. Smith-Wegrzyn, who was a nationally ranked competitor, teaches the technical competitive side. And Meghan Wells, who toured with Disney on Ice, helps teach the show side.

“We really complement each other,” Smith-Wegryn said.

Some of the high school girls who have gone through the program also help coach little kids in the learn-to-skate program.

She said they’re working to get a program going again in the fall. And they’ll continue to petition for a year-round facility.

“I’m proud of the girls and all of their hard work this season,” Smith-Wegrzyn said. “I’m proud of their their dedication, passion, work ethic and commitment to the program.”

McKenzie Albright, 14, performs on Saturday during the Durango spring ice skating show at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Delia Shostak, 9, performs on Saturday during the Durango spring ice skating show at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Sofia Naffziger, 15, performs on Saturday during the Durango spring ice skating show at the Chapman Hill Ice Rink. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

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