Laci Skifter shows the trophy she earned at the Braemer Skating Competition in Edina in June.  She also competed at the State Games of America in Hershey, Pa., on July 31.   GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Laci Skifter shows the trophy she earned at the Braemer Skating Competition in Edina in June. She also competed at the State Games of America in Hershey, Pa., on July 31. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Local figure skater Laci Skifter enjoyed a recent summer trip through 11 states that included competition in the States Games of America, a competition featuring athletes from across the nation showing their best in 29 different sporting events such as figure skating, lacrosse, tae kwon do, gymnastics, swimming and more.

Laci and her mother, Sue, left home on July 27 for a two-week long tour, letting her father, Tim, and brother, Steven, stay home to be spared the 3,200 miles of "girl time" as the pair took the road, bound for the State Games of America in Hershey, Pa., July 31 through Aug. 4. The duo toured 11 states in just under two weeks - including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

In June, the 9-year-old Spring Valley resident competed at the Braemer skating competition in Edina, bringing home third place in the "Basic Skills Level Three with Music" category, earning herself a green and gold trophy, and she was now up against hundreds of other skaters in her class; the seemingly endless list of figure skaters in the State Games of America program book showed that "figure skating was the best-represented...there were hundreds, and they had to divide them into several rink venues because there were so many kids competing," Sue noted, adding that she had chosen to bring Laci to the State Games, but that they did not bring Laci's coach because of various logistics.

Sue recalled, "She skated on Wednesday, July 31 because they had to get the skaters started sooner. The competition ended Aug. 4 and 5, and they had an Olympic-style opening ceremony - they had representatives from each state, flag bearers...it was at a huge venue inside Hershey Park -- and there were so many skaters at the State Games..."

Usually-confident Laci took her place on the center of the rink at the Hershey Park State Games, but something was wrong. "She was one of the first skaters to perform, and the audio system was not working. It was very strange for her because she usually has her music ready to go, it starts and she skates. And in skating, if your coach is not there, you can't do anything. If your coach is there, they can go to the judges and demand a re-skate. She was looking up from the ice at me like, 'Mom, help me...you must've forgotten the backup music CD,' but I had it. She's out there all alone - the judges sit on a panel on one side, and I'm not allowed over there because I don't have 'ice credentials', but she skated, got off the ice, waited for her results and moved on, so I think she handled it very well."

No matter how she skated and what score she earned, Laci was on the ice simply to skate, to hear the "whoosh" of air passing her ears, to feel the coolness of blades on ice, the motion, the music. "I don't really care (about results). I just like to skate," she said.

Sue pointed out, "I don't know if she comprehends how many hours it took to get to the State Games. It took three to four months of training, hours or more a week, and I don't know if she comprehends how much work went into it. She's just there to have fun. She's oblivious to the crowd. She just likes to go out and skate." That's fine with Sue and Tim, as Sue observed, "I'm glad she can go out and enjoy it. I'm kind of glad she just doesn't care."

She added that she thinks part of the judging is on sparkle and presentation, so they added some sequins and "sparkled" her up a bit before the State Games of America. "It's so fun to see all the beautiful costumes the kids had," said Sue.

The young figure skater listed all the items that they had to remember for the competition, beginning with "skate bag, garment bag, a change of clothes for when you're done, the makeup bag... mom says that's the 'no-no bag.'"

Once Laci had skated and received her results, mother and daughter went sightseeing and spent time with family and friends in Pittsburgh, visiting the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa., competing at the State Games of America in York, then touring Lancaster County - sampling their way through the Turkey Hill ice cream factory, riding rollercoasters in Hershey Park, riding the Strasburg Railroad and having brunch in a train car, taking an Amish country tour, and learning how to make pretzels at a pretzel factory, going to Gettysburg to visit the battlefield, hiking to the top of the canyon rim at New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia, staying with Sue's parents in Buchanan, Tenn., and returning home after that on Aug. 9.

"She was so lucky - she met athletes from all over the U.S. We met a swimmer from New Mexico, and we met skaters from Iowa, New York, Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Everywhere we went, we met athletes and had a great time," said Sue.

"My favorite part was riding the rollercoasters in Hershey Park," noted Laci.

A little more than a week after arriving home, Laci is sharpening her blades and getting ready to return to the ice for performances, according to Sue. "We just got word that one of the figure skating coaches wants to know if she's interested in the Rhythm & Blades skating team, and it's for level five and up. She's only level three - it's like synchronized swimming, only on ice - and the coach thought she was ready for it." Laci just aspires to do one thing...make long, gliding tracks in the ice, skating until there's no such thing as ice.