Cloquet skater is first outstate championThe Duluth Figure Skating Club is one of the most active in the state, but until just recently they had never had a skater win a preliminary level state championship – until 10-year old Rachel Blais arrived.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The Duluth Figure Skating Club is one of the most active in the state, but until just recently they had never had a skater win a preliminary level state championship – until 10-year old Rachel Blais arrived.
Blais, a fifth-grader at Cloquet’s Churchill Elementary School, became the first female skater from outside the Twin Cities ever to win the Minnesota State Preliminary Championships, held recently in Bloomington.
“All I wanted to do was do my best,” Blais said. “I didn’t care about winning as much, but just tried my best.”
Her best was obviously good enough. The talented young skater is now finding ways to balance a full load of classwork at school with the two to three hours of practice time each day she needs to improve her skating skills.
“Sometimes I’m in a rush to get the homework done but I try to get it done before skating,” she said.
Blais took an interest in figure skating after watching the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, and has been skating since age 5.
“It looked cool on the air,” she said. “They were spinning really fast and I thought it was a lot more difficult than hockey. You have to learn a lot more.”
Blais’ mother, Lorilee, said the Duluth Figure Skating Club’s “learn to skate” events did the rest.
“The beginners can see older skaters doing things right out on the ice and Rachel realized she couldn’t do those things wearing hockey skates,” Lorilee said. “So she got her first pair of ice skates and started in.”
Skating is a family affair in the Blais household. Sisters Amy, who turned 8 this week, and Sarah, age 6, are also on skates and learning.
“We all get involved,” Lorilee said. “The family is all involved. My parents help in getting the kids to the rink, and it’s great that [Rachel] can stay in school and still skate.”
Rachel Blais received a medal for her victory and a traveling trophy she will keep for a year. The youngster, who admires 2012 U.S. champion Ashley Wagner, is ready to go full-speed ahead on her
“I really like skating right now,” she said. “I do it all year now and never stop practicing.”
The Blais family will travel to Bloomington Ice Gardens next February for a special celebration event that features the state champions.
“We used to go down there to watch the event each year,” Lorilee Blais said. “Now, Rachel is in it.”