3 skaters who practice in Buffalo Grove going to nationals
Just two years ago, 17-year old Bradie Tennell of West Dundee was among a crowd of young skaters at Twin Rinks Ice Arena in Buffalo Grove to sign a banner for Gracie Gold and Jason Brown before the Olympics.
Now, the tables are turned. A banner hangs in the same space in the arena which dozens of younger skaters have signed for Tennell as she heads next week to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota.
She won't be alone. The banner also acknowledges two other skaters from the suburbs -- who also train at Twin Rinks and are headed for nationals.
Derek Wagner, a junior at Geneva High School, will compete in the novice men's division, while Eric Stinehart of Wilmette, a senior at New Trier High School, will make his debut among senior men.
"My goal is to make it into the top six skaters," says Tennell, who makes her debut among senior ladies after winning the junior national title last year.
"I have to skate both programs cleanly," Tennell says, "but you also need something special, something that no one else does."
She'll be aiming to pull that off with her long program, set to "Tango in Ebony," by Maksim Mrvica. In all, there are seven jumps, including six triples among the combinations. But Tennell knows she'll need more than athleticism to stand out.
Just learning to tango was a stretch for the young skater, who admitted she spent lots of time in front of a mirror perfecting the exotic moves.
"I've never done anything like this before; it's way out of my comfort zone," Tennell says.
Her coach, Denise Myers, describes the routine as somewhat sassy and mature, which she thinks is fitting for her skater's entry in the world of senior ladies.
"This is whole new ballgame for her," Myers says. "It's a much larger stage, but she can handle it. As a newcomer, there are no expectations."
Tennell enters the competition with the same level of difficulty in her programs as the three Olympians who are returning to nationals, namely Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds.
"My attitude is that anything can happen," Tennell says. "It all comes down to who skates well that day."
On the men's side, two of the leading contenders are injured, including Olympic bronze medalist Jason Brown of Highland Park and Jordan Moeller of Oak Lawn, leaving the field fairly wide open.
Stinehart, who placed sixth at the Midwestern sectionals in November and in 2013 was the silver medalist at nationals among intermediate men, has an ambitious long program filled with eight jumps, including six triples.
The routine is set to the sweeping overture from the musical, "The New Picasso," and features plenty of mood changes and emotion for Stinehart to interpret.
"There are a lot of up-and-comers in the competition this year," says Stinehart, who has been accepted to Princeton University for the fall. "There's definitely room for people to make a splash."
Wagner and his coach, Myers, selected an appropriate music selection for his long program: the theme song from the movie, "Rudy," about a walk-on football player at Notre Dame who dreams of getting in a game.
"We thought it was a good story," Myers says, "and that the music was motivating and uplifting."
Wagner will be performing a number of triple jumps in his routines as well, but he is more concerned about the flow and artistry he must display.
"There has to be intensity," he says, "and good connections between jumps."
Myers says all three athletes display sheer determination and a love of skating, as well as technical ability and a knowledge of the sport.
"They have a real passion for performing," she says, "and strength of character that will help them wherever they are and whatever they do in the rest of their life."