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Icettes find success on the rink

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Members of District 196's figure skating team, the Icettes, often get strange looks when they tell other students they are going off to practice.

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In reality, the Icettes have typically been a well-kept secret in the district's athletic programs, but that could soon change, at least if coach Ann Harschutz has anything to say about it.

Harschutz is proud of how her team competes, especially considering many of its opponents come from year-long club programs.

"Most of the teams we compete against train year-round," she said. "That gives us a big challenge."

Most team members at a recent practice prior to a trip to Florida for a national event said they have been skating competitively since they were age 3. Despite the relative anonymity, they continue to practice and work hard because they enjoy being with the friends. Some called their friendships on the ice "irreplaceable."

"They are really stepping up to the challenge," said Harschutz, in her second year as coach of the Icettes. "They really have come together to get the job done. They learn so much more than just skating."

Harschutz said she wishes the Icettes could start practicing in September, which would allow more time to hone skills and keep up with the club teams. However, she understands the district considers the team a winter sport, which allows the girls to compete in other sports during the fall and spring seasons.

Despite the competitive disadvantages, they started their season at a competition in Duluth. All of the individuals skated tremendously well. The team took second place in synchronized skating at an event in Blaine. At their national competition in Florida at the Winter Classic, they won gold in both of the team events.

"We did extremely well down there," Harschutz said. "Everyone who participated in an individual event placed."

After returning from Florida, the Icettes won the Blades of March competition. "The synchro team competed there and took first place," Harschutz said. "It has been a great season. We really did well."

For competition, the team has six varsity individual skaters, and 14 varsity synchro skaters. There also is a JV individual team with 22 members. Single events include freestyle, compulsory, jumps, spins, footwork, interpretative, and spotlights. Team events include synchronized skating, team compulsory, jump and spin, spotlights and production.

As outlined in the team handbook, skaters have to meet certain criteria to succeed on the squad. For example, in order to be a varsity individual competitor, skaters who want to be considered must have a consistent axel, double jumps, flying spins, and the ability to execute strong use of edges and turns.

The team trains more than simply on skates. Fitness and flexibility is promoted through fitness yoga, and strength training includes weight lifting.

The Icettes have been a part of the co-curricular program since 1976. The team represents five high schools, including Rosemount, Apple Valley, Eagan and Eastview, as well as middle schools and the School of Environmental Studies.

"We are definitely excited," Harschutz said. "They work really hard all year. This finishes the season with a bang. The theme is Planet Earth. They are doing some pretty creative stuff."

The team wraps up its season this weekend with its annual show, which continues at 7 p.m. Friday at Apple Valley Sports Arena. The team will present Planet Earth during the show, which started on Thursday and continues on Saturday at 7 p.m. The cost is $6 for adults and $4 for students and seniors.

To find out more about the team, check out its web site, www.icettes.com.

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