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MARYSVILLE The mercury was hovering around 74 degrees outside but inside the Skate Inn, it was even hotter as about a dozen skaters on old-fashioned four-wheel roller skates glided gracefully across the lacquered floor, honing their routines.
While roller figure skating lacks the international attention showered on sister sport ice skating, none of the skaters here would rather be on ice, even after nearly a week of sweltering conditions. The skills do transfer easily between sports, though.
Brenda Schmidt skated as a teenager and returned to the sport years later, when her son Hayden was 3 and old enough to put on his own skates.
"While we were at nationals, my son and his partner got on ice and were able to practice their routines," she said. "Coaches were coming up and asking where they had come from."
Although Hayden has since traded his skates in for shin guards and a soccer ball, Schmidt has stuck with the sport for the last eight years and is starting to enjoy the success she aspired to in her younger skating days. At the regional meet in Portland last month, Schmidt took the gold in both women's figure skating and women's solo dance.
Schmidt was part of a record-breaking haul by the local skating club that took home 31 gold medals, 16 silver medals and 12 bronze medals.
Despite soaring gas costs, a large number of skaters commute several times a week from the Bellingham area to train under coaches Marlene and Jerry Bruland. Lifelong skater Lee Kleve's dance skate partner Joanne Foster drives even further she comes down from Langley, B.C. to train. The skaters commute for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the shrinking number of skating clubs around. But others cite the Skate Inn and Bruland's reputation.
"This just happens to be a rink that has a lot of national-caliber skaters skating here," said Sandra Gillette, whose daughters Krystal and Kyleen are their family's third generation of competitive skaters.
Altogether, over 30 skaters placed in at least one event at regionals and will travel to Lincoln, Neb. later this month to compete in the U.S. National Roller Figures Skating Championships. The national roller skating meet enjoys a higher number of competitors than associated with ice skating, meaning much of the team will be away for nearly three weeks to compete.
Said Bev Boice, who got back into skating after competing in her teens, "When you've got the bug, you can't quit."