After a long summer of training, Skate Brandon’s competitive figure skaters are ready to vie for prominence on the provincial and national scene again.
The group, however, will be without one of its best singles competitors from last season in MacGregor’s Mercedes McLean, who graduated from high school and is now attending university.
While she left Skate Brandon’s StarSkate and Competitive teams, she did join the Wheat City ConnXion synchronized skating team, which has 16 members.
Without McLean, Skate Brandon coach Tammy McKay is looking for other skaters like Brandonite Kirsten Gutenberg and Madison McCallum — who is from Portage la Prairie but now lives in the Wheat City — to step up in the novice girls events.
"Madison won novice ladies last year (at the provincial championships) and she’s looking to do that again," said McKay, who wants to see her skaters place higher than they have in the past. "Her goal is to place at (Skate Canada) Challenge, which will be in December, in the top third which can earn her the opportunity to go to nationals.
"Kirsten Gutenberg is going into her first year of novice ladies, but has been training really hard as well and skating really well at this point, too. I’m looking forward to what to expect from her for provincials."
In the pre-novice age division, Brandon’s Tori Thiessen hopes to earn a top four finish at this year’s provincials, from Nov. 2-4 in Portage, in order to qualify for a return trip to the Skate Canada Challenge, from Dec. 5-9 in Regina. Thiessen finished fourth at provincials last year and 46th at the Skate Canada Challenge.
Thiessen enjoyed her time at the Challenge and wants to get back, but she’s not going to overexert herself in an attempt to reach her goal.
"I’m just keeping it the same and doing what I can do and putting it out there again," said Thiessen, who placed in the top 10 at an event last weekend in Saskatoon that featured skaters from all over Western Canada.
McKay also pointed to Taylor McMurdo of Brandon and Alexa Hume from MacGregor to have decent years in the novice age group. Hartney’s Casey Bertholet, Elkhorn’s Hannah Martin, Brandon’s Courtney Morken and Portage’s Devon Borody are expected to be competitive in pre-novice.
The StarSkate and competitive programs have 39 skaters this season. Overall, fall registration numbers for Skate Brandon are down a bit with a total of 227 skaters registered. Last season, the club finished with a total of 300 members, including executive members and officials.
Club president Kim Thiessen isn’t concerned about the numbers right now, as she believes they will balance out once January’s registration occurs.
"Things look like they’re on track and we’re definitely growing in leaps and bounds over where we were a couple years ago," she said.