Figure skating: New England West sending 7 youth athletes to 2024 State Games of America in San Diego

Candy Tang and Anjolina Elias of Sunderland , left, and and Lillis Qiu of Hadley after a Skating Club of Boston competition last month. The trio are among seven skaters from New England West Skating Club that will compete in the 2024 State Games of America in San Diego.

Candy Tang and Anjolina Elias of Sunderland , left, and and Lillis Qiu of Hadley after a Skating Club of Boston competition last month. The trio are among seven skaters from New England West Skating Club that will compete in the 2024 State Games of America in San Diego. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 07-05-2024 7:33 PM

New England West Skating Club figure skaters will be competing against some of the top competition in the country this month at the State Games of America in San Diego. 

The club, which competes out of Deerfield Academy, has been rebuilding since the multiyear COVID-19 disruption, director Suzanne McCaughtry said.

For the first time since 2019, the club will be heading to State Games of America with seven athletes qualified to compete. The games run July 17-21. 

“We’re really looking forward to it,” McCaughtry said. “The kids are really psyched to get out there.” 

The State Games of America is an Olympic-style event featuring competition between State Games medal winners from across the nation. The event is held every two years. 

Athletes qualify for the State Games of America by medaling [gold, silver or bronze] in their individual state games. There are currently 30 states conducting or organizing statewide games, and athletes had to qualify in the last two years to make the national event. 

For the New England West Skating Club, that meant qualifying at the Bay State Games in Massachusetts or the Nutmeg Games in Connecticut this past winter, as New Hampshire and Vermont do not have state games of their own.

“We have kids from New Hampshire, kids from Vermont, we’re pulling from the Amherst-Sunderland area,” McCaughtry said. “It’s great having kids from all over.” 

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The seven athletes who qualified and are heading to San Diego are Riley Hill-Staples, 14, from Marlboro, New Hampshire; Anjolina Elias, 10, of Sunderland; Lucy Morris-Razen, 13, out of Putney, Vermont; Camilla Cavaleri, 8, of Keene, New Hampshire; Lillis Oiu, 6, of Hadley; Candy Tang, 6, of Sunderland; and Caylin Magee, 13, of Keene. 

Each New England West Skating Club athlete will compete in three to five events while in San Diego, with some being solo dance routines, and others being judged on jumps and spins. 

With it being the first time at the State Games for all seven competitors, McCaughtry said she’s just hoping they give it their best and enjoy the experience. 

“I don’t care if you come in dead last as long as you worked hard and tried your best,” McCaughtry said. “That’s what really matters.

 “Our biggest thing is that we’re recreational coaches,” McCaughtry explained. “We do it for the love of it. We’re not going to qualifying competitions like nationals or worlds. They’re testing and getting medals. It’s a life skill. All we want is for these kids to do their very best. We want them to have a lot of fun and share that experience so others want to do it as well.” 

Over 14,000 athletes are expected in San Diego for the national State Games, with large crowds expected. That type of attention can be intimidating, though McCaughtry and her assistant coach, Stacy Chickering, are trying their best to prepare their skaters for what it will be like. 

“Some of them have never been to this big of a competition before,” McCaughtry said. “We’ve been trying to prepare them for the large crowds they’ll see. There will be a lot of people watching them and they’ll be competing against large numbers. It isn’t going to be like what they’re used to. Sometimes you might go in and think you might be able to get fifth because it’s a small competition. That’s not what this is. Stacy and I are there to support them.”

One way to prepare was to compete in a big competition in Boston last month, helping prepare their athletes for the type of crowds and competitors they’ll be seeing on the West Coast. 

“It was a good way to get their feet wet,” McCaughtry said. “Some of the little kids have never competed like that before. They did well.”

While the competition is over in the span of a week, it takes a year-round commitment to practicing and improving to qualify for an event like the State Games. 

“Most of these kids that are competing are skating year-round,” McCaughtry said. “Some people only do part of the year or take summers off but if you’re competing, you really need to be skating year-round.”

McCaughtry joined New England West Skating Club after spending years as the skating director at FMC Ice Sports in Greenfield. Participation is on the rise in recent years, and McCaughtry said she hopes going to a big event like State Games will help get more athletes interested in the program. 

“We’re a pretty small club,” McCaughtry said. “It has come up, but very slowly. Our learn to skate program is growing. Where you want them to grow is from the base up at learning to skate. We’ve had a huge influx come in and learn. You have to start from the bottom.”