Berkshire County's best figure skaters may face limited ice time, as opposed to their Eastern Mass. counterparts, but that doesn't seem to have affected confidence levels heading into this weekend's Bay State Winter Games.
"I see my kids working harder," Pittsfield Figure Skating Club and Christmas Brook Figure Skating Club coach Cheri Daub said Tuesday. "Bay State is like their Olympics and they're all trying to do their best for the State Games of America."
Athletes from across the state come to the Berkshires for the 29th annual Winter Games, which start today. Twenty-seven local skaters are competing in the U.S. Figure Skating competition, which runs from today to Sunday at Williams College's Lansing Chapman Rink.
A top-three finish earns a skater a spot in the State Games of America, a prestigious competition held every two years. The next State Games will be held in 2015 in Lincoln, Neb.
Daub works with skaters of various ages and levels of skill at both the Pittsfield FSC and the Christmas Brook club in North Adams. One Christmas Brook skater, Abby Coleman of Williamstown, placed fourth in her division at the Bay State Games two years ago.
Daub said Coleman is a graceful, yet athletic skater, capable of performing several jumps within a program. Last year, however, Coleman was dealing with the effects of anemia and struggled to find the energy to compete, finishing last in her division.
Aside from the occasional shortness of breath, Coleman said she's returned to 2012 form. She's taking iron supplements to offset the anemia, but as a vegetarian, she said a flare-up is still possible.
"I've been working on my stamina so I can get through the program and the jump section," Coleman said.
Even when fatigue starts to set in, Coleman remains focused on her program.
"I tell myself to take each move one step at a time, and not look too far ahead," she said. "Before you know it, you're done.
"I'm pretty confident. I'm trying to skate my best. It doesn't matter what the result is, as long as I'm happy with how I skated."
An unknown illness kept Stacey Tutela of Dalton out of the 2013 State Games in Harrisburg, Pa.
Before the Games, Tutela began suddenly passing out. Her family originally thought it was a heart problem. Tutela traveled all the way to Harrisburg, but was not cleared to compete.
Ultimately, Tutela discovered the spells were caused by dehydration.
"We didn't know what it was," she said "We thought it was some kind of heart condition, but I was so dehydrated that I would pass out if I'd walk across the room.
"Now I drink 10 to 13 bottles of water a day, and if miss the water I'd get dizzy spells."
The junior at Wahconah said she's had great cross-country and Nordic skiing seasons, and with the added attention paid to nutrition, she's ready for the Bay State Games.
"I'm really excited, and a little bit nervous," she said. "My program is pretty solid. I've had it for a couple months. ... A lot of people see skating as a bunch of twirls and jumps, but there's a real art to it.
"I like to think of it as a story or dance. I want to make the person I'm presenting myself to get into the performance as much as I am."
Tutela is ready to compete, but the number of athletes interested in figure skating continues to fluctuate.
Daub said the number of skaters tends to increase after Olympic years like this due to the added exposure to a television audience, but due to the cost of the sport, participation has not taken off.
"The sport is expensive and the economy hasn't helped any," Daub "I have seen a decline in the numbers, and with less ice time in the area, it's hard."