Christmas Brook Figure Skating senior class excels at Bay State Games

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WILLIAMSTOWN — For the 34th consecutive winter, the Bay State Winter Games came to Williamstown for its figure skating competition.

The Christmas Brook Figure Skating Club has hosted the event at Williams College since 1985, and this year boasted 10 individual medalists among its 12 competitors.

Yvonne Koperek, a senior at Drury High School took home a pair of gold medals in the USFS Excel Pre-Juvenile Free Skate and the ISI Open Free Style.

Koperek is one of three full-time senior members at Christmas Brook, along with Mount Greylock classmates Samantha Whittum and Grace Miller, and Pittsfield High associate member Rebecca Drager.

Whittum, who has been skating for 13 years and competed in USFS at the Excel Juvenile Freestyle level as well as ISI Silver Free Skate, earned a bronze medal and fourth-place finish, respectively.

Miller skated to bronze in the ISI Artistic F4-5, while Drager — who also skates for Pittsfield Figure Skating Club — was the bronze winner in the ISI Artistic FS6-7, and had another sixth-place finish in a Free Skate.

The quartet have developed quite a history of competing around the country. In 2017, Whittum and Koperek qualified for and participated in the State Games of America in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where Whittum won a silver medal and Koperek a bronze. All Bay State Games medalists have qualified to attend the State Games of America this summer in Lynchburg, Virginia.

"The club officers and membership provide the local volunteer support that runs the event in coordination with the Bay State Games Organization," said Christmas Brook's Wendy Gipp. "We have a dynamic membership and take tremendous pride in the event we run which is free and open to the public to watch any/all of the competition."

Volunteers were on hand all weekend long from 6 a.m. arrival until well beyond the 8 p.m. end of day.

"It is a lot of work, but as those of us who have participated in the effort know, it is also an incredibly rewarding experience to support these athletes," Gipp said of the tremendous undertaking. "We have over 75 people who do everything from coordinating practice ice sessions, registering the more than 277 visiting athletes, supporting the judges, feeding all of the volunteers three meals a day over the course of the competition, running concession stand and bake sale and announcing and playing music throughout the competition — all supported by local vendors and restaurants."

Christmas Brook will live on in the wake of those departing seniors with more talented up-and-comers.

That includes the other Bay State Games gold medalist Ayla Senecal, who did the deed in the ISI Free Skate Platinum.

Hoosac Valley junior Shaleigh Levesque was a silver medalist over the weekend in the USFS Excel Pre-Juvenile Plus Free Skate, while Lara Shore-Sheppard grabbed a silver in the USFS Adult Silver Freestyle.

In her second trip to this competition, Amelia Art nailed down a bronze medal showing in the ISI Freestyle 2.

The club also featured a host of first-timers at the Bay State Games. Elliana O'Leary and Anna Thurston each skated to bronze medals, while Emma Arnold placed fourth and Jordin Sullivan fifth in their respective ISI Frestyle 1 events.

Pittsfield also had a large crew on hand competing, as Daniella Santamarina skated to a silver in the Excel Intermediate Ladies Free Skate Group 2.

Katie Malone-Smith placed second in the Adult Bronze Ladies Free Skate, and Caroline Gillette finished third in the Excel Preliminary.

Dakota Marquis was eighth and Amanda Drager ninth in the Excel Pre Preliminary group.

Anna Rawson was sixth in the Pre Juvenile Group 2, while Briana Palmiere and Madison Quinn were fourth and ninth, respectively, in Group 3 with Koperek.


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