Local figure skaters from Pittsfield, Christmas Brook compete at Bay State Games

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STEPHANIE ZOLLSHAN — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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WILLIAMSTOWN — The Lansing Chapman Rink at Williams College is commonly used for 12 skaters battling for a puck while wielding a stick. On Saturday, Lansing Chapman welcomed a different type of skater for the Bay State Winter games.

The 34th annual Bay State Games welcomed skating technicians from all over Massachusetts, and even Vermont, to display their best axel jumps, camel spins, twizzles and swizzles.

Berkshire County's figure skating teams, the Pittsfield Figure Skating Club and Christmas Brook were well represented Saturday morning in the form of eight skaters in the competition's first 11 events.

Anna Rawson of Richmond was the first local to hit the ice in the Female Excel Pre-Juvenile Free Skate.

"I did different footwork than I was supposed to," the sixth-year skater said. "I tried to make it up as I went and it was a little choppy, but I think it was okay."

Rawson, a member of the Pittsfield Figure Skating Club, received a fourth-place vote and finished sixth in the day's second event.

The Female Excel Pre-Juvenile Free Skate - Flight 3 welcomed three more Berkshire County skaters to the ice.

Yvonne Koperek of North Adams and a Christmas Brook skater, took gold in the event and was swarmed by family and friends after the strong performance.

"It feels really nice to come off a clean program," Koperek, the seven-year Bay State skater said. "I get really nervous so it feels nice to have everyone come over and say congratulations. Lately my thing has been focusing on technicality, but I've learned that the more I enjoy my program and enjoy my music the better I skate. I try to to pick music I can connect with. I skated to 'California Dreamin'' by Sia because it is just a great song."

Part of the crowd who greeted Koperek as she left the ice was Brooke DiGennaro, who entered the record books last night by scoring her 1,000th point as a member of the Drury Blue Devils girls basketball team.

"Brooke and I have been friends since second grade," Koperek said. "Over the past few days we have talked quite a bit about keeping nervous under control and focusing on doing what's best overall, not what is best at that moment. She was focused on getting her team to the Western Mass. Tournament and not necessarily the 1,000 points and that really stuck with me. Overall, I don't want to focus on making every little thing perfect. I would rather focus on putting together a strong routine."

According to the judges, she accomplished her goal as three of the five scorers gave her a first-place finish.

Briana Palmiere of PFSC received a second-place vote and finished fourth overall.

Madison Quinn, also of the PFSC, received a fourth-place vote and took ninth in the event.

The following event, the Female Excel Pre-Juvenile Plus Free Skate featured Christmas Brook's Shaleigh Levesque.

"I used to be really nervous in front of the judges," Levesque, who is competing in her seventh Bay State Games, said. "You just have to go do your program the same way you did it 1,000 times in practice. I felt good out there. I landed all my jumps and my spins were clean."

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Levesque produced a second-place performance, which included two first-place votes by the judges.

The Christmas Brook skaters practice at Williams College every Sunday and Levesque believes that helped her get into her comfort zone during the performance.

"It's kind of like our home rink," Levesque said. "It's comforting because you know exactly how big the rink is and you know how smooth it is going to be even after the Zamboni comes out."

Fellow Christmas Brook skater Samantha Whittum finished her event, the Female Excel Juvenile Free Skate - Flight 2, with a third-place finish.

Three events later, Dalton's Rebecca Drager took the ice in the Female Excel Juvenile Plus Free Skate and got off to a rocky start, but remained focused, skating to a sixth-place finish in her event. She also received one third-place vote.

"I don't skate to win," Drager said. "My goal is to skate clean and that program wasn't clean."

The 12-year skater bounced back to her feet after an early fall and ended the first event at her fourth Bay State Games carrying a smile.

"I just wanted to keep that smile," Drager said. "I wanted to show that nothing beats personality."

The day's final local youth skater may have actually spent the most time at the rink. Daniella Santamaria of PFSC spent four hours at the rink before she hit the ice for her event.

"I've been here all day watching my friends skate," Santamaria said. "I was so excited to get out there."

The Female Excel Intermediate Free Skate - Flight Two hit the ice at 12 p.m., and Santamaria was the last one of the flight to perform.

"After waiting a little bit for my flight it felt really good to get out there," Santamaria said. "[To stay calm] my coach tried to joke with me about her day at school a few days ago to get my mind away from the nerves. In my five years at the Bay State Games, I've been really trying to focus on having fun and not putting as much pressure on myself. Most importantly, to just smile and enjoy what I am doing."

Figure Skating is about routine, and for Santamaria, one of the biggest parts of her routine is singing to Rascal Flatts' "My Wish" with her mom in the car on the way to each competition.

"It gets me in the competition mode," Santamaria said. "That's the only song we make sure to play. I am not sure why, but one year we played it and the lyrics connected with us."

Santamaria, who competed in her fifth Bay State Games, stuck to her routine and it paid off with a second-place finish in the event. She even received two first-place votes.

The Bay State Games continue Sunday morning at Williams College's Lansing Chapman arena. The day will start with the Male Intermediate Well Balanced Short Program, which should start right around 8 a.m.

Jake Mendel can be reached at Jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, @Jmendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.


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