By MIKE SMITH
The 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championship, set to be held in Saint Paul, Minn., next month will have something of a local flavor, as Mamaroneck High School freshman Sam Hodman will hit the ice looking to bring home a medal in the Juvenile Ice Dance division.
Hodman, 14, and his partner Valerie Sroka qualified for the nationals after placing fourth at the Midwestern Sectional Championships held in Strongsville, Ohio, last month.
The Mamaroneck resident, who has been skating for around six years, made the transition to ice dancing—a pairs discipline—four years ago and is already making a name for himself. This is the second-straight year the duo has qualified for the national championships.
According to Hodman, the transition from singles skating to ice dancing took some getting used to.
“With individual skating, I got to do more things like spins and jumps, but with partner skating, you don’t have some of those elements,” he said. “The biggest difference is you have to do different stuff and support your partner.”
Leading up to sectionals, Hodman and Sroka logged about seven hours of ice time together per week, but the pair will likely look to put more time in with nationals looming. One minor obstacle, Hodman explains, is the distance between him and his partner, who lives in New Jersey. Sroka and Hodman also practice in New Jersey, which requires upwards of an hour of travel for each workout.
“It definitely limits us, so we try to take advantage of every single session,” Hodman said. “We have to put in 100 percent effort; we can’t waste any time because we don’t have that much time.”
With the biggest competition of the year on the horizon, Hodman said that the pair is currently working on fine-tuning the routine and making sure they hit all their marks.
“There are certain areas we need to tighten up,” he said. “We need to make sure we’re showing the judges all the elements, because sometimes they aren’t defined enough.”
Although he admits that the previous trip to nationals should help the duo prepare for this year’s competition, Hodman also said that, last year, he and Sroka weren’t burdened by the pressure.
“Last time we went, we skated pretty well and part of that was because we felt we had nothing to lose,” he said. “But this year, we’re going to try to be more confident.”
In the end, however, Hodman said the only thing he and his partner can do is block out the judges and just skate their best.
“You can’t really control where the judges put us,” he said. “But if we can go out there, hit our elements and do everything we’ve be working on, I’ll be happy.”