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First huge figure skating test now for young town duo

Two young Farragut figure skaters have Olympic dreams. Their first major test comes this week in Michigan.

Lara Cherry, 11, of Sugarwood subdivision and Melin Craze, 12, of Hickory Woods, are two of eight students of former Olympian Susan Jackson-Wagner, who during her reign as Great Britain national champion for four years competed in the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics before moving to Seymour years later.

“Melin’s a very powerful, athletic skater,” Jackson-Wagner said. “Lara is more delicate and artistic. They’re both very good jumpers, very well-rounded skaters.”

Among a field of about 72 in their juvenile category, the Farragut pair headed off to Ann Arbor, Mich. this week for the Eastern Great Lakes Regional Championships. “It’s one of the larger regions,” Jackson-Wagner said. “This is the first time that Melin and Lara have competed at regionals, the first time they’ve been eligible to.”

To advance beyond Ann Arbor against a tougher national field, the girls would have to finish “in the top three or four” among the 72, Jackson-Wagner said.

Melin said her goal is to “become an Olympic champion, I would really love to do that and hope I can,” she said, adding that her sport requires “a lot of dedication and it’s really hard, but it’s so fun when you master a jump or something.”

The Farragut youngster said her first taste of skating came “when I went to the Ice Chalet when I was six years old, and it was my dad’s birthday and we all went skating, and as soon as I touched the ice I really liked it. I had fun skating and everything. … I started competitive skating around eight or nine.”

As for Lara, “I’ve always wanted to go to Olympics and be in high competitions,” she said. “It’s tough, but once you get the hang of it it’s fun.

“I started about [age] seven ’cause I saw my brother playing hockey and I kinda wanted to do something on the ice, too,” Lara added. “And when I was little, I always wanted to fly, and jumping is basically flying, I think.”

Melin and Lara have competed in local events in recent years leading up to regional competitions in Atlanta and Nashville earlier this year in free-skate and compulsory categories “and placed well” according to the coach.

“Now they’re at the juvenile level, they’re sort of halfway up the rung,” Jackson-Wagner added, emphasizing this requires skaters to pass a “juvenile freestyle test” and still be under age 13.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for both girls. ... They’re both very talented girls. They’ve both won competitions over the time I’ve been teaching them, and they’ve won some things this year and placed at others.”

Working out of the Icearium, Jackson-Wagner said she has taught Melin for about three-and-a-half years and Lara for about three years.

Now working with the young duo about two-and-a-half hours a day five times a week, including personal practice skating, Jackson-Wagner added the girls also participate in an “off-ice conditioning program” in addition to ballet classes.

Jackson-Wagner said the Icearium “runs a basic skills program for beginner skaters. … That’s how Melin and Lara both started, adding the basic skills program runs from age 3 to adult.

“If [a skater] wishes to progress faster than what was offered in basic skills, then they would choose a private lesson instructor,” she said.

Currently teaching students ages 4 to 15, Jackson-Wagner said she has taught figure skating in the Knoxville area since 1999.


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