Above: Photo courtesy of Megan Toohey/MKT Photography
By Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz
Avery Grace Marcus, a Dallas Figure Skating Club member, dreams of someday representing Team USA skating at Skate America.
So when Marcus, 10, was chosen to be a sweeper for the pairs short program and men’s free skate events at the upcoming Humana Skate America in Allen, Texas, she was over the moon.
“It’s really exciting to be chosen as a sweeper because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Marcus said. “Watching all of the events and seeing all of the skaters in action, thinking that someday I will hopefully be competing at Skate America.”
On a late Sunday afternoon in June, Marcus joined 70 skaters on the ice at the Credit Union of Texas Event Center for the 2023 Skate America sweeper tryouts. The tryouts occurred after the Skate Dallas competition hosted by the Dallas Figure Skating Club.
“About 70 skaters registered between the ages of eight and fifteen,” said Dallas Figure Skating Club president Mary Pottenger. “The skaters were considered by four on-ice judges for their skating skills and ability to pick up stuffed animals smoothly.”
Stuffed animals were donated by Dallas Figure Skating Club families for the tryout and would later be donated to charities.
“There were also three off-ice judges who rated the skaters’ ability to follow instructions and remain quiet and courteous backstage,” Pottenger said. “Each judge only knew the skaters by tryout group skater number, so no partiality could be assumed.”
It was an honor to be chosen for eight-year-old Imisi Ajayi, who skates in nearby Plano, Texas.
“When my mom told me I made the cut, I was excited,” Ajayi said. “ I still am. I feel really lucky and blessed because I think this is a rare opportunity.”
Ajayi will sweep the men’s short program and pairs free skate events.
“To be a sweeper and skate on the same ice during such a huge competition and see some of my favorite skaters is going to be amazing,” Ajayi said. “I am just so excited.”
Ten-year-old Noah Lee, who skates at the Allen Community Rink, agrees.
“I was very excited to be a part of such a huge competition,” Lee said.
He also looks forward to watching the skaters as they prepare for each event. Lee will sweep both the pairs short program and men’s free skate.
“After evaluating all the judges’ input, 40 skaters were chosen to be sweepers,” Pottenger said. “ Four groups of 10 sweepers each were determined by distributing the ages equally per group. Each sweeper group was assigned a short/rhythm dance and a free skate program/free dance.”
The weekend before the start of Skate America, the club held a dress rehearsal so sweepers could try out their sweeper dress or shirt on the ice and meet the event sweeper monitors: Shin Lei Case, Jasmine Clayden, Jem Mixon and Chellie Bowden.
Ann Voogd, a Dallas figure skating coach and owner of AV Designs, also created and made all the sweeper dresses and shirts for the boys by emulating the Texas flag.
“The Dallas Figure Skating Club is proud to be working with the Allen [Convention & Visitors Bureau] and the CUTX Arena management to help make the 2023 Skate America an amazing event,” Pottenger said.