Two local figure skaters are going to the national championship next month. Morgan Hilbrich and Michael Poland qualified in November to compete as the U.S. Figure Skating national championship as a juvenile pairs skating team. The competition will be held Jan. 18-27 in Detroit.
The skaters are members of the Heartland Figure Skating Club and practice six days a week, often skating at Centerpoint Community Ice in Independence. They qualified to compete nationally by placing fourth in the juvenile pairs free skate event at the midwestern sectional championship in Indiana last month. They scored their personal best at that event, with 38.96 points.
Morgan, 10, has been skating for 5 years. Until February, she skated as an individual competitor. Michael, 15, has skated off and on since the age of 7. He skated competitively as a pairs skater for the first time last year with a different partner.
Asked what they like most about skating, both Michael and Morgan say they love to jump. They also enjoy the pairs competition and having someone out there on the ice with you. Both skaters noted the importance of trust they’re out there, particularly for elements like lifts.
“You have to practice to be in sync with each other,” Michael says.
Grant Huang, their coach and choreographer, says his biggest hope is that they skate a clean program and continue improving their scores. He says the competition for their category will be close, with as little as half a point separating many of the 10 teams that will skate. But Huang says Morgan and Michael have improved their scores with each competition they’ve performed at and that it will be a great experience for the team regardless of where they place.
“You can do anything you put your mind to,” Morgan says of their mindset going into the competition.
The skating duo has an Instagram account, where you can follow them for updates and news: @teammandmskating. Facebook Morgan Hilbrich & Michael Poland USFS Pair Team. They have also created a GoFundMe page to help cover the cost of expenses associated with the competition: www.gofundme.com/morgan-and-michael-us-figure-skating-nationals.
If you’re interested in getting out on the ice yourself, Centerpoint Community Ice offers Learn to Skate programs. The six-week sessions are for all ages (2 and up, including adults) and experience levels. The next sessions start Jan. 5. The ice rink is also offering two three-day holiday camps the last week of December. Learn more on their website at www.centerpointcommunityice.com.