METHUEN — The Methuen High Rangers have added a new team to their lineup this year — figure skating.
Until this year, the Ranger figure skaters were a club because they had never been in a competition.
This year the team will not only compete for the first time in February, but they are also holding two exhibition ice shows to help raise money for the program. The first show — in a Christmas theme — was held Dec. 17 at the MHS Ice Rink.
While their next exhibition isn’t until March, the Rangers will hit the ice for real when they head to the Skating Club of Boston on Feb. 4 for the United States Figure Skating Association Basic Skills competition.
Head coach Stacy Crowley said the exhibition shows are important to the team as a confidence builder.
“I have some girls that have just started skating this year,” Crowley said. “The shows help them show off what they have learned and help build their confidence for when we go to the competition.”
The Rangers are trying to raise money for the program because of how expensive the sport can be.
“Ice time costs about $200 an hour,” Crowley explained. “Skates cost about $350. It is not cheap, and all the money goes back to the school to be put towards our team.”
Crowley added that private lessons can cost up to $60 an hour and having the rink at the high school helps cut those costs.
“The girls are lucky to have this program where they can learn the fundamentals,” Crowley said. “My goal is to eventually get them to the point where they can do more competitions and really get involved in the competitive sport of figure skating.”
Because some of the girls are new to skating, Crowley and assistant coach Alicia Thibeault choreographed a synchronized skate for the team along with individual programs.
“I have one girl that can barely skate forward, but she and the others are right out there with the girls that can skate well,” Crowley said. “We make everyone feel equal in the synchronized skate.”
The Dec. 17 show featured solo performances by team skaters Amanda Schultz, Jennifer Emery, Jackie Sanderson and Diana Le, along with guest skaters Colleen DeCola and Kristen DiBurro from the Andover Skating Club.
Sanderson, a junior, has been skating for only three years and was a bit anxious when she stepped out onto the ice.
“I get nervous because I am not used to all the attention set on me,” Sanderson said.
Sanderson took a slight spill during her routine, but thanks to her quick thinking, she recovered nicely, as she slid on her knee and blew a kiss to the crowd.
“Alicia (Thibeault) taught me to do that,” Sanderson said. “She always said you can cover a mistake with the littlest thing. I think I recovered nicely.”
Emery has been skating for four years and wanted to show her parents, friends and classmates what she has learned on the ice this year.
“I did something more difficult this time because I have learned more,” Emery said. “I want to keep skating while I’m here at school and continue learning new things.”
Thibeault skated to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” and joined the Methuen Ice Angels during their synchronized skate and grand finale at the Dec. 17 exhibition.
“I’m so proud of them,” Crowley said at the time. “They did a great job tonight.”
Crowley has been a private coach for 16 years and the coach at Methuen for the past four.
“When I came here four years ago, the team had nothing. They didn’t do shows, competitions, nothing,” explained Crowley.
“We’re in a position now where the girls can be recognized and they can show off their skills.”
Although Crowley runs her own school, the Skating School of Haverhill, she has no intentions of leaving the Rangers any time soon.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Crowley said. “I’ll be here forever. I love it. I’m even going to school to get my degree in teaching.”
Methuen is the only high school in the Merrimack Valley that has a figure skating team.
“The other schools technically have it on paper,” Crowley said. “But they don’t have a team, which I think is sad because a lot of schools have a rink right there. Methuen is wonderful for doing this.”
Team members Emery and Sanderson are excited to head to Boston for the Feb. 4 competition.
“This will be my first competition,” Emery said. “I have no clue what to expect. But I will continue to work on my program with my coach.”
Sanderson echoed her teammates thoughts.
“It’s kind of scary,” Sanderson said. “But I am so excited to see what other people do.”
Have a story idea? E-mail Gayle Simone at firstname.lastname@example.org.