Four years ago, when Marisa Farinella went to her first South Atlantic Regional Figure Skating Championship, she went without any of her teammates.
This fall, 13-year-old Marisa will be joined by 10 teammates from the Pines Figure Skating Club.
“My first regional’s, I was alone and didn’t know anyone,’’ Marisa said. “Now we have 11 people going, it’s a lot more comforting.”
On Saturday, the 11 skaters, who range in age from 9 to 14, will be presenting their Regional Send-Off Exhibition to showcase their skills.
Marisa will be performing to “Dark Eyes.’’ Her friend Kristine Levitina, who along with Marissa has made it to the nationals, will be skating to “Ancient Land.’’
“I love performing, how there’s beauty to it,’’ said Kristine, 12. “There’s a lot more to it, not just twirling all around.”
Saturday night’s expo is one of the few times the skaters can perform their routine without dozens of others simultaneously on the ice. There’s the added benefit of performing for an audience and working out their nerves before they go to regionals.
In addition to Marisa and Kristine, headed to Wake Forest, N.C. for the Oct. 19 regionals are:
Melanie Balluais 13; Karen Fisboin, 12; Analise Gonzalez,10; Taylor Patten, 13; Shayna Simonin, 13; Isabella Vanderlaat, 9; Lourdes Madrigal, 14; and Meghan Perez , 13; and Genavieve Federhofer, 16.
More than 100 skaters will be competing for the four spots in the sectional competition, which decides the girls who will continue onto nationals in January.
To get to that point, the girls spend three to six hours, six days a week, at the Pines Ice Arena, for months.
A majority of the girls balance going to practice at 5:30 a.m., and returning after school for more practice.
“Sometimes that includes off-ice exercises, stretching techniques, working on extensions and muscle building,” said Judy Sher, Marisa’s coach.
During practice, the skaters concentrate on jumps, choreography and foot work. It can be a challenge to find ways to artistically interpret the music to which they skate.
“You’re skating on an eighth-of-an-inch blade, it’s harder than learning how to walk,’’ said Marisa, who started when she was 6. “So you have to learn how to walk again, let alone jumping, spinning, twirling on ice and not getting dizzy.”
Although the girls are all competing for the top spots, they work as a team, cheer each other on with homemade posters.
“My friends tell me don’t worry about it, you’ll do fine,’’ Kristine said. “They say it doesn’t matter what place I get as long as I tried my best.”
And when Marisa has a bad practice or competition, she says she won’t let herself get discouraged.
“It’s not about how far you go,’’ said Marissa. “It’s about how far you’ve come.”