Monday, February 2, 2009

Wagner laying claim to Delaware's ice

For the past several years, figure skating in the state of Delaware has been about Johnny Weir and Kimmie Meissner.

Each won their share of honors, including national championships for both and a world championship for Meissner, and both earned spots on the U.S. team for the 2006 Winter Olympics.

Both have moved on over the past year or so, with Weir moving to northern New Jersey and Meissner heading to Florida.

But the cupboard, so to speak, is not bare. Ashley Wagner, a 17-year-old from Alexandria, Va., moved to Delaware last summer to train with Priscilla Hill, Weir's former coach, at the Skating Club of Wilmington.

She placed fourth at last month's U.S. Figure Skating Championships, and is headed to the World Junior Championships in Bulgaria beginning Feb. 23. And she is among several women skaters who have a chance to make the U.S. Olympic team next year.

"That is definitely the goal," Wagner said. "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get there. But it's also scary because all my life, it seemed so far in the distance. Now it's only a year away."

Wagner has done a lot to fulfill her goal. Wagner, her mother Melissa and younger brother Austin, who finished fifth in the novice competition, rented an apartment in Brandywine Hundred last summer so Wagner could train with Hill. She had left her longtime coach Shirley Hughes earlier in the summer.

Wagner takes online classes from her high school in Virginia, where she's a senior maintaining honor-level grades.

The Wagners head back to Virginia each weekend, where Wagner's father, Eric, lives.

Traveling long distances, however, is nothing new for Wagner. She's the daughter of a career military man. She was born in Germany and has moved nine times, including stints in Alaska, California, Washington, Kansas and Virginia.

Full article.

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