Laurie Krueger is the resident professional figure skater at the Magic City Figure Skating Club, which has seen something of a resurgence as of late. They now count 200 members, aged 3-1/2 all the way up into adulthood but averaging out at age 10.
"Actually," said Krueger, who began skating at age 9, "I didn't start taking lessons formally until I was 15, which is considered extremely late."
But Krueger's list of professional accomplishments, including finishing as a national champion four times in paired skating, and placing fourth internationally in the same, seems to suggest that, for her, age 15 was right on time.
Jesse D. Watson/MDN
Coaches, and students of all ages, work hard but have a good time feeding their passion in the Magic City Figure Skating Club.
Jesse D. Watson/MDN
Laurie Krueger, left, pro at the Magic City Figure Skating Club, stands with club member Peri Wilson. Peri, age 11, says her favorite things about skating are the jumps and performing.
Jesse D. Watson/MDN
Caitlynn Schnaible, age 12, glides gently across the ice, perfecting one of her moves. She says the best thing about the club is her teachers.
"It's never too late to start!" Krueger emphasized.
Krueger would like to see more adults, of which there are currently six, join the club, but she loves each of her students.
"We have unique goals for each skater, whether it's just learning to skate forward, to learn their first jump, or compete at a national level."
Join the club
The Magic City Figure Skating Club is accepting new members of all ages, young child to adult, for a basic skills session starting Jan. 9. Registration is at Maysa Arena Jan. 7 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
For more information on this and other programs offered, see (www.magiccityfsc.com).
The Magic City International Figure Skating Competition takes place 7 a.m. until 7 p.m on Saturday, Jan. 5; and 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan 6. at Maysa Arena on both sheets of ice. It is open to the public, free of charge.
There will be more than 45 Minot club skaters, aged 3 1?2 to young adult, and a total of more than 200 skaters from the U.S. and Canada competing in 15 different events.
See (www.magiccityfsc.com) for full details.
As for the students themselves, it was all smiles. Peri Wilson, age 11 and in her fourth year of skating, said she loves jumps and loves performing; Caitlynn Schnaible, 12, loves her teachers.
But even when pressed, no one had any negatives to mention.
"I don't have one," Krueger insisted. "I absolutely love my sport. I love what it's done for my life, the life lessons it's taught me," she gushed. "I'm thankful for it every single day. Each day that I still get to skate, I get really excited."
"Taking the sport you absolutely love and sharing it with others how wonderful is that? I've had the opportunity to share my sport with thousands."
Krueger is the basic skills director in addition to being the head pro.
"I really enjoy the whole process, watching them develop not only as athletes but as people. I love to help instill confidence in my skaters."
There are plenty of coaches under Krueger, including her husband, who started skating as soon as they began dating. Some of the instructors are high school students, and there are seven private lesson tutors. A majority of the coaches are full-time.
"I really enjoy mentoring the coaches here, passing on my wisdom of 30 years (of doing the job)," Krueger said. "You learn so much over the course of, say, the first 15 years, and I can take my wisdom and share it with them and really make that whole learning curve as coaches smaller."
Krueger said they employ a successful team-teaching strategy where each coach takes a particular discipline with each student.
"We try to tap into what each coach does best," she explained. "Maybe one coach will work with ice dancing, and another will work with jumps and spins, and another will work with the artistic programs."
Her husband, for instance, operates a pull harness to assist in learning jumps. "It's sort of like a fishing pole," she laughed.
There is a constant standard, however, being administered by Krueger, which she says helps to maximize each student's individual talent.
"I test every single person. There are a lot of coaches but only one person testing!"
Part of the secret is her watchful eye on each skater.
"If I have to tell (a student) the same thing a thousand times in a thousand different ways, I will," she confessed. "I never want to feel I've cut (anyone) shy."
Along with teaching skills, the club now has two "synchro" (synchronized skating) teams, which are new for 2012, with Cheri Neset as the head coach and Heather Brockell as the assistant. Neset was on the Minot teams that were so successful in the late 1990s, top in the nation for several years, and competed in Italy. Krueger said this gives Neset the unique wisdom and expertise that is so essential.
There is a pre-juvenile team and a beginning team, and the pre-juvenile team, under Neset, did happen to take second in the initial round, and fourth in the final round, in one of the biggest non-qualifying synchro competitions in the Midwest, which took place in Maplewood, Minn. a week ago today.
"Which is amazing," Krueger clarified, "considering they've only been together 3 1/2 months and all the teams they competed with have been together for years."
So the club must be doing something right, or, more likely, many things. The students train hard, too, Monday through Friday, some also on Sunday, many of them in the early hours of the morning.
"Years ago, the synchro team was incredibly strong," Krueger recalled, but it was absent for a few years. "It was wonderful to get it back here in Minot."
Krueger is originally from the Twin Cities and moved to Minot with her husband in March after having been hired by the club. She'd previously coached 16 years in Wisconsin, though she's been coaching for 30.
"We have such a wonderful group of young coaches, parents and kids to work with. My husband and I are extremely happy that we're here and a part of strengthening and developing the program."
Krueger's passion for skating seems to rub off on everyone with whom she comes into contact.