Figure skater Ashleen Hale waved a bittersweet goodbye to her home away from home of the last 15 years on Sunday.
The Niagara-on-the-Lake Skating Figure Club wrapped up its season with its annual showcase at the Meridian Credit Union Arena.
This showcase was Hale’s last of many, as she left the club’s STARSkate program and took a look forward to a future in figure skating – potentially for Brock University.
“I told my friends we weren’t allowed to be sad until it was over,” said Hale.
“It was a difficult day because there were a lot of endings and I still feel like I just started skating. So yeah, it was kind of unreal.”
The 18-year-old has been skating with STARSkate coach Judi Boyle-Krzeczkowski from the age of three and refers to her as “more of a second parent.”
“She just made the club feel like a second home and she’s definitely my biggest influence.”
During Hale’s time in STARSkate, Boyle-Krzeczkowski allowed her to take on more of a leadership role among the younger skaters, and during the showcase’s award ceremony referred to her as “a great role model” for the kids.
“I started doing the program assistant role when I was around 10,” Hale said.
“I always watched the older girls handle the younger kids and since I’m the youngest sibling I always wanted to have that leadership role.”
“I’ve always enjoyed being around the kids and using my talent to make an impact on a small community. It felt really rewarding,” said Hale.
When citing her inspirations as she continues in her skating career, Hale named fellow NOTL skater Kyra Marotta, who served as a role model during her time in the program, as well as her father Jim for his career in hockey.
But she has a few of her own inspiring accomplishments, winning gold and silver in the women’s competition at the Ontario championships in Stratford two weeks ago.
“I tried my best to keep emotions in check and I still managed to pull out a personal best skate, but after the fact it was really difficult to wrap my head around what I just did.”
Hale said that most people stop participating in STARSkate around the age of 18 simply because of schooling and life changes. She’s not ready to give up figure skating entirely, though.
“I’ve decided I want to try out for the Brock skating team,” she said.
Hale will be attending Brock in September to study applied linguistics so she looks forward to tryouts at the end of the summer.