by Andrew Garda
While winter sports at high schools continue to try and forge a way through the pandemic, so do higher-level sports.
One of those is figure skating, and at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, held from Jan. 11 to 21 in Las Vegas, one of Montclair’s own not only competed, but took sixth place.
Montclair High School freshman Lindsay Thorngren, who finished with a score of 178.89 in her first appearance at this level, has been skating for a very long time and has been to varying levels of Nationals four times.
She has also traveled all over the world, competing at events in Oberstdorf, Germany, Tallinn, Estonia, and Gdansk, Poland, all of which she did while representing the United States. Thorngren was U.S. Intermediate Champion in 2019. Normally, after winning the Intermediate Championship, a skater will then compete at the Novice level. However, Thorngren decided instead to skip right to the Junior level, where she became the 2020 U.S. Junior Champion.
Thorngren was selected to represent the U.S. in Croatia and Poland for the upcoming World Championships, but those events were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That also delayed her quest for her next goal: a berth with the U.S. Olympic team. Under non-pandemic conditions, that would involve competition overseas like the World Championships, but with those things shut down, Thorngren is limited to U.S. events.
Even those can be few and far between — this year’s Nationals were only the second event of the year for her.
“I don’t really know if any international competitions are going to happen this season and if I’m going to get to go,” she said. “So, I know Nationals next year is really important for the selection.”
While she waits, she trains. Like everyone, Thorngren has found herself having to adapt her schedule to the current version of normal.
“The first month of COVID was difficult because she was off the ice for three months” her father, Ed Thorngren, said. “[So] she trained with her coach via Zoom and did a lot of conditioning exercises.”
Once the rinks opened up, things were still different. As rinks across New Jersey implemented CDC-recommended protocols to protect athletes and coaches, Thorngren’s training dropped from four hours a day to just one.
Her father is hoping that things will change again soon, this time for the better.
“The vaccine is here, and we are cautiously optimistic she can go back to normal training soon,” he said.
The freshman Mountie also likes to keep in shape by running, and might join the track team when there is a season again.
Thorngren said that one change that has been somewhat advantageous for her is remote schooling. Like the rest of the district, Montclair High School has been doing remote learning.
“Since I do virtual school, I skate after school, but sometimes I skate before school in the morning and then I come home and get online for school,” she said.
Virtual school itself is challenging, especially for a freshman who has never met her teachers even in the hallway, much less most of her classmates.
“I think we’ve made the best of what we have, and I think through all these online meetings and stuff I’ve gotten to know my teachers. I guess it works better for me, with skating. It’s easier a little bit with this schedule.”
After she’s done with class for the day, and while her school friends are playing video games or doing homework, Thorngren is on the ice. She says that while they may not be out there practicing with her, her friends are a great source of support.
She’s also made some friends in the world of figure skating, though, and said that it’s important to have friends both inside and outside of the sport.
“My school friends are really nice and supportive about [skating],” she said. “I also have friends from skating that know a little bit more [about it], and I can relate to them a little bit more. But they’re all really supportive and motivating.”
With this year being her first Nationals at the top level, Thorngren was really happy to push herself to perform against older and sometimes more accomplished skaters.
“I was just so excited just to compete with all these really amazing, talented skaters,” she said. “Some of them have been to the Olympics and I was just like, wow, like I get to skate with them. I was really amazed.”
Clearly the stage wasn’t too big, as she finished sixth out of 17 skaters in the finals.
Thorngren said one of the things she loves most about the sport is the competition, and clearly she’s not shy about taking on older and sometimes more experienced opponents, but there are a lot of other aspects to skating that she also loves.
“I like jumping, and skating in general,” she said. “And I like being able to do something that not a lot of other people do.”
In the immediate future, Thorngren is hoping that the vaccine and social distancing will help rein in the virus, and she can get back to competing more regularly, and traveling abroad. A little further down the road is, she hopes, an Olympic appearance.
After that, Thorngren wants what a lot of kids want – to go to college, figure out a career and a direction.
She loves skating, though, and it brings something to her that she has not really found anywhere else.
“I just feel like on the ice, I can express myself through my skating,” she said.