Skaters audition to be "flower sweepers" at Skate America championships

EVERETT — They won’t be skating for a major championship just yet, but they could be on the ice with some who are.

About 30 kids between the ages of 9 and 12 tried out Friday to be “flower sweepers” for the 2008 Skate America championships, coming to the Comcast Arena at Everett Events Center Oct. 24 through 26.

Those selected will be the ones who dart out onto the ice after each performance and pick up the flowers, stuffed animals and other gifts tossed out by fans.

Many of the kids — three were boys, the rest girls — are aspiring skaters.

“I’d like to skate on TV,” said Maddy Liedle, 11, of Kenmore.

More than 60 world-class skaters from 17 countries are expected to be here for the competition, said Laura Lee, co-president of Production Sports of Mountlake Terrace. The firm spearheaded bringing the competition to Everett. The skaters will stay at the Tulalip Hotel.

At the arena, they’ll need someone to pick up the gifts that are tossed out for them after their performances, a skating custom. About 24 kids and some alternates will be needed for the three-day event.

That doesn’t mean, though, that 24 of the 30 who auditioned will be chosen — it depends on their skating skills. After each performance during the ­competition, the next scheduled skater or skaters immediately come onto the ice and start warming up.

The kids have to be quick and smooth.

“They’ve got to make sure they pick up those things without running into the new skaters,” said Kirsten Early, president of the Everett Figure Skating Club, who was helping with the auditions.

In the tryouts, two judges had four kids at a time go through several skating maneuvers, including going all the way around the arena twice and skating backward to a stop. Then, for the last test, stuffed animals were scattered around the ice and the kids were sent out to pick them up.

Selah Early, 17, a competitive ice dancer who works at the arena, zoomed around the ice to give the kids a real skater to work around. Selah is Kirsten’s daughter.

Several of the girls said they were nervous, but felt they did well anyway.

“I thought it’d be a really good experience to try something I’ve never done before,” said Katie Bellusci, 12, of Bothell.

Many of the parents didn’t get to watch their kids, because they were getting a long briefing from Laura Lee and Steve Baker of Production Sports. Because of security concerns, the parents of those selected won’t be allowed backstage for the performance — they’ll have to buy tickets.

If not enough of the kids who auditioned Friday have the necessary skills, more tryouts will take place until they get as many as they need, Baker said. Those who tried out Friday will find out by Aug. 15 if they’ve made it.

Debbie Markezich of Woodinville brought her daughter, Cambria, 9, just for the experience, she said. Markezich, 42, skated in the national championships in 1985-86.

“She’s very level-headed, so if she gets it, it’ll be icing on the cake,” she said.

Reporter Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439 or sheets@heraldnet.com.

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