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Pa. figure skater competes in State Games of America

August 23, 2007|By ASHLEY HARTMAN

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - When Autumn Phillips began figure skating in third grade, the 17-year-old had no idea she one day would win a medal in the 2007 State Games of America.

"I don't really know why (my brother, Kyle, and I) started ice skating - my mom just asked us if we wanted to skate," said Phillips, who is the daughter of Niles and Dawn Phillips of Waynesboro.

When Phillips first began figure skating, she said she quickly moved up the skill levels.

"You start to learn in skate levels whenever you are younger," she said. "I always went through those really quick."

The State Games of America is a national multisport event for athletes of all ages and abilities and is held every two years.

In order to compete in the State Games of America, which were held in August in Colorado Springs, Colo., Phillips had to qualify for an event in Pennsylvania's Keystone State Games by winning a gold, silver or bronze medal.

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Phillips did just that when she received a gold medal in pre-juvenile compulsory moves.

"Compulsory is where you only skate on half the ice, you don't get any music and you have to do certain things," said Phillips, who competes in the pre-juvenile category. "You have certain elements you have to do, like certain jumps and certain footwork."

Phillips, who practices at Skate Frederick in Frederick, Md., described this level as "doing up to an axel, and that's a one-and-a-half rotation jump."

In the Keystone State Games, Phillips also competed in the pre-juvenile artistic and freestyle categories and took sixth place in each of them.

"In freestyle, they (the judges) say you can't do anything higher than a single jump and you can do whatever else you want to do," Phillips said. "Artistic is how you skate to the music."

Once Phillips competed in the State Games of America, she received a silver medal in the championship pre-juvenile girls compulsories.

"I saw that I got second, and I looked at my brother and I couldn't believe it," Phillips said. "I went back and hugged my mom and my dad."

Phillips also skated in the showcase and freestyle categories at the State Games of America, but they were not championship categories because Phillips did not qualify in the categories in the Pennsylvania competitions.

"In showcase, you just have props ... and you don't have to do jumps or spins, but it's just how you act out the song," Phillips said. "You can do jumps ... but this is not so much based on it - if you don't do the biggest jumps, it's not supposed to hurt you or anything."

In the showcase category, "I dressed up like a boy and skated to 'Good Golly Miss Molly' and I had a little doll that I set on a chair and she was Miss Molly."

Phillips took fifth place in showcase and second place in freestyle.

Melissa Cullers has been Phillips' coach for four years.

"She's more my friend than my coach," Phillips said. "I get frustrated when I can't land my axels, (and) she'll always make me laugh and tell me not to worry about it - she just knows what she's doing."

During a typical practice, "We work on something called moves in the field, which is a lot of different footwork," Cullers said.

Also during practice, Phillips works on double jumps, compulsory moves and spins.

"She works harder than anybody I know - she'll take fall after fall and she'll keep on skating," Cullers said. "That's the reason she is so successful, she doesn't give up."

Phillips is working to move up to the next skill level in her moves and jumps, Cullers said. Phillips' jump level is pre-juvenile, so the next level would be juvenile, and her moves level is juvenile, so she is working to move to the intermediate level.

Phillips said her family also is very supportive of her figure skating.

"My mom, my dad and my brother went to nationals with me," Phillips said. "They come to all my competitions - my dad has to videotape everything."

Cullers was unable to go to the State Games of America, so Phillips' mother acted as her coach during the competition.

"She'd go back to the locker room with me, help me get ready, put my makeup on and get my dresses and skates on, then she'd stand down there with me during warm-ups," Phillips said.

In the future, Phillips would like to be able to land more double jumps, double loops and double toe loops.

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