2014-04-25 / Front Page

Young skater makes her own history

By Duke Harrington
Contributing Writer


Cassandra Albano of South Portland, who recently made the roster for the Skating Club of Boston’s Team Excel synchronized skating group, with which she will appear in next year’s popular Ice Chips show, takes a break from practice at the MHG Ice Centre in Saco. (Duke Harrington photo) Cassandra Albano of South Portland, who recently made the roster for the Skating Club of Boston’s Team Excel synchronized skating group, with which she will appear in next year’s popular Ice Chips show, takes a break from practice at the MHG Ice Centre in Saco. (Duke Harrington photo) SOUTH PORTLAND — Sometimes, a dream come true can start with a wish you didn’t even know you had.

One winter afternoon 11 years ago, Katherine Albano, now a resident of South Portland’s Broadway Gardens neighborhood, took her daughter on what seemed at the time to a just a random play date to the outdoor pond at Falmouth Ice Arena.

“It was just an afternoon adventure, a couple of moms taking their kids to kill some time on a winter afternoon in Maine, drinking coffee and watching the kids skate,” recalled Albano.

The day trip was so last minute, in fact, that Albano’s daughter Cassandra didn’t even have a pair of skates.


Cassandra Albano of South Portland at Age 9, during one of the many skating events in which she has competed over the years. (Courtesy photo) Cassandra Albano of South Portland at Age 9, during one of the many skating events in which she has competed over the years. (Courtesy photo) “We had to rent her a pair of boys hockey skates,” said Albano, with a laugh.

But 4-year-old Cassandra took to the frozen pond like a proverbial duck to water, zipping around for more than two hours, falling only once, and fairly refusing to come off the ice when it was time to go.

“I was amazed at how quickly she picked it up,” Albano said. “The other mother said to me, you might want to consider getting her lessons.”

Two weeks later Albano did just that and the family’s life was forever changed. Within a year, Cassandra had made the transition from ice pond to podium, winning medals across the region.

“She just kept going from level to level to level and before you knew it we were working with a private coach and going to competitions all over New England.”

Now Cassandra has hit a whole new level, becoming one of just 18 girls to make the cut for Team Excel, a synchronized skating group sponsored by The Skating Club of Boston. Spring training for the team begins May 2. As part of the senior team, which takes girls as young as 16, Cassandra would qualify for a fully funded scholarship that covers coaching fees, costumes and travel expenses. Instead, as a member of the open juvenile team, the Albano’s will have to shoulder Cassandra’s share of expenses, which could run to thousands of dollars for the 2014-2015 season.

Still, for 15-year-old Cassandra, getting the call that she made the team was almost like receiving an acceptance notice from the college of her choice.

“In some ways, it’s even more nerve-wracking than that because you have to try out in front of judges instead of just sending a letter,” said Cassandra last week. “I’m just so excited. I can’t believe it. I don’t even know how to express it in words.”

For Cassandra, who attends Merriconeag Waldorf High School in New Gloucester, and had done very little synchronized skating prior to her hour-long tryout session earlier this month, the best part of making Team Excel is that she now becomes more than just a student at the Skating Club.

“At first I was just going there and skating there, but now it’s like I’m part of it,” she said. “It’s a real family and it’s so rewarding to be a part of something with so much history. It feels good.”

In addition to touring and competing, a s part of Team Excel, Cassandra will perform in next year’s Ice Chips show, the signature event of the Skating Club of Boston and the world’s oldest ice carnival, now entering its 103rd year.

Cassandra generally practices on the ice for two hours each day, five days per week, dedicating an additional hour per day to off-ice work that includes stretching, conditioning, cross training and yoga, all designed to prevent injury. She works with different coaches for ice dancing, to time her movements to music, for movement, to perfect the different onice maneuvers known as “edges,” and in freestyle, to perfect her jumps and spins. For the past five years, she has studied at the Skating Club of Boston with coaches Ron Kravette, a World Professional Bronze medalist and an alternate member of the 1994 U.S. Olympic Team, and Tom Lescinski, a former U.S. Figure Skating Association coach-of-theyear.

Closer to home, Cassandra hits a variety of rinks, finding ice time as she can at arenas in Falmouth, Biddeford and Brunswick, among other places.

“It’s all part of my daily routine and it just works out,” said Cassandra of her hectic schedule that leaves little time for the sorts of activities enjoyed by most 15-year-olds.

“I don’t just want to go to the mall,” she said. “I like that too, but I really want to do something that I love to do. I never want to come off the ice when I’m done. I like doing the edges and the curving, and having the air flowing by me. It’s kind of like flying, except with a blade on ice.”

Still, skating can be a lonely sport, and Cassandra, a solo skater to this point in her career, relishes the chance to be a part of the team, having had little time for team sports in school.

“I’ve been skating or so long, I really wanted to be on a team where everyone else enjoys the same thing I like, to be able to go to competitions with people and just experience something new,” she said.

“It’s hard to believe that I’ve been doing it for so long, or that I’ve come so far,” said Cassandra, who’s biggest dream would be for synchronized skating to become an Olympic event while she is still a member of Team Excel, either on the senior team, or after having advanced to the collegiate division. With so many colleges sporting synchronize skating teams these days, a scholarship also is not out of the question.

Beyond that, the ultimate, said Cassandra, would be to become a coach herself one day, helping to inspire youngsters as enthusiastic as she was that first day in boys skates on a small pond in Falmouth.

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