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MSHA Learn to Skate program a success

Instructor Laura Gast guides 7-year-old Kasey Kimbrel, of Woonsocket, during a session of the Learn to Skate program Saturday at the Mitchell Activities Center. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

Fifty-six kids and one adult graced the ice at the Mitchell Activities Center for the first sessions of the Mitchell Skating and Hockey Association’s Learn to Skate Program.

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The program is for skaters ages 3 through adult. The classes lasted one hour, with a 30-minute lesson and 30-minute figure skating practice session.

The lessons were led by instructors Sarah Hanson and Laura Gast.

“I think things went really well today,” Hanson said. “When Jessica (Steidl) first proposed this to me I was a little skeptical about getting enough kids to fill up five hours of ice but we had way more kids than we expected. The kids really seemed to have fun and no one got hurt so I would call it a success.”

Hanson a 23-year old Augustana graduate has been coaching for eight years and currently coaches at the Sioux Falls Figure Skating Club.

Amongst the skaters, taught how to skate Saturday was 7-year-old Autumn Lentz, who took part in the instructional skating class for the first time.

The Gertie Belle Rogers second-grader participated in Rink Rats — a program that teaches kids 4 and up how to skate. But Lentz’s mom Heather said her daughter likes the ice and wanted to try something new after her experience last year.

“She said she didn’t like all the hockey gear last year when she did Rink Rats,” Heather Lentz said. “She said she wanted to figure skate and when

we heard about the program, we thought this was the perfect opportunity. I am very happy that they are starting to do figure skating lessons along with the hockey. If this can work with the second sheet of ice that will be fantastic.”

One of the driving forces behind getting the figure skating program implemented in Mitchell was Jessica Steidl. The Mitchell resident moved in 2011 from North Dakota and spent two years driving to Sioux Falls for her daughter Erikka to take skating lessons.

Steidl attended the MSHA board meeting in April to discuss the option of having a figure skating program at the Mitchell Activities Center. Steidl said it was an ongoing process to get everything done from April till October, but Saturday, Steidl’s dreams of starting a figure skating program were

realized as agroups of kids glided across the ice on the main rink at the MAC.

“Today went great,” Steidl said. “The most important thing is that all the kids have fun and I think they did. It was really exciting. I couldn’t sleep the night before Saturday just waiting for the day to come. We have been planning it for a long time and it is fun to have the first day under our belts. “

Steidl said she put in nearly 30 hours of scheduling to ensure that there was enough help for the parents and skaters. But seeing the kids on the ice Saturday was worth it for Steidl.

The Learn to Skate program offers seven sessions at the Mitchell Activities Center. The ice is reserved for five hours and up to 10 classes will be held on depending on the number of people participating. In addition to lessons skaters receive 10 hours of practice time from Nov. 16 through Dec. 31.

Steidl said she would like more people to register and signup, including adults. There is a $12 fee through the United States Figure Skating Association to participate. For the MSHA season fee, skaters can choose to sell three $10 raffle tickets or pay $25.