Figure skating pair Alec Schmitt and Ashley Haywood won’t be celebrating New Year’s Eve with the rest of the world.
Schmitt and Haywood needed to be well-rested and focused as they prepare to compete in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Monday and Tuesday in San Jose, Calif.
“All of our friends back home are making plans, and we’re working,” Schmitt said by phone Sunday afternoon.
Schmitt, 21, of Port Orchard, competes for the Bremerton Figure Skating Club out of the Bremerton Ice Arena and Haywood, 18 of Gig Harbor, competes for Lakewood Winter Club. The pair is at nationals for the second year in a row after they placed second at the Pacific Coast Sectionals in November.
Last year the pair went as alternates.
Not this time.
Schmitt and Haywood put together a strong performance at sectionals which nearly put them on the top podium. The top four teams qualified for nationals.
It didn’t come with some bumps in the road.
“The strange thing is we had personal best scores, but we messed up a lot,” Schmitt said.
Haywood added it was the strength of their program that saved them.
“They were kind of fluke mistakes,” she said.
Haywood said not only will their experience come in handy, but their partnership has grown since teaming up two years ago.
“We know each other better and how we compete and that’s helped a lot,” she said.
Schmitt, who works part-time at Seabeck Pizza in Port Orchard and is also a figure skating coach, said a pairs partnership can be a bit like an arranged marriage.
“You start off learning each other’s habits and where the line is,” he said. “Over time those lines sync up.”
Haywood, a senior at Gig Harbor and Running Start student at Tacoma College, said the amount of traveling they’ve done to practice in Bremerton and Seattle has helped.
“It made us learn more about each other and become friends,” she said.
The pair is grateful to have coaches Brenda Peterson, Bremerton FSC, and Steve Baker, Seattle Skating Club, with them this week in San Jose. Outi Francis, Bremerton FSC, is the choreographer.
Schmitt said all five collaborate on music and moves for their routines making it feel like a team effort.
“I think we’re really excited that both coaches could come,” Haywood said. “It’s nice to have both coaches there and have support from both.”
Haywood and Schmitt will skate their short program Monday at 6:45 in the Novice Pairs division. Their free skate will be Tuesday at 5:45 p.m.
They plan on staying the week to watch the senior level competitors as the championships also serve as the selection process for Team USA and the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea. Schmitt said they’ve already seen past world and Olympic medalists and it’s inspiring to see the skating community coming together.
They’re both expecting the competition to be stiff as only one team from the U.S. will qualify for the Olympics.
Schmitt and Haywood aren’t concentrating on where they will finish in their division. Haywood said she wants to skate a clean program and set another personal best.
“My goal is always to be happy with how I do,” he said.