When she places a silver-bladed skate on the mirrored surface of the ice beneath her, she feels her nerves settle. It hasn’t registered yet that she’s about to compete, but she can hear the screams of the audience fading away and before she knows it, the music has started. Surrounded by the other 15 girls on her U.S. Figure Skating Association junior synchronized skating team, the Skokie Valley Starlights, she glides away into the routine.
For junior Rachel Gorsage, skating isn’t just a hobby. It’s a lifestyle. Over the past 15 years she’s been skating, Gorsage has suffered two broken arms, strained muscles, multiple concussions, and knee and hip injuries, but she knows why she continues to lace up her skates.
“I love it. I crave going out on the ice.”
So skate she does, every weekend and most days before and after school. With coaches Heather Page and Chris Heiser, as well as a choreographer, Gorsage and her team spend hours perfecting routines and completing off-ice training. It’s a challenge for her to find enough time to sleep, but heading off to practice at 4:30 a.m. is a chance at even more practice time.
If their practice pays off and Gorsage’s team places high enough in their Midwestern sectional this January, they will have a chance to compete at nationals for the third time together. In the previous two years, they’ve placed as high as sixth in the nation. As one of few skaters at HHS, Gorsage believes getting to represent her school and her age group at nationals has been one of her greatest honors.
When a competition is over and the music has long ceased, Gorsage can always tell if it was a good skate. There’s a warm feeling she gets, and after 15 years of skating, she remembers why she’s here.