Figure-skating teens to display their winning skills in Columbia


Howard At Play


A BAKER'S DOZEN of Howard County teen-age girls will show in Columbia today why they have attained something of an international name in a form of competitive figure skating that began in Europe in 1988.

It's called ensemble skating, which means skating creatively to music in groups of six to 30, applying all the jumps, spins, turns and glides figure-skating fans love.

The girls came into the event via the Chesapeake Skating School, and they - with four younger teams from the same school - will skate their stuff for free at 1 p.m. today at Columbia Ice Rink as part of the Columbia Festival of the Arts.

The girls also have a competition, not free, coming up at 6 p.m. Saturday at The Gardens Ice House, on Old Gun Powder Road in Laurel against teams from Russia and France.

The 13 countians compose the majority of a 16-member team (other girls are from Towson, Laurel and Baltimore) that beat 11 teams from Switzerland, Russia and host France in two competitions in April.

They're coached by Denise Cahill, an Olympics-level coach and former competitor from Towson who hopes ensemble skating will become an Olympic event.

Cahill's Chesapeake Skating School teaches figure skating to about 1,000 kids at the Columbia rink under contract with the Columbia Association.

Maryland, Cahill points out proudly, has nine ensemble teams now, putting the state "ahead of everybody," including California, in this type of skating.

Howard County "Diamond" team members are: Allison Barber, 16; Sarah Franks, 15; Samantha Huntt, Stephanie Jarrett, 16; Amy Jordan, 16; Julie Tsai, 16; Ashley Virtue, 13; and Stephanie Wittbecker, 17, all of Ellicott City; Clarksville's Melissa Anderson, 15, and Colleen Menke, 15; Columbia's Amanda Buckler, 15; Marriottsville's Rachel Stern, 16; and Highland's Rebecca Jennings, 14.

Golf, Magoo's way

You gotta really love the sport to do this, but 36 players, enough for nine foursomes, turned out for Willow Springs Golf Course's first Magoo event - nighttime golf - of the summer. (Magoo, as in the cartoon character who doesn't see so well. Get it?)

If adding darkness to the other challenges inherent in golf appeals, you have three more cracks at this unique recreation experience, starting variously between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. July 14, Aug. 11 and Sept. 8.

The cost is $40 a person, which buys nine holes of golf, pizza and liquid refreshments afterward, a Magoo cap and flashlight, a glo-necklace, a pull cart, plus six glo-balls and activators per foursome.

"We had a blast - a great time," said lifetime Elkridge resident Dave Thornton, a first-time Magoo golfer.

"It's a gas," said Ellicott City's Tom Duffy, a second-time Magoo player and golfer for about 15 years. "It's neat seeing the ball streak off into the night, but one of the things you learn is that balls don't travel as far. You really have to whack your putts."

Willow Springs pro Jeff Sprague and assistants will team you with a group if you don't have enough brave friends to try this.

By summer's end, Sprague says, the course usually has enough participants to form 20 to 24 teams.

You play nine holes from a shotgun start, using a captain's choice format, meaning the group's best ball decides where its next stroke begins.

Tees, 150-yard markers, and flagsticks are marked with glow sticks. No lanterns, miners' hats or the like allowed.

Figure on about three hours to finish; it gets really dark out there in West Friendship. Information: 410-442-7700.

And then ...

Sans sand: Beach volleyball sounded like a good idea, so the county rec department tried to set up a league for this summer. Won't happen. Only one team signed up.

Take a walk: Here's an easy way to work in some warm-weather exercise: Try a volksmarch, or "people's walk." You walk - at your own pace around a clearly marked course. The Columbia Volksmarch Club can break you into this form of recreation Saturday with a couple of trails - 3.1 and 6.2 miles - around Owen Brown village, starting at Owen Brown Community Center, 6800 Cradlerock Way.

Wear comfortable shoes, show up between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and finish by noon.

CVC had one of these Summer Saturday Walks in Oella, and another will be conducted July 22 in Kings Contrivance. Information: 410-313-8499.

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