When Lauren Eccarius stepped onto the ice at Broadmoor Arena in Colorado Springs Aug. 13, she admitted she was nervous.
All of the training, all of the work that the St. Thomas More junior figure skater had put into her sport for the last 10 years had to come down to a moment.
She was about to perform her routine in front of U.S. Figure Skating judges, looking to pass the 16th and final test that she needed to become a U.S. Figure Skating Double Gold Medalist. It's a distinction given out to only one percent of all U.S. Figure Skating members.
Once she got on the ice, however, the nerves faded away.
"I knew that while it wasn’t my last chance it was a perfect opportunity to get it done," Eccarius said. "As I went through the program I started hitting everything and felt more confident."
The judges saw that confidence. All three passed her into double gold medal status, she only needed two to accomplish that feat.
"As I was doing the program I was landing everything, and I knew I was fulfilling all the requirements," she said. "It’s always fun to see the judges comments, it’s always fun to get high marks on the test, it was exciting."
It's something that she has had her eyes on for five years. That was when Eccarius, who started to fall in love with figure skating at 7-years-old, made the decision to take figure skating from a fun hobby to a committed endeavor.
She began spending her summers in Colorado Springs, away from family and friends, to train with coach Janet Champion at the Broadmoor Arena.
The days of spending summers relaxing in Rapid City were over.
"It was really hard to give up time with friends, time with family," she said. "Sometimes I miss things, but it’s been worth it to compete."
Eccarius still goes down to Colorado Springs once a month to train, and said sometimes it is hard to stay caught up with school, but she added that STM has been supportive of her training.
The temptation was there for Eccarius to move to Colorado so she could train full time. She said if she did she would have to leave her father and brother behind, and didn't want to do that.
"It definitely was (tempting to move to Colorado) at first, with the excitement of going down there, seeing some great skaters, progressing with my coach," she said. "It was exciting going down there, but my dad and brother would have had to stay here and that would have split up the family. I wanted to try to work hard and do it by myself here."
The coaching she receives in Colorado makes her temptation to move understandable. In addition to Champion, she also has a coach who specializes in edges and skating skills (stopping, turns), another coach for jump technique, one for video analysis and one who choreographs her program.
Now that she has accomplished what so few have in U.S. Figure Skating, she said she is ready for some competitions and her coaches will try to try to perfect a few of the harder jumps in the sport (double axel and triple jumps).
The training has allowed her to complete the 16 tests she needed to earn the status she has, which she hopes will help her skate in college at the club level (she said most schools don't offer scholarships) or potentially become a coach one day.
It's also the kind of training that she wouldn't be able to find anywhere in South Dakota.
Eccarius is a member of the Black Hills Figure Skating Club, but the kind of technology and resources available to her in Colorado aren't an option in her hometown.
"I wish there were things closer to home, with the jumps I mentioned, especially at this level, we don’t really have the resources," she said.
She will go to Minnesota in October for the U.S. Figure Skating Upper Great Lakes Regional in Oct. She said she has been doing testing instead of competitions (although she recently started doing competitions again) because there are no competitions in South Dakota for a skater at her level.
The road hasn't been easy for Eccarius, but she said all of the time and work has been worth it.
"I like that skating has two components, athleticism and the artistic side so it's really fun to do both," she said of her love for the sport. "I also like the sense of accomplishment of passing a test or getting a new jump.
"I feel like skating will help me in other areas of life, I’ve gotten to know some really cool people. It’s made me a good person who is dedicated, persistent and really does their best. It’s been fun and worth while."