Boston Bound: Lincoln Center skaters headed to Excel National Championships

Lincoln Center Skate Club’s Giuliana Mackos, from left, Claudia Gordon, Michaela Aker and Zoey Pan pose for a photo at the Hamilton Community Center and Ice Arena in Columbus, Ind., Monday, July 9, 2024. All four have qualified to compete in the US Figure Skating Excel National Championships.

Mike Wolanin | The Republic

With the US Figure Skating Excel National Championships rapidly approaching, the eight participants from Lincoln Center Skate Club had a chance to practice their routines on Monday afternoon.

Four LCSC members qualified for the national championships, which take place Thursday and Friday in Boston. Four others will participate in the open portion of the event.

“It makes me feel really confident in myself because it lets you know that I’m ready, and I can do everything in my program,” Claudia Gordon said following Monday’s dress rehearsal at Hamilton Community Center and Ice Arena.

“It was really helpful because there was no pressure to do anything,” Michaela Aker added. “There weren’t any judges here, and we haven’t competed in awhile, so we could get back into it before nationals.”

Aker, who will be a sophomore at Columbus North, is the lone local qualifier to have competed at nationals before. She finished third in the Intermediate Excel Division last year in Austin, Texas.

“There were a lot more people there,” Aker said. “It’s bigger than a normal competition, and you have to train a lot harder for it because people are coming from all over.”

This year, Aker is ranked 19th out of 194 overall and third in Midwest Region in Intermediate Plus Excel.

Gordon, who will be a seventh-grader at Northside Middle School, is ranked 13th out of 106 overall and sixth in Midwest Region for Intermediate Excel.

“I was really shocked because I didn’t think I was going to qualify,” Gordon said. “I’m really excited because I get to go with one of my friends from another club (from Oxford, Ohio) who is competing at the same level as me. I’m really excited to go and just be with everyone.”

Giuliana Mackos, who will be a fifth-grader at St. Peter’s Lutheran, is ranked 16th out of 96 overall and seventh in Midwest Region for Pre-Juvenile Plus Excel.

“I was really surprised because I was going in and out of qualifying and non-qualifying,” Mackos said.

The other qualifier is Zoey Pan, who will be a freshman at North. Pan is ranked 29th out of 210 overall and 12th in Midwest Region for Pre-Juvenile Plus Excel.

“I was surprised, too, because I didn’t think I was going to make it at the beginning,” Pan said. “I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to it a lot. I just want to have fun and enjoy.”

Both Mackos and Pan are feeling better about their preparation for nationals following Monday’s pre-nationals dress rehearsal.

“I’m feeling a lot more confident about it,” Mackos said.

“It”s really nice because you get the feel of just you on the ice and what it looks like in the competition,” Pan said.

Gordon is coached by Emma Baxter, Mackos is coached by Lily Thompson and Aker and Pan are coached by Heather Lehnert. Baxter and Thompson will be making the trip to Boston.

“They’ve definitely put in the time and effort to be able to qualify for this competition,” Thompson said. “It’s a great experience for them.”

“They’re solid,” Baxter added. “They come in every single morning, and they skate before school and they skate after school. During the summer, you have a certain amount of punch cards you can use, and they use everything that they can. They’re not only on the ice, but off-ice training. They have put in a lot of work and effort into making this dream and goal come true.”

Three of the four qualifiers will have sisters skating in the open competition. Madelyn Aker, Claira Gordon and Genevieve Mackos will be joined by Maria Marimoto Taqueshi.

Michaela Aker, Claudia Gordon, Guliana Mackos and Pan earned qualifying points through their performances in competitions earlier in the year.

“Besides the hours put into it and the dedication, they’re resilient, bold, brave, beautiful, creative minds,” Baxter said. “They’re smart, and they’re all good at what they do because they love it. I can definitely sense that when they’re out there skating. Not everything is smooth like butter, but the rough patches, they learn the most, and they still get back up and they do it again every time. That’s why they’re all going. They’re great.”