By Gary Curreri
Lighthouse Point’s Arianna Varvoutis and Deerfield Beach’s Lucas Altieri recently returned home after competing in the South Atlantic Regional Figure Skating Championships at the Ashburn Ice House in Ashburn, VA.
Varvoutis, 13, a 7th grader at Pine Crest in Fort Lauderdale, has skated since she was 7. Her friend had a birthday party and Varvoutis was hooked. She was one of 30 members of the Panthers Figure Skating Club based at the Panthers IceDen in Coral Springs that competed in the event.
“I immediately fell in love with (figure skating),” she said. “It was so much fun. I kept going to practices and group classes and started competing.
“It is really fun now,” added Varvoutis, who finished 11th in the Juvenile Girls Group E Division at the competition with a 41.97 score. “I am competitive, so when I go to compete I get nervous, but once I get on the ice I think in my head, ‘put on a show and the judges will give you as many points as they can.’”
Skating is a special place for Varvoutis.
“It is a feeling of happiness,” she said. “You get away from school, your parents telling you to do your homework and other family members (a younger brother, two turtles and a cat). I am the one that has to take care of them (pets).”
“It is the greatest thing,” Varvoutis continued. “It is my calm zone where I can get away and be happy.”
This was her second trip to regionals. Her goal was to get above 43 and make it to the final round. This is her second straight trip to compete in the Juvenile Division.
“Last year, I wasn’t the best,” but this year I have accomplished so much more,” she said. “My double Lutz, my double flip, and my double-double. I think I am going to do great.”
Altieri and fellow Panthers Figure Skating Club member Sophia Chouinard recently returned from the 2016 Novice and Junior Challenge Skate, which took place in Salt Lake City, Utah. The invitation-only competition was based on the International scoring system.
“It was huge for them to get the exposure and go,” said Nancy Mariani, the Director of Skating Development at the IceDen. Altieri skated to a fourth place finish with a 39.87 short program and 77.06 long that resulted in a 117.69 total. Chouinard was 11th overall with a 33.13 short; 63.46 long, and 96.59 total.
Altieri, 15, a freshman at North Broward Prep, is in his fifth year skating. He said the trip to Utah wasn’t really different from most competitions.
“The altitude made it harder to skate,” he said. “I got to experience that. I did okay at that competition by finishing fourth with my new program.”
It was a good year for Altieri last year and he is hoping for bigger and better things this year.
“It was pretty good, but what I get nervous about is that I won’t improve as much as last year,” he said. “Last year, I got like two or three new jumps and this year I have one or two, but I am trying a triple-triple, which is a really hard combination.
After a previous best finish of fifth at regionals, Altieri won a Pewter medal at the nationals in the Intermediate Division. This year he is competing in the Novice Division. Not only has he grown on the ice, he also experienced a growth spurt adding five inches to his now, 5-foot, 8-inch frame.
Not much has changed for him as his goal is to return to nationals this year. He placed second at the regional event in the Novice Men with a 94.03 score.
“I want to try and do the same as last year and win a medal at nationals,” Altieri said. “I would rather do well at nationals than at a smaller competition. The difference this year is there are new competitors and the judging is a little bit different in Novice. I have to focus more on my edges and my footwork. I want to compete in the Olympics, but that is far away.
“Lucas is one of those skaters that just appears to be even,” Mariani said. “Some kids might be doing things that might be harder, but when you put all of his stuff together, it equals magic and that is why he does so well.”