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Going for the Gold

Ashley Wagner gears up for national competition.

When Ashley Wagner was five years old, her mother gave her the choice of taking of ballet or ice skating. She chose ice skating. Eight years later, she is ranked as one of the top 12 novice figure skaters in the United States. Next month, she will compete at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Portland, Oregon.

“I’m very excited, this is my first national competition,” Wagner said. “I think I am nervous, but I’m too excited to think about it.”

“I’m excited for her,” said Otha Davis, principal at Walt Whitman Middle School, where Wagner is in eighth grade. “She is a very good student and a delightful young lady.”

Davis didn’t realize what a good skater Wagner was and when he first found out about the competition, he said, “I was surprised — we have royalty here.”

“Practice, practice, practice,” is how she got to where she is. She said that she gets up at 5 a.m. every morning to skate from 6-7 a.m. She’s then back on the ice from 3-5:30 every afternoon.

“My parents are very supportive. They have to be dedicated to get me to the rink at 5 a.m.,” Wagner said.

To go onto the next step, Wagner has to place as one of the first four skaters. If she does make it, she will be on Channel Four on Thursday, Jan. 13. Winning this competition will put her on the Olympic training program. She will miss the age cut-out for the 2006 Olympics by three months, but will continue training for the 2010 Olympics.

“I think I have a pretty good chance — I’ve been working on a high jump,” Wagner said.

So far, she’s been lucky and hasn’t sustained any injuries; she’s hoping that it will stay that way. She will travel to Oregon with her family and her trainer, Shirley Hughes. Wagner’s 11-year-old brother, Austin, has also taken up skating, and placed first in a regional competition recently.

Even with her schedule, Wagner maintains her grades, and said, “I sometimes question how I do it. I just go home and do all my homework — I don’t usually watch TV during the week.”

Wagner spent some of her early years in Alaska, and has moved around because of her father's military career.

“Virginia is my favorite so far,” she said.