Berry earns top honor in U.S. Figure SkatingOceanside graduate now attends Williams College in Massachusetts
Rockport — For years, Bethany Berry has been one of the most accomplished young figure skaters in the Midcoast and state, and she has gained recognition on the ice at the New England and regional levels as well.
Now the 18-year-old has taken the next step in continuing to hone her craft and has earned one of the nation's top honors in her field.
Berry received a gold medal for passing the Senior Moves In the field test, which is in conjunction with United States Figure Skating. It is the most prestigious honor the USFS awards.
Berry took the test at the Bank of Maine Ice Vault in Hallowell Aug. 12. The event tests many figure skating disciplines.
According to the United States Figure Skating Association website, "The test structure is the backbone of U.S. Figure Skating. Passing skill tests presided over by official judges advances the skater to the next level. Skaters test in moves in the field, free skating, pairs and ice dancing. As a skater advances, the tests become more difficult. The highest achievement in each discipline is passing the senior, also called 'gold,' test. When a skater passes a gold test, he or she earns the designation 'U.S. Figure Skating gold medalist.'
Berry, who graduated from Oceanside High School in June and attends Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., described earning the gold medal as "an amazing feeling."
"I think I've been doing this since I was eight years old," she said. "I don't know. It's something that I've worked up to for a long time. It's such a big accomplishment."
Also according to the skating website, "Becoming a USFS (United States Figure Skating) gold medalist is a culmination of many years of hard work. Approximately 40,000 USFS tests are completed each year and only 1,300, or three percent of those tests, are at the gold or senior level."
When athletes pass the senior test, he or she receives a congratulatory letter from the president of U.S. Figure Skating, a gold certificate and a gold lapel pin, and is eligible to purchase the gold test medal and the U.S. Figure Skating Gold Medalist jacket.
There are eight proficiency tests for figure skating, with the skater having to pass a test to graduate onto the next level. Those levels are: Pre-preliminary, preliminary, pre-juvenile, juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior, which earns the skater a "gold medal."
There are three judges for each participant.
According to Nancy Graham, who has worked with Berry for years and has done skating clinics at MRC since 2004, it takes roughly six to eight years for a skater to earn such a distinction.
"It's an award that's given to athletes under the auspices of the United States Figure Skating Association," said Graham. "It's just a tremendous accomplishment and it's something that she'll have all of her life and it's something that's very prestigious in the skating world."
Additionally, Graham said, a typical skater that meets senior level status typically train four to five days per week for two to three hours a day.
Berry averages roughly two to three days a week of practice, while she also took a year off from practicing during her sophomore year, when she went to The Maine School of Science and Mathematics (MSSM) in Limestone.
"She absolutely is the best I've ever worked with," Graham said. "She's dedicated, she's focused, she has a tremendous amount of drive and she's a wonderful young lady."
Graham's praise adds more meaning to Berry's accomplishments as Graham was inducted into the United States Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1993, won the bronze medal in the 1960 Olympics and was a four-team United States senior pairs champion.
"I just worked my way up through their basic skills program," said Berry of her figure skating career. "Once I got through the test sequence and started freestyle spins and jumps, that's when I found [coach] Nancy and we've been together ever since."
The Senior Moves In the field test has five components: Sustained edge step, extension spiral step, backward outside power double 3-turns to power double inside rockers, backward inside double 3-turns to power double outside rockers and serpentine step sequence.
Berry, also one of the state's finest track sprinters and a topnotch soccer goal scorer, said skaters are judged on power, edge quality, speed, flexibility, quickness of turn, the cleanliness of your edges and overall performance.
"Those tests are the hardest because the entire rink is completely silent when you take them," she said. "So that the judges can not only see what your blade is doing, they can hear it. Which is very scary."
The average duration of the test is 14 minutes, while the passing average is 3.5.
Berry also has accumulated enough hours in the rink — while also passing the necessary testing — to become a certified teacher for figure skating.
"I'm going to see if there's any way I can coach," she said. "I've heard they have a club [team] at my college. So many shows await me. And if I can find a coach or do some independent work we'll see. I might enter some competitions. Who knows where I'll go?"
With her work ethic, it appears the sky may be the limit.
Courier Publications Associate Sports Director Mark Haskell can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by email at email@example.com.