RALEIGH — Next year, 13-year-old Maddie Tharrington has a date to skate with some of her idols.
Maddie of Raleigh is one of 18 young figure skaters in the Triangle selected to be ice sweepers for the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Greensboro in January.
Ice sweepers are volunteers between the ages of 8 and 13 who clear the ice of roses, stuffed animals and other mementos tossed onto the ice in recognition of competitors performances.
But Maddie sees it as an opportunity to cross paths with figure skaters she has watched on television compete in the Olympics and national championships.
Its really cool to be on the ice with them and, like, skating around, and they will skate right by us as we are picking up stuffed animals, said Maddie, a rising eighth-grader at St. Davids School in Raleigh.
More than 120 skaters from across the Carolinas auditioned in May to be ice sweepers.
Forty-two were selected, which includes skaters from three Triangle skating clubs.
Those clubs are Skating Club of North Carolina in Raleigh, Triangle Figure Skating Club in Wake Forest and Central Carolina Skating Club in Hillsborough.
The tryout included picking up stuffed animals off the ice and executing a series of skating moves, along with guiding some of the younger skaters around before five judges in town for another competition.
Maurie Moore, 13, of Raleigh was a sweeper in 2011.
It was so amazing, said Maurie, a rising eighth-grader at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh. I was so motivated. I just saw how good they were, and all I wanted to do was be like them.
Such motivation seems to be a key aspect in the figure skating sport, which requires hours of practice weekly, being able to get up after falling down on cold, hard ice and overcoming injuries and nerves.
Maddie skates for about two hours almost every day, in addition to taking ballet and conditioning classes.
Maddie was 4 when she first put on skates and stepped onto the ice.
She didnt want to get off.
The guy driving the Zamboni, the ice-resurfacing vehicle, had to intervene and shoo her off.
As Maddie got older, she started skating more and joined the Skating Club of North Carolina, which is based at the Raleigh IcePlex.
In January 2012, Maddie broke her ankle in three places during an axel, a figure skating jump with one-and-a-half rotations.
For the next year, her skating was restricted to simple moves and limited time on the ice.
It was frustrating and hard, she said.
But when she went back to the doctor in December 2013, the x-ray indicated that the bone was growing properly and she started preparing for spring and summer competitions.
It was basically like a miracle, she said, because there were concerns that the bones wouldnt realign.
Mauries injures have included a skate blade going into her right leg below her shin after a collision with another skater and a broken wrist after her heel slipped out from under her during a traveling turn.
Still, she said, she loves it.
I love the thrill of it, said Maurie, also a member of the Skating Club of North Carolina.
Madison Miner, 13, of Chapel Hill has been skating for nearly five years.
I really enjoy learning new things and accomplishing cool new tricks, said Madison, a rising eighth-grader at Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill.
Madison is a member of the Central Carolina Skating Club in Hillsborough. About a month ago, she started landing an axel after working on it for a year-and-a-half.
Now she is working on a jump in which she spins two times in the air.
I am pretty close, she said.
Know a young person who makes you proud? Tell us about it via our online form at newsobserver.com/thumbsup, by emailing email@example.com or by calling 919-829-4828.