August 12, 2008

Rock Hill Woman Takes the Skating Gold at Nationals

By Kristin Malone / Special to The Herald

Melissa Hall had one hour until her national competition. She practiced on her skates for 15 minutes, and her coach told her to keep practicing. But she said she was ready.

Hall, a 16-year veteran in artistic roller skating, wasn't lying. She won the medal to prove it.

The 21-year-old Rock Hill woman, a York Technical College student in early childhood development, took first place in the open women's loop event last month during the U.S. National Championships in roller figure skating in Lincoln, Neb. The championships included competitions in more than 100 individual and team events for men and women.

Hall is considered a skating veteran. Now that she's about to finish college, she needs to decide if she wants to continue her skating career or become a teaching assistant in Rock Hill schools.

"It is a hard decision, because I didn't place in last year's national competition, and this year I placed, so I'm obviously improving," Hall said. "But at the same time, I'm supposed to be focusing on getting a job and going into the real world."

Her parents, Patrick and Marilyn Hall of Rock Hill, don't think she will be able to quit skating.

"Skating is in her blood," Patrick Hall said. "She has put so much time and effort into skating, and it has finally paid off."

Since her junior year in high school, Hall has been commuting to Greensboro, N.C., where she trains with Tina Yow in the Piedmont Artisitic Roller Skating Club.

"The loop event is a very prestigious and tough event," Yow said, referring to Hall's performance. "Melissa knew what she wanted and what she was there to do."

When she was about 6, Hall began taking skating lessons from Butch and Minnie Specker at the former Roller Magic rink in Rock Hill.

"I learned how to do my figures, how to solo dance, and I began learning how to do loops," she said.

The loop event consists of a skater making three large circular patterns on the outskirts of a skating rink. Skaters trace these patterns by skating forward or backward around the designs.

Loops are the smaller circles with what looks to be a teardrop in the middle of the design. Like the figures, skaters must trace the loop pattern, including the teardrop, either forward or backward.

Dances performed in the skating rink can be solo, team, creative or free dance. Skaters can choose between dances such as the waltz or the tango when performing.

After the dance partners have chosen their type of dance and song, they must make sure they include five lifts in their routine. A lift is classified as a woman's hips going no higher than her partner's shoulders, Hall said.

At 12, Hall began training with Nekoe Buckner of Gastonia, N.C.

"I met Nekoe at a skate camp, and I felt she could take me to the next level," Hall said. "I was traveling to Gastonia four to five times a week for practice."

She noticed that her figures, solo dances and loop techniques were improving. She also performed her first creative solo dance routine to the song "Honey Bun."

Hall has been skating in the sophomore women's figures for ages 15 and older. In 2007, Hall flew through the regional competitions and performed at the nationals in Lincoln.

In this year's nationals, Hall also performed in the figure skating event and placed 12th. In the loop event, which she won, she competed against 35 women.

Yow believes Hall won't be able to give up her skating now.

"I don't think she will quit skating because she does it from the heart, and that makes the difference," Yow said. "She is a coach's dream."

(c) 2008 Herald; Rock Hill, S.C.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.