STMHS Darren Nyland takes home Gold in National Competition

Four Gold and One Bronze!
Posted on 09/04/2017
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Ashley Morrell of Groton and Darren Nyland of Norwich collected some spiffy new jewelry over the summer, but don't expect them to wear it to school this fall. It's way too heavy.

Morrell, 14, and Nyland, 16, each won multiple gold medals in solo figure skating competition at the summer State Games of America in Grand Rapids, Mich., Aug. 3-6, representing the RoseGarden Ice Arena in Norwich.

School started for both last week, Morrell entering her freshman year at the Marine Science Magnet High School in Groton and Nyland entering 10th grade at the Science and Technology Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut in New London. But their skating schedules won't be curtailed much, as both are preparing for different big events this fall.

Nyland and Morrell followed different paths to their skating successes. Nyland originally is from Wisconsin, a hockey powerhouse state. He started skating at age 9, when he got a flier in school looking for players for a youth hockey team. But either the flier or he and his parents messed up the date for the first practice, and Nyland ended up at a figure skating class instead.

“Ten to 15 minutes into the first lesson, and I immediately loved it,” he said last week during a break in practice at the Norwich rink.

He started competing a year later in Wisconsin and soon joined a club, the Seven Rivers Toepicks. But as military families move frequently, Nyland's parents, Christopher and Allison Nyland, were transferred to Connecticut. They now live in Norwich, and Darren has found a new skating home with the clubs and coaches at the Norwich rink.

In Grand Rapids, Nyland won gold medals in categories of dramatic showcase, intermediate men's free skate and intermediate men's short program. He placed third in the light entertainment competition.

Friends in his former club in Wisconsin followed his success and invited him as their special guest to a program to be held during school vacation in December. In addition to performing at the event, he will share the spotlight with 2011 U.S figure skating champion, two-time collegiate champion and ice show veteran Ryan Bradley.

Before that show, Nyland will be training with his coaches, twin sisters Sara Cote and Rachel Bailey, 27, and Bailey's husband, Sebastien Geerens, 33, for the New England Regional Figure Skating Championship competition in Westboro, Mass., Oct. 18-22. Nyland has routines with a James Bond theme and a Star Trek theme for the New England Regionals.

 

The event is the first step in a series of competitions that could lead to Olympic dreams for Nyland for the 2022 Winter Games.

Morrell wouldn't be eligible for the Olympics until 2024 if she keeps up her competition goals. She took home gold medals in freestyle, and solo compulsory categories in Grand Rapids and a silver medal in footwork. She skated to the song “Be Our Guest” in the freestyle competition.

Morrell started skating at age 7. She simply said to her mom: “I want to go skating.” Her parents, Chris and Brandi Morrell, signed her up for a learn-to-skate class at the Connecticut College rink. After a few lessons, she was trying more advanced, complex moves and hasn't stopped experimenting and innovating her routines since then. Her freestyle practice Monday included an array of spins, squats, jumps and dance moves as she prepares for the Norwich rink's Oct. 28 figure skating show, “Dreams on Ice.” Morrell will perform as Simba, the lead character in “The Lion King.”

The Oct. 28 show will be held at 6 p.m. at the RoseGarden Ice Arena, 641 New London Turnpike, Norwich. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at the door. Call the rink at (860) 892-2555 for information.

Morrell and Nyland both will be at the Norwich rink regularly after school this fall to train for their upcoming events. Their three coaches, all past competitive skaters, divide the work fairly evenly, Cote said. Geerens concentrates on jump techniques, Bailey on spins and Cote on the “in between” skating, stroking, power and presentation.

“As a team, we work very well together,” Cote said. “We encourage them to make extra sessions with Sebastien, or whoever, whenever they can.”

c.bessette@theday.com

 

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