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Ava Stephens skates towards national recognition

Updated: Dec 12, 2020

By Reagan Liu and Pavana Upadhyaya Dec. 9, 2020

Before and after school, Junior Ava Stephens perfects her ice skating routines at the Solar4America Rink in downtown San Jose. Formerly known as Sharks Ice, the rink serves as her three-hour training center for six days a week—at least before quarantine. Since the pandemic’s start in March, Stephens has spent less time at the rink in adherence with the county’s social distancing guidelines.

Since starting the sport at age six, Stephens has pursued her passion for ice skating for more than ten years.

Quynh Nguyen Photo Two years after putting on her first

pair of skates, she began entering competitions. From then on, Stephens qualified for sectional tournaments and in 2017, entered the national circuit. However, garnering national recognition has required lots of time and persistence on her behalf.

“From the start, I had to be very motivated and disciplined. I would wake up, go to the rink, attend school and return to the rink afterwards. I did not have a lot of spare time and had to be highly focused with my priorities,” Stephens said.

As a top-ranked national competitor, Stephens’ competitive schedule requires her to balance athletic commitments with schoolwork. With eight to nine contests per season, Stephens often needs to miss school so she can travel. To do so, she obtained special permission from U.S. Figure Skating—the sport’s highest governing body nationwide—as explanation to her teachers for absences. Additionally, Stephens maximizes the little time she has by completing homework during plane trips.

Slide 2: Junior Ava Stephens during her winning performance.

Courtesy of Ava Stephens

Although COVID-19 negatively impacted her training schedule, online school has made learning more convenient for Stephens. Now, she spends less time commuting to competitions, providing her with more time to attend classes and study for tests. However, the pandemic has also disrupted typical operations behind many competitions.

While the pandemic has complicated many things for Stephens, such as competitions and training schedules, she is clear on one thing: her love for the sport and determination to succeed.

For one of her scheduled contests this season, organizers reformatted the previously in-person layout to a virtual layout. Every skater in attendance will be required to submit a video of their program performance, which will then be scored by judges individually. Even though Stephens is excited to compete for her first time in 2020, she also expresses concerns about the competition.

“I wonder how the tournament officials will make sure that competition is fair for all skaters. To create unfair advantages for themselves, competitors could use camera tricks, such as using shots from different angles and advanced editing software, so not all performances will be the same” Stephens said.

Although there are few scholarships available at the collegiate level, Stephens has already applied for one of them. She plans to continue her ice skating career for as long as possible beyond high school—perhaps even going professional—but realizes she needs to prepare for a normal occupation as well after it ends.

“I definitely want to do something other than skating, but will likely keep the sport as a part of my life, maybe performing the occasional show or exhibition,” Stephens said.

While the pandemic has complicated many things for Stephens, such as competitions and training schedules, she is clear on one thing: her love for the sport and determination to succeed.


About the Contributors

Reagan Liu

Staff Writer

Reagan Liu is a sophomore at Leland High school and a staff writer at the Leland Charger Account. He loves music and listens to many different genres of music in his free time. He never skips a meal and consumes all the nutrients needed to stay healthy.

Pavana Upadhyaya

Staff Writer

Pavana Upadhyaya is a sophomore at Leland High School and is a staff writer. She likes to read nonfiction in her free time.

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