Three generations of national champions
Caitlin Richardson completes the 'trifecta'
The Richardson and McKinnon family of Clackamas had plenty of success at the 2011 USA Roller Sports National Artistic Roller Skating Championships, held in late summer in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Eleven-year-old Caitlin Richardson teamed up with 12-year-old Charlie Hamblin of Portland to earn a national title in Elementary A Team Dance.
Caitlin's sister Courtney Richardson, their mother Tiffany McKinnon and grandmother Susan Richardson were a part of a senior precision team, Northern Dynamics, that earned national runner-up honors.
Caitlin's national title completed a 'trifecta' of sorts for the Richardson family. Susan Richardson won a national freestyle title in Elementary Pairs with Terry Wallen at age 9 in 1953; Tiffany McKinnon [then a Richardson] won a national title in Elementary Pairs with Ric Kolibaba in 1978, when she was 11 years of age.
That's three generations of national titlists in artistic roller skating.
'I think it's great!' Tiffany said. 'I was very excited [when Caitlin and Charlie won].'
'Since I've been skating my entire life, it's a pretty big deal,' Susan said.
Susan explained her reaction when Caitlin and Charlie accomplished the feat at this year's national championships:
'It was a surprise! I was just hoping they would place, because they moved up from Juvenile to Elementary this year, which is a lot more difficult.
'I would have been happy with top three. When they announced they won it, I thought, 'Oh, my gosh!''
Susan Richardson said that she's been told that her family is among only two or three families from around the country that have had three generations of roller skaters win national championships.
'There've been a number of families that have had three generations place,' Susan said. 'But I've asked around, and the best that I can determine, there're only been a couple of families in the country that have had three generations of winners.'
Caitlin and Charlie have skated together for four years, but this is the first time they've won a national title together.
Four years ago they finished eighth in Juvenile B Team Dance, three years ago they were national runners-up in Juvenile A Team Dance, and last year they placed third in the Juvenile A division.
This summer they beat a team from Orange, Calif. [Niko Lazar and Courtney Edison] that had won national team dance titles the past two seasons.
Charlie explained why he and Caitlin were finally able to win gold:
'We've skated together so long, we know each other and what the other person is going to do.'
'It's exhilarating,' said Caitlin. 'We have a full set now.'
'First, second and third,' said Charlie. 'It's so cool.'
Caitlin said the fact that she is the third general Richardson to win a national title makes this year's championship 'extra special.'
'It means that now Courtney's kids or my kids have to win to keep the tradition going,' she said.
It's not the first national championship for Charlie. He won his first title in figures when he was eight years of age and he's won a figures title every year since.
Charlie had a tremendous year at this year's nationals, winning gold medals in five events - Elementary A Team Dance, Elementary A Solo Dance, Elementary A Compulsory Figures, Elementary A Compulsory Loops, and in Elementary A Combined Loops and Figures.
'I'm just astonished! Amazed!' Charlie said. 'I didn't think I'd do this well. Five gold medals in one national. It's kind of mind boggling.'
Caitlin and Charlie's success in team dance is no accident. They practice at least two days a week ten months out of the year.
Caitlin and Charlie have an excellent chance to repeat in team dance again next year, since their division includes skaters through age 13.
Charlie said, 'I think our chances of repeating are very, very great. We've already made plans to skate together next year.'
Charlie added, 'There's a world competition, and I would really enjoy making it too that. Last year they went to Portugal. I'm planning on going when I'm 15.
'I could go next year, because ages 12 through 18 are all in one division. But I'm not good enough now. I have to work harder and learn to do some harder stuff.'
Caitlin said of her goals, 'I just want to keep on advancing. And once we're old enough, I hope [Charlie and I] can go to Worlds together.'
'I think he's one of the best chances from our country of going to a world meet and placing,' said Oaks head professional George Kolibaba. 'He's that good….'
Kolibaba said of Caitlin's chances of making the trip to world competition with Charlie: 'Obviously, right now they're a team. And if they stay together in team dance, she'd go with him.'
Kolibaba elaborated on the rarity of a local artistic roller skater qualifying for world championship competition: '[Oaks Park Skating Club] has never had anybody - individual skaters or dance team - go to Worlds. This should be our first opportunity.'
Caitlin attends the sixth grade at Rock Creek Middle School, while Charlie is a seventh grader at Peninsula. They are both members of the Oaks Skating Club.
The national runner-up finish by this year's Northern Dynamics senior precision team was no small accomplishment.
'They've gone to nationals before, but this is the first time they've done better than third,' Sue Richardson said.
The team of Northwest skaters placed at nationals five years in a row from 2003 to 2007, and they were third last year.
They've qualified for the Federation of International Roller Sports World Championships six times, and come November they'll compete in their fourth world championship. Past teams have competed at world championships in Rome, Buenos Aires and in California.
This year they'll make the trip to Brasilia, Brazil on Nov. 16, where they are entered in the 2011 World Championships.
'I'm pretty sure we are the only U.S. team going,' Sue Richardson said. 'Not many teams go, because of the expense, and the difficulty of keeping a team together for a year. It's pretty exciting!'
'This year we will be the only team representing the United States, as the expense is so high that some cannot go,' said Northern Dynamics coach Marlene Bruland.
'I'm a little nervous,' Tiffany McKinnon said. 'The floor at Worlds is a lot smaller than the floor at nationals….
'And we've added new members to the team last minute, and they've all got to learn the routine. They're all strong skaters, so that shouldn't be an issue….
'Of course there is the concern that when you start adding people, you worry about people on the ends hitting the wall.'
'I'm really excited!' Courtney said. 'It's not one of those countries you think of going to on vacation, unless you're going to Rio. But it will be kind of nice to see a new country with my family. And we are going to Rio as well.'
Courtney, who is a senior at Clackamas High School, noted that part of their trip coincides with Thanksgiving week, which the North Clackamas School District has declared a furlough week for district employees.
Susan, Tiffany and Courtney are a part of a 19-member team that will be making the trip. The skaters come from seven skating clubs: the Oaks; four skating clubs located in Washington - Marysville, Lynnwood, Burlington and Centralia; and two California clubs - Citrus Heights and Fountain Valley.
'This team is unique, having three states, seven clubs represented, and also having three generations on the team,' said Bruland.
Sixteen skaters will compete for Northern Dynamics at the World Championships, with three additional skaters making the trip as alternates.
Twelve skaters competed for Northern Dynamics at last year's national championships, when they qualified for this year's world championships.
'They added skaters [this year] because it looks better with 16,' Susan said. 'You can have up to 24.'
Susan, Tiffany and Courtney have attended weekend practices in Centralia since last fall, learning a routine that is much more challenging than the 2010 routine that qualified them for the 2011 World Championships.
'This routine is much faster,' Tiffany said. 'Some of the footwork is a lot faster.'
Practices for the five-minute routine have been made even more challenging because the skaters have had very few practices together as a complete team.
'We practiced in sections, a northern group and a southern group,' Tiffany said. 'And because of work, church, vacations or for other reasons, we are always missing people.'
'I feel very proud to be able to have a team that can participate at the world level,' said Bruland. 'Being able to represent the United States is an honor. Every team member is dedicated and we work as a real team. We all sacrifice a lot for the love of our sport….
'I am proud that we can represent our country and our clubs at this world event.'
Bruland said that her Northern Dynamics team is a longshot to place at the world championships.
'Argentina, Germany and Italy are always the top ones, as their countries subsidize them and ours does not,' she said. 'Their teams practice on a very rigid schedule, so it is hard to compete with them. It is almost their job….
'We are always happy just to participate at a world competition, as it is an honor and accomplishment no matter what the outcome.'
The trip will not be inexpensive. Plane tickets are $1,500 apiece, lodging is $800 for each occupant room, and it's costing around $200 apiece for visas.
Bruland says that donations from businesses or individuals would be welcomed to offset the expenses.
'Our team has a non-profit booster club,' Bruland said. 'Donations are tax exempt. The trip to Brazil will be very expensive and donations are always appreciated. If someone or some business wants to donate to the team, they can email me and I will get them in contact with the president of the booster club.'