Four-year-old Sarah Devereaux had big dreams when she walked through the doors of the Harry J. McDonald Center.
As she laced up her skates for the first time, she had no idea that she would still be lacing her boots on the same benches 32 years later.
Sarah’s family like many others was brought to Alaska by the oil business. They settled in Eagle River, and in looking for things to do, Sarah’s mother found the Mac Center’s Learn To Skate program. Sarah’s love, commitment, and ability to skate was immediately apparent. She started competing just a year later at age five.
“I spent my life training, competing and traveling. Most of my days were spent at the MAC, four to five times a week I’d say. I lived at the rink.”
Her parents would drop her off in the morning before school to practice. Then return after school, when she would train for several more hours.
Her daily training continued, and at age 17, Sarah qualified for the 1998 U.S. Nationals in Philadelphia. She would be competing against skaters like Tarra Lapinski and five-time National Champion Michelle Kwan in the Freestyle Competition. She hoped to place in the top ten.
On the day of her short program, she was ready. Her performance was going along perfectly. She started her last jump, a Triple Salchow, a fraction of a rotation too soon which meant she landed short – she fell. Understandably disappointed, but without skipping a beat, she finished her routine. She ended the day in 12th place. Her long program was well executed, and she finished in 11th place. Overall, she finished 11th in the 1998 U.S. Nationals, just one place short of her goal.
“That was my 15 minutes of fame,” Sarah says modestly with a big smile. She was able to compete at the highest level of figure skating. Kwan went on to win the 1998 U.S. National Championship, and Lipinski later won the 1998 U.S. Olympic championship.
Following her incredible journey to Philadelphia, Sarah found herself searching for what’s next.
All she had ever known was skating and training for the next competition.
“It was a big transition and extremely difficult time for me.”
She decided to go back to school. While pursuing a college degree in psychology at UAA, Sarah found herself back at the MAC where it all began. She took a job as a Learn to Skate Instructor.
In 2010, after her graduation, Sarah was promoted to Director of the Learn To Skate Program.
“I now have the privilege of welcoming kids to the rink and introducing them to the joy of skating.”
She explained, “I have no expectations of where they might go with it. For some, it’s just learning to skate or to play hockey. For others, they might want to skate competitively.”
Being able to coach students in such a wide variety of skills provides Sarah – now Sarah Devereaux McCormick after her marriage to husband Ryan in 2011 – with great satisfaction. “I have one former student who recently joined Disney On Ice!”
You can see the light in Sarah’s eyes as she explains her dedication, “I get to lace up my skates every day, I love the feel the of the ice and to hear the edge of my skate cutting in, it’s hard to explain. It can change my whole day.”
With a crackle of emotion in her voice, she left me with this thought, “Looking back, I think about what it must have been like for my parents when they signed me up for that first Learn to Skate class. I realize now I’m walking through those very same doors every day. It’s pretty incredible. I’m lucky to be a part of that process for another skater.”
Daniel Shepard is a freelance photojournalist and regular contributor for the ECHO News. He lives and owns a photography business in Eagle River. To learn more about Dan Shepard Photography, visit dan-shepardphotography.com. To reach Dan, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.