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Jackson Youth Skates onto Prestigious Ice

By Chip Mundy
Citizen Patriot staff writer

Samantha Cabiles had no idea she was trading in her flip-flops for ice skates three years ago when she and her mother moved to Jackson from Hawaii.

The move has provided a life-changing turn for the 11-year-old sixth-grader at Western Middle School.

Early after the move to Jackson, Cabiles discovered figure skating, and she showed amazing natural talent. She has won five gold medals in competitions this year and has been accepted to the Shattuck-St. Mary's School in Faribault, Minn., a school that has a nationally recognized figure skating program.

Shattuck-St. Mary's is the only boarding school in the United States with an area of excellence in figure skating. It has a team of 15 individual skaters training from entry level to junior national and international Grand Prix competitions.

"I'm very excited. I had a blast there in the summer, " Cabiles said. "I'm dedicated to skating. I love it so much.

"I don't know what started it; just one day, I decided that I wanted to skate."

Since then, Cabiles has made another decision: She wants to complete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. While that's a long way off, at least one respected national instructor believes it is possible.

"She has had a lot of competitive success for the little time she has spent competing, " said Diana Ronayne, director of figure skating at Shattuck-St. Mary's. "She has developed very good skating basics from her coach in Michigan, Gary Clark, and shows some excellent skills that could take her to the top level of skating."

Victoria Dice was living in Hawaii when she met Cliff Dice, who lived in Michigan. As their relationship grew, it became obvious that somebody had to move, so Victoria packed up her daughter and moved to Michigan.

Cabiles said she welcomed the move, even though the climate was going to be a lot different.

"I wasn't very disappointed because I'd never traveled out of the state, except for Seattle, " she said. "I love it in Michigan because I'd never seen snow before."

Cabiles has a big test ahead of her Aug. 20. She will be testing for the pre-juvenile level, and if she passes, it will qualify her to compete with her Shattuck-St. Mary's team at the regional level in Minnesota.

When asked if she was nervous about the upcoming test, Cabiles flashed a big smile and said, "No, I'm confident that I'm going to pass it."

She skates with the same confidence, and even when she falls during practice, she does it with a smile on her face. But like all figure skaters, Cabiles has a certain grace on the ice.

"She danced the hula a lot in Hawaii, so she's always had a lot of grace, " Victoria Dice said. "She can jump really high. She was just measured by her Olympic coach, and she's at 11 inches off the ice. When you do doubles, it's 101Ú2 inches off the ice, so they called her a gazelle.

"They are working on trying to hone her axle and her double toe and double lutz."

Ronayne sees a lot of potential in Cabiles.

"I look at two things: raw talent and mental determination, " Ronayne said. "She has the raw talent and a beauty on the ice. She has great mental skills in regards to setting goals, having dreams and identifying what those dreams entail and then putting those goals into her 'to do' list.

"She shows a determination and a drive that is quite strong for someone of her age."

Cabiles trains five to six days a week in Canton, Ann Arbor and Chelsea, and her schedule will only become more grueling in three weeks when she arrives in Minnesota.

Yet, her mother does not think her daughter is missing out on the normal activities of a sixth-grader.

"What she is missing out on are the things a mother doesn't want her to do, " Victoria Dice said. "I hear a lot about other girls chasing the boys and going on the Internet and things like that, so I'm glad that Samantha is doing what she is doing."

Cliff Dice remembers the first time he took Cabiles to the ice arena.

"She excelled so fast, and she just loved it, " he said.

Ronayne said the parental support that Cabiles is receiving is very important.

"She has a very strong positive parental support, which means a lot, " Ronayne said. "Now it is up to how she stays motivated, healthy and handles each step along the way. Myself and Tom Hickey, director of skating operations here at Shattuck and my fellow coach for the team, have both produced national-level skaters.

"I am confident that we will offer Samantha the best opportunity to continue her successes and growth towards her highest potential. We plan to continue to work with Gary Clark, her coach in Michigan, to give Samantha the best instruction and training."