By Theresa D. McClellan
For The Fort Bend Star
It’s 1:30 p.m. Friday afternoon and the music is soaring as 13-year-old Delaney Ross becomes one with the rhythm, dancing across the ice skating rink to the song “I’m A Survivor.”
In another corner of the arena off the ice, one can hear the sound of a jump rope whizzing through the air as twin sister Peyton Ross tears through a 30-minute cardio and stretching routine before her turn on the ice.
Their day began at 6 a.m. when the Missouri City teens headed out with their mother, Michele Ross, to Memorial City for morning ice skating sessions. They carry matching polka dot suitcases that they bring to the Sugar Land Ice and Sports Center. The suitcases are necessary as they practically live here and their mother, who volunteers, actually spent 13 hours at the arena recently working as a techie.
When you have twin girls in the same sport, you become immersed and everyone is family, said Michele Ross.
In Sugar Land they spend several more hours in ballet classes, individual lessons with coaches, testing, going through routines one more time – anything to perfect their technique. This is the life of a competitive ice skater; their young faces growing determined and serious as they focus on a turn or a jump. During a break, they are back to being little girls running through the arena, giggling and playing hide-and-seek with other competitive skaters.
It started when they were very young and living in Kansas.
“We were watching the TV Olympics with my grandma. She always loved ice skating. We only lived two minutes from the skating rink and kept begging our mom to let us skate. We started when I was 4 and I didn’t like it, I thought it was cold and wet and at 5 I absolutely loved it,” recalled Delaney.
“I kind of fell in love with it when I started realizing I could keep going when I learned my axle. That’s where you do one and a half rotations in the air taking off from the left foot,” she added.
Delaney was 8-years-old at the time. “It’s like a landmark in skating,” she said.
“When you get it, it’s a big deal,” her mother added.
Peyton, who is quieter but just as passionate, can do a triple-axle and other tricks on the ice and is a little ahead of her sister. Rankings are not based age but skill level and Delaney is right on her heels. There are eight levels in U.S. figure skating. Peyton is called an intermediate lady. Delaney is a juvenile girl. Those at the senior level can be Olympians. Both girls placed third in their rankings. The top four move on to the next level of competition.
In her short routine during a recent performance, Peyton commanded the space and garnered much applause but she was not satisfied with herself.
“Peyton is a harsh critic of herself,” said Michele.
“Perfectionist I guess,” responded Peyton.
They came from Kansas four years ago not knowing how to jump rope. Jumping is a good way to get cardio before hitting the ice and was part of their exercise routine here in Texas.
“Peyton kept practicing her jump ropes, she can actually do a triple. Peyton is funny; when she gets after something she won’t let it go till she masters it. My husband calls it a dog with a bone, so focused. Delaney is slow and determined and deliberate and will work, work, work.”
They came here because her husband, an engineer, was transferred here. Michele had lived in Kansas since she was 3 and no one was excited about the move. Now they love it.
“They both are so passionate about the same sport,” she said. “It’s nice I can be with them in the arena and know they are in the same place and on the same schedule. It gives us the freedom to be more dedicated.”
The Ross’s have two older sons, a 17-year-old a senior at Dulles High School and 19-year-old college student.
The twins belong to the nine-state regional area and travel frequently for competitions across the country. Their next competition will be in Colorado.
“We like the competition and our parents never miss,” Michele said. “They bought a used RV so they could travel and meet us wherever we compete. They used to live just 15 minutes from us in Kansas so we saw them all the time.”
Since the girls spend so much time on the ice and out of state they do not attend a traditional school. Michele home schooled the girls until they entered the eighth grade. She realized she needed more help with the upper-level math and science and pursued alternatives.
Another ice skating parent found success with the Texas Connections Academy, a tuition-free online school. Now Peyton and Delaney are among a dozen students at the Sugar Land Ice and Sport who attend the virtual school.
Texas Connections Academy is fully accredited and there is no tuition. Michele was pleased that there are three math teachers and the students can go to any one of them or watch all three videos in case a lesson is taught differently.
“They go at their own pace and if they get too far behind the teacher calls saying, what’s going on. They have office hours and the student can pop in online. They can call their teacher and get a callback the same day. It took a whole lot of pressure off me. They participated in state testing and they did great, passing with distinction,” Michele said.
For Delaney, the virtual school gives her time to still get her education and pursue her passion.
“I love performing in ice skating. Going fast and feeling the wind is really fun. But I really love the competition and performing. It’s really hard but that’s kinda nice because if it were easy, it wouldn’t be interesting,” she said.
Both Peyton and Delaney want to continue ice skating as a career and dream of working for Disney on Ice. Peyton is also interested in coaching and choreography.
“I love competing and I want to inspire others, too,” she said.
The twins and all the other skaters will compete Labor Day weekend in the Skate Houston 2017 hosted by the Texas Gulf Coast Figure Skating Club, held at the Sugar Land Ice and Sports Center. It is free and open to the public.
The event, featuring everything from toddlers taking their first steps on ice to the seasoned figure skaters, is a way to promote a fun introduction to the competitive sport of figure skating. There is free admission to all events from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and Monday 8:20 a.m. to 1 p.m. The twins have two separate skates between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Those planning to watch the competitions should know it will be cold, so dress accordingly.