Cal High alumnus goes for gold

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by Esther Lu, Features Editor

Craig Norris and partner AnanaMarie Pearce placed seventh at nationals last month. photo courtesy of Craig Norris

Craig Norris, a 2008 Cal High graduate, and his partner, AnnaMarie Pearce, placed seventh in the junior level for pair skating at the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships in San Jose on Jan 24-25.

It was a significant improvement from last year when the pair placed ninth in the novice level.

This time, they did not qualify for the senior level, which would’ve earned them  a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. But their vision still sweeps across the ice and with every competition they’re moving closer to their goal.

“Our biggest dream is to compete internationally and represent our country,” said Norris.

Norris got hooked on skating at age four after watching the 1994 Olympics. After that his father took him to Dublin Iceland and as they say, the rest is history.

“My dad held my hand for one lap around the ice and after that I just was on my own,” Norris said.

He believes he’s come a long way since that day many years ago.

“Some days when you wake up, you’re hurt, you’re tired,” Norris said.  “There’s the daily grind, but I have to keep getting out there and keeping the big picture (in mind).”

The skating world consists of three levels: novice, junior and senior. Currently, Norris and Pearce are in the junior level, but they could move up to senior level by placing higher at nationals next year.

Ultimately, placing in these levels can determine the U.S. teams for events such as the World Figure Skating Championships and the Olympics.

Norris attends Saddleback community college part time and the rest is spent preparing for nationals. Most of his day-to-day training consists of skating a singles sessions in the morning, while focusing on his jumps and spins. As the day progresses he skates with his partner.

After  hitting the ice, Norris moves on to lifting weights while Pearce focuses on pilates training.

“Our coaches tell us we’re basically training for marriage,” said Norris. “You mesh or gel together as a team and learn how the other person works to reach that goal.”

In pair skating, the guy is the stem and the girl is the flower.

“You have to be good at showing off the girl, but the whole point is unison, looking as though we’re skating as one,” said Norris.

While single skating has the aspect of focusing on individual skills, skating in pairs takes team work.

“Two different personalities working together to achieve the goal,” said Jenni Meno, one of Norris’ coaches. “That’s something you don’t see very often, having a male and female work together in sports.”

Meno and Todd Sand coached Norris and Pearce after winning three national championships in pairs skating themselves. Together they sought out Norris and asked if he would be interested in pair skating.

Norris originally knew Pearce, a childhood friend, and after he moved down to Southern California to search for a partner, she turned out to be just what they both needed.

Looking back, Pearce is grateful to be working with Norris.

“It’s a little less nerve wracking with someone being there and to gather your thoughts together,” said Pearce.

This season the two faced working on coordinating their bodies outside of their instinctive boundaries. Norris is naturally a lefty and Pearce is a righty. The two focused on becoming ambidextrous in order to have the choreography pan out smoothly.

Norris’s mom, Patrice,  knows how hard her son has worked to be where he is today.

“What the audience sees at the HP Pavilion is costumes and lights,” Patrice Norris said.  “That’s only 10 percent of it. But 90 percent of it is just hard work.”