Ma­cauley Luk­enda makes mark on ice

First place in women’s short pro­gram at 2018 U.S. in­ter­col­le­giate cham­pi­onships

The Sault Star - - SPORTS - PETER RUICCI

One cham­pi­onship was ex­cit­ing.

But to win a se­cond was “thrilling ” for Ma­cauley Luk­enda.

The 20-year-old Sault Ste. Marie na­tive cap­tured first place in the women’s short pro­gram on Fri­day, while com­pet­ing at the three-day, 2018 U.S. In­ter­col­le­giate Na­tional Fig­ure Skat­ing Cham­pi­onships in Den­ver, Colo.

A year ago, Luk­enda, who now re­sides in Pe­wau­kee, Wisc., won the na­tional ti­tle in the long pro­gram.

“I was re­ally ex­cited,” said Luk­enda, in her third year at Adrian College in Adrian, Mich. “It’s some­thing I worked to­wards all sea­son. My pro­gram went re­ally well – it was per­fect. I couldn’t have done it bet­ter.”

A business ma­jor with a fo­cus in sports man­age­ment, while also mi­nor­ing in pub­lic relations, Luk­enda spoke of how proud she was to have suc­cess­ful back-to­back sea­sons.

She en­tered the week­end com­pe­ti­tion con­fi­dent of her chances.

“I knew if I skated my best and skated clean, that I would have a pretty-solid chance of win­ning,” Luk­enda said. “I knew if I did what I can do, I’d have a pretty-good chance of do­ing well here.”

And her se­cond gold-medal per­for­mance in as many years has the For­mer Lake Su­pe­rior Fig­ure Skat­ing Club mem­ber ea­ger to chase a lofty ob­jec­tive.

In her se­nior sea­son next year, she’d love to win both the long and short pro­gram.

“That would be the goal,” said Luk­enda, who fin­ished fifth this year in her long pro­gram.

A year ago, com­pet­ing at Mi­ami Univer­sity in Ox­ford, Ohio, Luk­enda was se­cond in her short pro­gram.

As a fresh­man in 2016, she was sixth in the long pro­gram and eighth in the short in com­pe­ti­tion at the Univer­sity of Delaware in Ne­wark, Del.

Luk­enda ad­mit­ted how se­cur­ing a pair of first-place fin­ishes next year “will be pretty tough. I’ll have to put in a lot of work, but it’s worth it.”

But she loves skat­ing, she added, and is de­ter­mined to have a strong se­nior year.

Her fifth in the long pro­gram on the week­end, Luk­enda noted, was a “lit­tle dis­ap­point­ing. But you have bad skates ev­ery now and then. It hap­pens.”

Mean­time, be­gin­ning at age three, she be­gan skat­ing with the Lake Su­pe­rior Club and re­al­ized how much she en­joyed the sport.

“It’s where I started,” said Luk­enda, whose fam­ily left the Sault when she was 12.

Her par­ents, Mary-Lynne and Tim Luk­enda, who’s pres­i­dent of the Soo Greyhounds hockey team, have been big sup­port­ers of her ca­reer, Ma­cauley added.

While grow­ing up skat­ing in the Sault “the com­pe­ti­tions were al­ways some­thing I en­joyed,” she said. “And Deb­bie Gerow was my coach. The Sault is al­ways home to me.”

Along with her in­di­vid­ual skat­ing, Luk­enda also cap­tains Adrian College’s syn­chro­nized skat­ing team. Six­teen skaters work through the el­e­ments of a pro­gram col­lec­tively.

In Fe­bru­ary, the team won a sil­ver medal at the na­tional cham­pi­onships in Port­land, Ore.

SUPPLIED PHOTO

Ma­cauley Luk­enda has had suc­cess­ful back-to-back fig­ure skat­ing sea­sons.

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