Strange Sectionals: Phoenix Prequel

by Mary on May 20, 2020

Balloon at Sonoran Desert Preserve

Back in late February and early March I was absorbed in getting ready for adult Sectionals. Luckily for me I had a burst of travel right before we had to shut everything down. I was in Phoenix for a family event and got to skate at the Ice Den Scottsdale. It’s a beautiful rink with an electric figure skating atmosphere. Thanks to having attended Lala Van Camp’s skating camp in Chandler, I knew lots of the adults and coaches on the ice, including Sectionals competitors, and felt right at home. Todd Gilles and Douglas Razzano were both on the ice working with students.

Leap Day, February 29th, was the day that the first US COVID death was reported at the LifeCare of Kirkland, Washington. That hit alarmingly close to home for me, since I’d visited that LifeCare several times in December 2018 when my brother-in-law was there (I was not impressed at all with the facility– among other things, my BIL’s wallet was never found after he was sent back to the hospital).

Worse, my sister-in-law, who was with us on that trip to Phoenix, lives in assisted living not too far from there. I was worried for her safety. We had an immediate family meeting to see if we could bring her home. Unfortunately, she can’t manage the physical layout of our home short of an extensive remodel. So far, she is still OK. Residents at her facility have still not been tested, and my anxiety continues.

A pair of cactus wrens at Sonoran Desert Preserve

At the time Pacific Coast Sectionals competitors had gotten two emails through US Figure Skating from the competition’s registrar. They haven’t aged well. The first on February 26th was titled: “Competition Proceeding as Planned – No Coronavirus Detected in SF!” It read:


Hi Everyone,

We’ve gotten a few questions from competitors about San Francisco’s declaration of emergency around the Coronavirus. So, we thought you would all appreciate getting the same update we provided them.

No cases of Coronavirus have been found in San Francisco. Rather, the action by the city provides flexibility to reallocate city resources to proactively prepare in case any action is needed in the future. It also paves the way for state and federal funding to cover the preparedness program.

In summary, San Francisco is free of the Coronavirus, and therefore the Pacific Coast Adult Sectionals are proceeding as planned.

We look forward to seeing you there!


We got another email on the 28th:

Hi to all competitors and coaches!

There is much talk about the coronavirus, it seems, everywhere you turn right now.  In our effort to just provide facts, and not create chaos or hysteria, the LOC wants to share a press release statement from U.S. Figure Skating that was just posted today.  The following link will take you to the statement written by Dr. Kristin Abbott, MD, FAAFP, the Sport Science and Medicine Committee Chair.

Please have a read through it, as there are recommendations for everyone to follow to help keep you healthy.

At this time, no figure skating events have been postponed or canceled due to COVID-19. U.S. Figure Skating will continue to follow the direction of the CDC, WHO and ISU as the situation develops.

Each individual is strongly encouraged to practice the recommended steps of good hygiene to reduce his or her own exposure to any virus. 


On my last day in Phoenix one of the other adult skaters on the ice was doing run-throughs, in costume, of her Sectionals routine. She asked me whether I was still planning on going to Sectionals in San Francisco. I couldn’t advise her that it would be safe, but I had an important medical appointment in San Francisco so I was going to go there regardless. She told me she thought she would withdraw, and I believe she did.

On March 2 I called my sister-in-law’s assisted living to talk with the director about how they planned to protect the residents. My family flew home to Seattle, and I went on to my next stop, Los Angeles, to work with coach Gary and then head to San Francisco together.

Phoenix skyline

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Jenn May 27, 2020 at 10:27 pm

What a journey. It’s been so difficult to navigate with everything. I am grateful that you are well and I hope that your sister continues to be well, too. My mom works in an assisted living facility, and while they have had no cases, I worry every day.


Mary May 28, 2020 at 12:19 am

My thoughts are with your mom, sending my best wishes for her safety. Workers at assisted living are not getting as many thanks as nurses in hospitals, but they deserve our thanks for putting themselves out there every day to serve seniors and the disabled.


Deborah Brooks May 27, 2020 at 11:17 pm

It sure has been a roller coaster of cancellations and postponements for everything. I am sure it is really frustrating for you to have trained for this and then have it cancelled.


Mary May 28, 2020 at 12:15 am

Actually we squeaked it in under the wire, probably should have been cancelled, but wasn’t. I’ll tell you about that experience later.


Rachel Frutkin May 27, 2020 at 11:36 pm

What a crazy turn of events. My father is in assisted living and we tried to figure out a way to spring him out as well. We couldn’t figure out how to safely bring him over so we haven’t seen him since February. It makes me so sad. 🙁
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Mary May 28, 2020 at 12:17 am

Fingers crossed for safety for your dad and my sister-in-law. If we could only get enough tests for the group living situations. In WA the skilled nursing has been tested, now they are working on the adult family homes, and assisted living will be last. It’s painful to wait.


Kimberly Hatting May 28, 2020 at 12:13 am

It’s been such a crazy time for all of us. All the cancellations have been disappointing and all the unknowns that still linger are frustrating.


Mary May 28, 2020 at 12:21 am

Very true. It’s going to be a while before we can get back to the events we love.


Anna May 28, 2020 at 11:17 am

So stressful!! So many cancellations here as well…..and it doesn’t stop. Life will be different for a while.


Mary June 4, 2020 at 12:42 am

For quite a long while.


Sandra Laflamme May 28, 2020 at 2:25 pm

That sounds so very stressful. I would be so worried too!
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Mary June 4, 2020 at 12:42 am

Thanks for understanding, Susan.


Chris Tiley May 28, 2020 at 2:42 pm

So heartbreaking to have events cancelled when you have put so much effort into training. I hope it doesn’t take long to resume to somewhere close to normal.


Mary June 4, 2020 at 12:40 am

Thanks. Luckily for my skating I was able to do Sectionals, it probably should have been cancelled for the public health but wasn’t. The thing I’m bummed about is that I qualified for National Showcase but that, of course, has been cancelled.


The Accidental Marathoner May 28, 2020 at 3:49 pm

I was in San Francisco January 28-31 when we were first hearing news of the virus in China. People were already telling me not to travel. I was supposed to go to Tokyo for the marathon on March 1st, which was cancelled for all but the elite runners. My husband and I went to Vegas instead, traveling February 27 – March 4th. I was supposed to fly to Santa Ana, CA on March 17 to teach a class March 18-20. The class was cancelled the day I was to travel.

It’s amazing how many of us got thing in ‘under the wire’ right before everything shut down. It’s just amazing how quickly things changed.


Mary June 4, 2020 at 12:40 am

It was quite an amazing thing watching the whole world shut down.


Jo September 1, 2020 at 7:57 pm

Mary, I was riveted by this account that you wrote last May. Like you, my skating life and life in general has been totally upended by the pandemic. Chaos!


Mary September 2, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Thanks, Jo, I’m glad you enjoyed the writing. I never finished the story, never wrote about Sectionals. But with an attentive reader like you, perhaps I will.


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