COLUMBIA — Two days before the regional competition in Jefferson City, Emma Trent smiles, but just for a second.
Her coach, John Peck, has just given his approval. “Perfect,” he says after Trent completes the hardest part of her event, loops, where only two wheels of her four-wheel roller skates touch the ground as she traces a painted line on the wood floor.
USA Roller Sports North Central Regional Championship
There will be 13 skaters from Columbia will be competing this weekend at Jefferson City's Sk8 Zone. Skating runs from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. More than 85 skaters are expected to compete in the singles, pairs, figures, solo dance, team dance, precision and show skating categories.
The emotion quickly leaves her face, though, as she goes back to concentrating on her next move.
Disco balls, strobe lights and loud speakers hang from the ceiling at Empire Roller Rink, none of which are used during her figures practice.
Although she also competes at lower levels in competitions such as pairs and dancing, figures is the event Trent is focused on. She is trying to be one of two people in the country to qualify for the Roller Figure Skating World Championship in the figures event this November in Brazil. It requires her to skate forward and backward as she traces lines on the floor while on one foot.
Her parents, Willie and Lisa Trent own the rink in Columbia where their daughter first learned the sport of artistic roller skating when she was in elementary school. Now, they take their daughter every other weekend to Lynwood, Ill., for practice at the Chicago area rink that Peck owns.
At 16 years old, Emma Trent will be making her first attempt in the junior world level, which is the 19-and-under age group.
Since Lisa Trent coaches skaters in Columbia, Willie Trent usually gets the job of driving his daughter the seven hours to practice.
“I don’t like driving that long of a distance,” Willie Trent said. “But I do it for Emma.”
They usually stop for dinner where Emma always chooses a tuna sandwich from Subway. During the school year, they leave on a Friday, spend the weekend sleeping in a hotel and come back on a Sunday. The drive is noticeably exhausting for both of them.
“If it is late at night, I get tired,” Willie Trent said. “I was really tired one day because I had been working early. I had to take a few 20- to 30-minute naps. Well, one was more like an hour. I won’t drive if I am tired.”
The drives to and from the Chicago area rink are Emma Trent’s only free time during the weekend. During the school year, she uses this time to do homework. She bought a Wi-Fi Internet connector so she could work on homework in the car. Practices can start as early as 6 a.m. the morning after the drive.
The first day after the trip takes her a little longer to warm up, but she manages to skate all day.
“She is not as consistent,” Peck said. “She doesn’t stay on the line as long. She doesn’t get her hip where she needs it to be.”
While she says she enjoys spending her weekends skating, she has missed out on several school events. When the Future Farmers of America hosted a barn-warming dance at North Callaway High School, which she attends, she was a no-show.
“I didn’t get to go when a lot of my friends got to,” Emma Trent said. “It made me feel like I was missing out, but I got to skate. So I was having fun too.”
Her practices usually take between 4 and 6 hours, six days a week. She gets one day a week off. Since her coach lives in the Chicago area, she is instructed to text him when she leaves and enters the rink for practice during the week in Columbia. One time, she sent her coach a text at noon saying she arrived at the rink.
“What are you doing getting there at noon?" Emma Trent said Peck texted her back.
"Don’t I get one day to sleep in?" was her reply.
Peck agreed in his next text. "Yes, I guess you get one day.”
They are hoping the training will pay off as soon as this year. To get to Brazil she has to advance past the regional meet this weekend in Jefferson City to make the national competition in July in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“It’s not if she is going to go to world,” Lisa Trent said. “It is when.”