Coppell resident Ashley Cain, 17, skates against the United States' best

01/23/2013 11:27 PM

01/25/2013 4:55 PM

The most elite figure skaters in this country have convened in the Midwest this week for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Among them is a female athlete from Dallas-Fort Worth known on the Twitterscape as Icegirlash, who will perform her long program to Ave Maria.

"Faith," the young woman wrote on Monday, recalling the late Martin Luther King Jr. as saying, "is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase."

The national championships aren't exactly Ashley Cain's first steps in the imposing world of figure skating, but the trip to Omaha, Neb., is her biggest, her debut at this level in the senior ladies singles division.

Cain, 17, a Coppell resident who skates out of Stars Figure Skating Club of Texas in Euless, will face off with defending national champion Ashley Wagner and skating's most recent darling, Gracie Gold, both favorites to qualify for two spots to the world championships on the line this week and eventually the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia.

"It'll be absolutely incredible to skate against them and put into a class with them," said Cain, a poised, elegant and pretty skater while seemingly relaxed in advance of taking her biggest stage.

"Obviously, there will be a lot of hype about them being there, but I'm looking to focus on myself and take it one element at a time."

Cain's participation in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships begins with the short program at 7 tonight at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

The ladies free skate begins at 5:45 p.m. on Saturday, though it will be televised on KXAS/Ch. 5 at 7 p.m. that evening.

The event is being broadcast in its entirety on icenetwork.com.

Cain's mere presence at this level has as much to do with faith as ability.

A disastrous performance at an international grand prix event in August in France, where she finished a disappointing fifth in a junior event, put her season in jeopardy.

But Cain rebounded with firsts at the U.S. Southwestern Regional Senior Ladies Championship and the U.S. Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for Omaha.

Omaha represents her seventh nationals appearance overall.

After a successful stint in doubles with Joshua Reagan, Cain decided to focus on her singles career.

She earned a silver as a junior at nationals a year ago.

Her early marks in seniors are mixed, said Lynn Rutherford, a longtime analyst of the sport who works for icenetwork.com, noting the performance in France.

"Yet she's recovered to skate a really strong sectionals and do all her most difficult jumps," Rutherford said. "She's coming into Omaha after an excellent competition at [sectionals]. So that's a real positive."

While getting through the rigorous U.S. ladies competition for a spot on the 2014 Olympic team seems to be a very long shot, 2018 in South Korea is a real possibility.

It all depends, Rutherford said, on Cain mastering the more difficult triple combination jumps.

Cain is resolute in improving. She is coached by her father, former Olympic figure skater Peter Cain, and her mother, Darlene, a world-class skater from Canada.

Peter Cain, coached by the acclaimed John Nicks, competed for Australia in the 1980 Games at Lake Placid, N.Y. Among the many standouts Nicks has mentored included Sasha Cohen and now Wagner.

"Everything he taught me I'm trying to pass on to her," said Peter Cain, whose sister, Liz, was also an Olympian. "Having done all that training and been around the international scene, just passing on all that knowledge."

Ashley Cain is also the first cousin to former Australian national champion Sean Carlow.

This stuff is in the blood.

So is success. If not this week, Ashley Cain has faith in her future.

"I want to put out two programs that I can be happy with," Cain said, "and just to get off the ice knowing I put everything into those two programs."

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