There are many reasons that Luke Witkowski loves skating, but one that rises to the top of the list is “putting a smile on people’s faces” through performances in events like the Tree Lighting Skating Spectacular at the Boston Common Frog Pond, a popular holiday tradition hosted by The Skating Club of Boston.
“I can feel a reflective aura of kindness and happiness from the audience,” he says, “and I think that makes me a better skater.”
Luke calls it a “two-way good feeling,” something that lies at the heart of his connection to skating, a sport he’s honed since age three. Today, the fourteen-year-old is an accomplished solo competitor representing the Club in U.S. Figure Skating’s New England Regional Challenge. He is a two-time bronze medalist in the juvenile boys’ category and this past fall, a pewter medalist at the men’s intermediate level.
For the past three years, he also has advanced to Eastern sectionals, and last year he shared the world stage with the novice Theater On Ice team, Encore of Boston, which won both the national title and the world championships winning the gold in France.
Those experiences are rewarding after years of disciplined training, and they are anchored in a real sense of joy.
“I remember when I was little I liked to race around the rink in my little red onesie and big white helmet and go fast and weave in between people,” he says. “It was about feeling the possibilities for physical movement and how you can increase your speed and how you can spin faster and faster. It’s like you’re superhuman.”
Luke’s path to The Skating Club of Boston began with that free-spirited skating at the Boston Common Frog Pond. His mother Mary Lynch Witkowski learned about the Club and was soon connected to coach Becky Stump.
“We very quickly built a strong relationship with Becky,” says Mary. “She was constantly trying to think of different and fun ways to work with the kids. Having a dedicated person like Becky who has been very invested in the kids has meant a lot to me. We found a lot of good people we wanted to work with.”
In time, skating would become a family affair, with Mary and all four Witkowski children, Erika, Luke, Catherine and Jack, skating at the Club and performing with Theater On Ice, and Ice Chips. In addition, Mary’s sister Elizabeth and her niece Charlotte have recently joined the Club. The family involvement also includes Luke’s grandfather Peter who is a regular, often seen cheering and recording videos of his grandkids and daughter on the ice. With so many skaters in the family, the Witkowskis have an opportunity to work with multiple coaches. Luke looks up to his main coach Simon Shnapir both as a coach and role model. Mary seconds Luke’s appreciation, “We have been so lucky to work with all of our coaches and choreographers including Amanda, Tracey, Michael, Bryna, Alex, Deidre and Adam. Each one of these professionals has made a difference in my kids’ lives both on and off the ice.”
Mary attributes the family enthusiasm to the Club’s welcoming culture, one that values community and support for skaters of all ages. As such, it is a place she likens to that iconic Beacon Hill bar, Cheers. “It’s a place where ‘Everyone knows your name,’” she says.
The Lynch and Witkowski families have generously contributed to the fundraising campaign supporting the future of the new Norwood facility. As the Club’s footprint expands, Mary says, so do opportunities for families and young skaters.
As for Luke, he sees the facility’s three rinks as game-changers: they will open up more ice time for skaters of all abilities and interests. As for his own skating career, Luke is excited to start competing in ice dance. It’s an area that promises new opportunities to experience “the constant challenge” of skating.
“Someone once told me that skating attracts perfectionists and breaks them in half because there’s always something to work on,” he says. “That makes me really strive to improve. The Club was – and is – a really good place to do that because there are a bunch of people who are willing to help me continuously improve.”