Local pair aims for National Team

DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. -- A selection to a USA national developmental camp is a dream for many athletes in Olympic sports. Next week, two local teenagers who have put individual glory aside at the moment lace up the skates for a chance to fulfill a dream on the ice. 

"As you step on, you pretty much say it is go time," beams Zachary Yaninek, a 16-year-old from Harrisburg.

Wednesday, November 13, is go time for Yaninek and his partner, Megan Winch, a 13-year-old from Palmyra, when they take the ice in Allan, Texas at the U.S. Pairs final.

"We are super excited I would say," Winch says. "It is something new and exciting of course and we are just going to see what it brings us."

Yaninek adds, "Definitely good experience for us as a parks team and a new step for our pairs career for sure."

Though, the two disagree on their excitement levels.

On a scale of 1-10, Yaninek told FOX43's Andrew Kalista he is a "seven or eight" while for Winch, it doesn't get much higher.

"I would say an eight nine," as she smiles.

The young pair is ranked fourth in the nation and while they downplay their enthusiasm, they do realize the magnitude of this opportunity. 

They are accomplished singles skaters but have only been together for about 18 months. It is a short amount of time to build their chemistry -- a formula that develops over time and both on and off the ice. 

They go through a grueling weekly schedule: six days a week on the ice -- working everything from individual sessions at 5 a.m. or evening practices together. They also have their school work, which they insist be kept at top notch, on top of skating tests. The pair works out about 20 hours a week. 

Even their friends and classmates do not realize the amount of work they put in.

“They don’t really know, it is mostly you are proud of yourself," Winch says. "You know how much effort and how much time you put in."

The same goes for Yaninek.

“I definitely feel proud of myself and your classmates will say 'Oh that is pretty good,' but they have no idea all the work and all the practice that goes into it," he says. "You are here every day, for them ‘oh you are on the national team,' they have no idea what goes into it."

Coach Doris Papenfuss is one who does know what it takes. She has watched the pair develop from the time they first put on the skates in front of her. For Megan, she was five, while Zachary was 10. Papenfuss has been with them a combined 14 years and knows their biggest challenges and why they're successful.

"The hardest thing for them,  because they are such good singles skaters and that they are very shy, was to get them to skate together and to be a team and trust and to talk to each and to communicate," Papenfuss says. "A challenge overcome by their dedication on and off the ice.

"They are working out because of their work ethic, they come to the rink, they do their job and they go home."

It is a job of developing a bond that is stronger than the ice they skate on.

"Sometimes you are like how can I do this, but after a while it is very easy because you build that connection, you build that relationship over time and these skills and confidence it just come naturally," according to Winch.

If the teenagers are nervous they have great way of hiding it, as they appear loose and confident. Yaninek is even cracking jokes.

"I guess she [Winch] has to trust that I am not going to throw her into the boards or anything and (people) wondering are they going to do it or are they going to crash on the ice and get cut-up by their blades," Yaninek says as he laughs.

There is no doubt they are ready for this moment.

"At the end of the day you have to do what you have been practicing this whole time," Yaninek adds.

And Winch agrees.

"It is a job and we know we put so much effort and time in it so we have to finish what we started," she says. 

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