Ice Network

The Inside Edge: Hill-Wampler returns to coaching

Cain gets engaged over Easter weekend; Moeller competes at adults
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Priscilla Hill-Wampler, who previously coached Johnny Weir, has returned to the coaching ranks as director of the skating academy at the Patriot Ice Center in Delaware. -courtesy of Patriot Ice Center

The rink where Johnny Weir used to train is re-opening with new management and staff, a new name, a new heating system and a new skating director.

Well, kinda new.

Priscilla Hill-Wampler, who coached Weir for years at The Pond in Newark, Delaware, has been hired to head up the skating academy at that same rink, now known as Patriot Ice Center.

Hill-Wampler was diagnosed with Graves' disease (a thyroid condition) in 2005, and she stepped away from coaching completely in 2012.

"I had to get the Graves' disease under control," she said by phone. "My father passed away, and it was just too much. I knew I wasn't strong enough to help the kids. But we were able to get the medication working for me, so I'm really good right now."

Hill-Wampler is a passionate lover of animals who wanted to be a veterinarian when she was younger. When she stepped away from coaching, she decided to learn professional dog grooming from a nearby master groomer. In the meantime, she was taking her mother's puppy to training classes, and she saw some dogs and their owners doing agility training. Her interest was piqued, and she started working with the dog, a Maltese-Yorkie (Morkie) named Teddy.

"They were doing all those jumps, and I thought, 'I want to do that!'" she said. "Nobody knew I had been a skating coach. I would go in and train the dog, and he started advancing very quickly. People said, 'What did you do before this?'"

Hill-Wampler has nine dogs of her own, most of which she takes to agility competitions.

"The grooming is like doing figures, and the agility is like freestyle," she said, laughing. "I'm teaching them to jump. It's like doing pairs -- I felt like I was back in Ice Capades. I never had anything outside of skating, and I think it's given me balance in my life."

As time went by, though, some parents of her former skaters tracked her down and asked for her help.

"They said, 'We really need you because the kids don't seem to be improving,'" Hill-Wampler said.

She took the skaters to a rink in northeast Philadelphia, far removed from the intense training atmosphere she was used to working in. At the end of the two-hour session, one child asked her, "Well, now what do we do?"

Emotionally touched, Hill-Wampler set up a session one day a week at a rink in Maryland. Soon, one day a week turned into two, and then three.

"It was a fun summer," Hill-Wampler said. "There was no pressure, and yet it was bringing back why I loved coaching and teaching kids."

Last January, coach Chris Conte approached Hill-Wampler and asked whether she would help develop a new program at the former Pond rink, working with the new management team. He talked her into a meeting, and, by chance, her most famous former student stopped by.

"As it happened, Johnny was coming in that day to skate," Hill-Wampler said. "So I went in the office and waited, to surprise him. He came in and saw us all there and said, 'Oh my God, is this an intervention?' We all started laughing and then he said, 'What are you doing here? Are you coming back? That would be so amazing.' And we started hashing over old memories together."

Hill-Wampler eventually agreed to help run the new program, provided she would be part of a team, as she had several more goals and requirements.

"I don't want to do this on my own again," said Hill-Wampler, whose staff also includes Natalia Linichuk, Kimmie Meissner and Conte. "I want everything set up so young kids can go competitive or recreational or into hockey. As a coach, I always loved all levels of skating. That's what I learned in the time I came back: I just love helping kids."

Easter engagement for Cain

Ashley Cain has certainly had a great year. She and pairs partner Timothy LeDuc won the silver medal at the 2018 Four Continents Championships in January, and on March 31 she received another shiny prize: an engagement ring.

Her fiancé, Dalton Gribble, planned an elaborate proposal Easter weekend at his family's ranch, with both of the couple's families in attendance. He built a gazebo by a pond and proposed under a full moon.

"It was a surprise for me," Cain said Sunday by phone. "For the past month he has been planning with our parents and he was able to get everybody to come -- he told me it was for Easter weekend. A lot of planning went into it. He did everything I wanted for a proposal.

"The ring is…my dream ring. It's a square, it's rounded on the edges. It's beautiful; it shines."

The couple met three years ago outside a sushi restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, and started dating two weeks later. Gribble is an operations manager for Absolute Noise Control, a noise mitigation company. Cain said they haven't set a date yet, but they're thinking of a spring wedding.

"We want to enjoy planning it," she said. "We don't want to rush."

In the meantime, Cain and LeDuc are skating in shows and preparing for next season. Their new programs are being choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo, but they're not ready to reveal the music just yet.

Moeller dances at adult championships

If you're at the U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships this week at the New England Sports Center in Marlborough, Massachusetts, keep your eyes open for senior men's competitor Jordan Moeller. Moeller is partnering Ashleyann Carlson in the bronze dance event Wednesday and Thursday.

"It's honestly been kind of rewarding to be around a group of people you can tell just love skating so much," he said. "That's not to say the kids I compete with don't feel that way too, but we all have our agendas and sometimes we have blinders on and lose the enjoyment. The adults are very supportive and a loving group. It's been refreshing."

Moeller is busy preparing for the seventh edition of his skating show, "One Skate at a Time." He started the program when he was just 15, to benefit One Step at a Time, a camp for children with cancer, and he said the show has raised more than $50,000 to this point.

"I've met some of the kids from the camp who have come to the show, and their spirit is just amazing," Moeller said. "I never want to complain about anything again. It's amazing how fortunate we are."

This year's edition of the show, which will take place April 28 at the Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood, Illinois, features Courtney Hicks, Ben Jalovik and, of course, Moeller himself.

"A bunch of us who skate up in Monument (Colorado) are doing a group number to "Bohemian Rhapsody," and I'm stoked about that," Moeller said.

Chock update

Madison Chock, who finished fifth at the 2018 World Championships with partner Evan Bates, underwent surgery on her right ankle April 6 at the Colorado Center of Orthopedic Excellence. Dr. John Shank performed the procedure to remove loose bone fragments that had chipped off the ankle last August.

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