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Proving the impossible

Brooke Gewalt committed to her figure skating career before and after graduation from MCHS
Figure+skater+Brooke+Gewalt%2C+22+MCHS+alum%2C+glides+across+the+rink.+Gewalt+competed+at+the+2024+U.S.+Figure+Skating+Championships.
Rose Wenckebach
Figure skater Brooke Gewalt, ’22 MCHS alum, glides across the rink. Gewalt competed at the 2024 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Imagine you are a senior in high school, waking up at 5 a.m. everyday to chase the “impossible” dream. MCHS alum Brooke Gewalt did just that, waking up for early practices, training for Team USA all while trying to graduate high school. Making the “impossible” dream possible.

“I was 3 years old, and my mom brought me to a mom and tot class,” said  Gewalt. “When she was little she skated so she wanted me to skate, I guess. I was just all smiles. So I guess I was just so young that I don’t actually remember but from what my mom said, I really enjoyed it. And I wanted to always come back and keep skating.”

With every challenge coming her way, Brooke had a new one to face, high school. One thing most of Brooke’s teachers remember about her is her dedication. Many said she was a very focused girl in school, not only studying to get by but going above and beyond even if she was tired or mentally drained from competitions.

Figure skater Brooke Gewalt, ’22 MCHS alum, glides across the rink. Gewalt competed at the 2024 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. (Rose Wenckebach)

“The thing was just her focus,” said counselor Gary Myers. “She had a lot of friends in high school, which I think was kind of tough with the fact that how much training she did. So she had a good support group here. But she knew that she knew how to manage your time. That was the best thing about Brooke and her parents were very supportive.”

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With Brooke’s very packed schedule, teachers said that she still found time to do every homework assignment, every project, and every test.

“Mr. [Rob] Nemic can actually still show us one of the videos she produced for a class project as the example,” said Myers. “So not only dedicated when she was here, but she found time to do her homework, outside with all that training, and I thought that was awesome.”

Her old teacher had nothing but positive things to say.

“Everything she did academically above and beyond,” said Upper Campus teacher Rob Neimic. “Meaning she, you know her diligence like for example in this big end of this school year project and it was I still have the video it’s pretty like a decade’s project. She did it on fashion and I just remember everything she did. She just did 100% And you can see that probably carried over from her work ethic.”

Apart from homework and training Brooke explained that she had a pretty normal high school experience.

“Well, you know, I had a decent high school experience I guess,” said Gewalt. “I still made friends and I still was involved in some things. I guess. I never did like the pep rallies or anything but you know, I went to school for a good amount of time. And I heard about everything.”

Gewalt also explained her daily routines and what it takes to make everything possible.

“Woke up at about 5:15 [a.m.] And then I was on the ice at 6:30 [a.m.],” said Gewalt. “I would skate until about 9:30 [a.m.]. Then I would go home sometimes and get ready for school I’d be there around, like after aim like 10:50 [a.m.] or something. So then I would be at school for the class after 10 a.m. and I would do it for five periods. It depended on the year. Sometimes I did for some good in fact, because in some years I did online school with my classes. I did like an online class or two to get enough credits to graduate. I was on the ice by 2:50 [p.m.] and I skated with breaks. I skated until 6 [p.m.] and then when I turned 16, when I could work, I did group lessons from 5 [p.m.] to 6:30 [p.m.]. So I wasn’t here for lunch.”

As a figure skater, you grow up wanting to go to the U.S. Championships. I mean, it’s something that will be on their resume forever. … I just kept training and then I got the call that I was going the week before and I went in it was really fun.

— Brooke Gewalt

Gewalt also explained why she loved to do this sport and how she did not mind the early nights and late mornings.

“I like the regimen of every day. Like getting something done,” said Gewalt. “I like the regimen so you had to be like very mature. And I think that’s kind of why I didn’t really experience the whole high school experience because I had to grow up such at a young age because I had to manage, you know, my time and all that stuff and getting from one place to the other. I couldn’t relate to the people in school as much as the people at skating. That’s really where I made the friends.”

With this being a one of the kind situation, questions of how the school would react and how was this even made possible were asked.

“They were very understanding,” said Gewalt. “I felt like anything that I needed in regards to skating or like my goals. They were ready to help me with anything or like how they like got me to do the online classes so I didn’t have to be in school as much was really helpful. I guess. Just getting a certain amount of credits was a worry, I guess. So. They definitely helped in that situation.”

“Big thank you to Marsha [Potthoff] the principal,” said the skater’s mother Ellen Gewalt. “If it wasn’t for her, like none of that. You know what I mean? She really understood she really thought it was me that we would even come to her and request some things that we did. She made it happen.”

Brooke competed in the USA Figure Skating National competition on Jan. 22-28 and she explained her experience there.

“It was crazy. It was a dream come true,” said Gewalt. “I mean, that’s what every skater wants to do, other than the Olympics, I guess. But the Olympics are I guess, way more prestigious, but as a figure skater you grow up wanting to go to the U.S. Championships. I mean, it’s something that will be on their resume forever. Right really good thing on your resume. So and I was actually first alternate for Nationals. I just missed going to Nationals by four points. So I just missed it. But I thought it was first alternate and I trained for almost two months as if I was still going. And I just kept training and then I got the call that I was going the week before and I went in it was really fun. It was a good experience and stuff like that.”

Figure skater Brooke Gewalt, ’22 MCHS alum, glides across the rink. Gewalt competed at the 2024 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. (Rose Wenckebach)

She also explained what her favorite part of this giant competition was.

“My most favorite person I met would probably be Gracie Gold,” said Gewalt. “She ever since I was little I guess she was my inspiration. I guess I always looked up to her. it’s just kind of like a full circle moment because normally she’s competing there and like competing at the same level as her and it’s insane because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Apart from competing and being found on the ice all the time Gewalt has some other plans to help the new generation of skaters.

“I have already started to coach,” said Gewalt. “I guess I never really want to stop skating. So I don’t want to think about that. But I guess when it comes down to it, eventually I won’t be competitively skating anymore, but I will always be involved in skating in any way.”

Some advice Gewalt gives to those who want to compete at the same level she does was really inspiring.

“Anything is possible,” said Gewalt. “Don’t underestimate yourself. No matter where you live or where you come from. If you just work hard and you have grit, you can.”

Stories like Gewalt’s are a reminder that, if you come from a small town like McHenry or have had a bumpy career path with your sports, you can make the impossible possible.

This story was originally published on The McHenry Messenger on February 15, 2024.