By Madeleine Maccar, Team FSO contributing writer
Photos courtesy Wren Warne-Jacobsen
At 16, St. Paul Figure Skating Club representative Wren Warne-Jacobsen has already cultivated an impressive resume. The six-time Minnesota State champion, three-time Upper Great Lakes Regional champion, five-time Regional medalist, Midwestern Sectional champion, and two-time Sectional medalist also has two National appearances to her name—including last season’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where she was ranked third in the free skate and fifth nationally overall in the Junior Ladies division.
A lot of grit and hard work has had a hand in her upward trajectory—and she gives much of the credit to those who have stuck by her over the years, from her parents’ support in the face of a long-ago last-place finish to the roles her family and coaching team have played in her most significant victories.
The teenage skater has big plans for not only the 2019-2020 season but also life beyond her skating career. Warne-Jacobsen recently chatted with Figure Skaters Online about her skating history, biggest successes, and dreams of the future.
Figure Skaters Online (FSO): What was your introduction to skating, and how quickly did it escalate from a hobby to a competitive pursuit?
Wren Waren-Jacobsen: My mom [Debbie Warne-Jacobsen] skated when she was younger, and she’s the one who got me into it just by taking me to the rink. She’s also one of my coaches and has worked with me from the very beginning.
I started getting serious about it pretty quickly. Basic skills and up until pre-preliminary were more for fun: I still took skating seriously then but the competitions were a little easier because everyone was basically doing the same thing. I had started with Learn to Skate lessons when I was 5; after I was doing that for a few months, I started taking some private lessons at [Minnesota’s] Bemidji Figure Skating Club. As I got more serious about it, my mom found the St. Paul Figure Skating Club. That’s when we started commuting four hours to St. Paul about every other week until I made it my full-time club. We moved to St. Paul about six years ago.
I started competing at 7; my pre-preliminary year is when I started getting really serious. Minnesota State was a big one for me. I had just gotten my Axel, I was working really hard—and I had come from a last-place finish the competition before, which was devastating. But right when I came back from that competition, I got my Axel consistent and tuned around and won Minnesota State for the first time. And that was really important for me. I was shocked when I saw my name at the top and I was like, “What!? How did that happen!?” It was so amazing.
FSO: How did you emotionally come back from a last-place finish?
Wren: My parents have been a very big support system for me from the very beginning. They really helped me get over that. I went to the rink the very next day and got back to work. I got over it and worked for the next competition, and made it to State. I’ve learned that anything that’s important and worth having, you need to work very hard for. In order to achieve my goals, I’ve definitely had to put in a lot of training hours and keep working when I didn’t want to. It’s helped me with my mental discipline, my physical strength, setting goals, knowing what I want, and never giving up before I achieve my goals.
FSO: What else have been your biggest challenges along the way?
Wren: Definitely injuries—just staying physically healthy and fit are very important, and can present their own challenges—but especially the mental training. I’ve worked a lot with a sports psychologist, Allie Wagener, regarding my mindset in competition and in training. She’s really helped me overcome a lot of the mental part of the sport. There’s only so much you can do about nerves: They’re going to be there, they’re a part of completion—especially for me. So I’ve learned how to just kind of channel them into energy. When I feel the nerves, I know they’re normal and they mean my body’s ready to go, so I just go with it.
Skating definitely doesn’t always come naturally to me. From the beginning, I was never the fastest kid in class or the first one to get my jumps, but some elements come easier than others—like, my triple toe is my best friend but my triple Salchow needs a little bit more help. I just I try to focus on how it’s all going to improve if I’m patient and I keep working hard.
FSO: Beyond that foundation of mental training, what does your typical physical training schedule look like? Who comprises your coaching staff?
Wren: I have been with my head coach, Ann Eidson, since I was 7. She has believed in me and stood by me and my family since the beginning. I would not be here if it weren’t for her. I run programs with her, work on jumps with her, we talk about my season plans, everything.
I work with my mom on several other things: jumps, spins, anything as well. I do choreography with Molly Oberstar, and Dima Boyenko is my technical coach—I work with them pretty much every day. I skate five days a week currently, sometimes six. I’m on the ice about 3.5 hours a day. I do about 1.5 to 2 hours of off-ice training, which could be anything from off-ice jump warm-ups to weights conditioning. I usually work out about six days a week.
My coaching team also includes Audrey Weisiger, Jeremy Allen, and Alex Ouriashev for my technical coaching, and I work with Jamie Isley on choreography. In addition to Allie Wagener, my off-ice support team includes Karyn Dietz for strength and conditioning, Dr. Jonathan Graves as a sports chiropractor, Megin Sabo John as my sports physical therapist, and orthopedic physician Dr. Robyn Knutson-Bueling.
Having a team around you—and even doing things to supplement that at-home team, like going to skating camps—means that you could be getting corrections from one coach who could be saying one thing, but then you’ll go to another coach who could be saying the same exact thing but in a different way that makes more sense. Or my coach at home will build on what I’ve learned from a training trip. It can be all the same information but when it’s introduced differently, that can make it even more helpful.
FSO: How do you work with your team to create a new program?
Wren: I usually get two new programs at the beginning of every season. My coaching team and I, we sit down and find some music that we really like and that I’m passionate about—that’s very important to me. I love working on choreography and just feeling that connection to it through the artistry of the sport. That’s why the music is such a big part for me: How I feel, how the music makes me feel, how I express its feelings through choreography, are all where the artistry is. I really love matching big moments in the music with my program, like when I’m going into a step sequence and then there’s an emotional note or a crescendo that I can time with an element like a spiral, I love that. It gives me so much joy.
My favorite part is definitely the creation of a program. Getting a new program is always really exciting for me because I get to experiment with new things and work with so many great people. I start working with my choreographer to lay out where all my jumps are going to go, and then we choreograph the program. The choreography process is fun because it never really stops: We’re constantly tweaking things and making additions and editing the program along the way throughout the whole season.
FSO: Do you have a program that sticks out as a favorite for you?
Wren: Honestly, I think my favorite programs are actually the ones I’m working on right now. I feel really impassioned about my programs, and it’s really exciting to put them out there. My short program is set to “Lonlon (Ravel’s Bolero)” by Angélique Kidjo with choreography by Molly Oberstar; my free skate music is “Nessun Dorma” performed by Sarah Brightman and choreographed by Jamie Isley.
It’s really important to me to be skating to music by women, because I find that very inspiring and I am able to relate to the music more fully.
FSO: How many competitions do you usually do in a season?
Wren: It really depends. This past season, I skated a total of 10 events; for a couple seasons before that, I’d skate six to eight competitions. I like to err on the side of a lot of competitions in a season because I like the experience it gives me. Getting out there and skating my programs in front of an audience really helps me improve so I can bring it in those big competitions.
I love the excitement and the overall feeling I get when I walk into a competition and everyone’s there and wanting to do their best—there’s so much energy and excitement, and it is just so much fun. It’s nerve-wracking, too, but, especially when a competition goes the way you want, the reward is just so much more satisfying than what I feel I could get from anything else.
FSO: What are some of your proudest, most notable, or just plain coolest skating stories?
Wren: I think my two biggest skating moments are the two times I’ve made it to Nationals. Both of those experiences were amazing. I’m a six-time Minnesota State champion, a Regional champion, and a Sectional champion, and those have all been amazing, too.
This past season, my junior year, was definitely one of the most exciting years for me. I’d been up and down the whole season: I won Regionals, had a great skate there—then struggled at Sectionals in the short program before I came back to skate a great free skate, and ended up winning the event and going on to Nationals. It was so exciting and thrilling.
But my favorite skating moment actually was at the 2019 Sectionals [November 2018]. After a hard skate in the short, I was in seventh place and had an early draw for the free skate, where I was in the first warm-up and then skated fifth. I had a strong performance in the free skate, but it wasn’t perfect and I had to wait more than an hour to see if my score would hold up. We waited for the scores, skater after skater, for the next seven to see if I had qualified for Nationals—and I could not believe it when I found out I had won Sectionals and was Midwestern Junior Ladies Champion. The blogger Sarah Rasher wrote a really cool post about the suspense of the event. You can find it under “Wren Warne-Jacobsen, Mids, Freeskate” at https://thefinersports.com/2018/11/22-memorable-performances-from-2018-19-us-sectionals/.
Another cool thing I did this season was getting to be the skater in the promo ads for Riedell’s new skate line, Elara. I did two photo/video shoots, one right after Nationals and another one a couple of months later. They made four video ads that turned out really great. Each one was rolled out on Instagram and Facebook, and it was really fun to log on to Instagram and see the ads. You can see all of them on the video page of my web site, https://www.wrenwj.com/video.
I am also on the covers of the new Riedell catalog. I was one of the test skaters for the Elara prototype, and I love them—they got me to Nationals!
FSO: What role has your skating community played throughout your career?
Wren: My parents and my grandmother are always there for me. They’ve supported me through success and setbacks, and they always believe in me no matter what. I’m really grateful that my family is always there for me.
I have coaches who have always stuck with me and believed in me, and I have great friends at the rink, too. It’s a comfort being able to relate to someone. Your rink friends are working just as hard as you and they have the same goals, so they know how you’re feeling and can understand it better than anyone else. There are definitely quite a few skaters at the higher level who I really enjoy sharing things with because they always know what I’m going through. Then there’s the younger skaters: I can be really good friends with them, and I can give them my advice—I love being able to pass down everything I’ve learned to help them through their own path of training.
FSO: What are your goals for this season and beyond?
Wren: I’m planning on skating Junior Ladies again this year. I’m currently working on triple Lutz, triple-triple combinations, and exercises for triple Axel—my goal is to start training triple Axels next year.
My goals for this season are to medal at Nationals and to make it onto Team USA so I can compete internationally: I would love to win Nationals, then Worlds, then hopefully go to the Olympics. When I’m finished skating competitively, I want to be able to tour and do skate shows because I love performing. I definitely see myself being engaged in this sport for a long time, and I hope figure skating will always be a huge part of my life.
I’m a 4.0 high school student at K12 International Academy, which lets me have a super flexible schedule. I love social studies—it’s my favorite. I plan to keep skating through college, where I plan on studying political science and government. After I’m finished skating competitively, I plan to go to law school and, ultimately, I hope to run for political office someday.
Learn more about Wren by visiting her official website, https://www.wrenwj.com