By day, Lisa Rosado works as an elementary school principal. Come evening, the Ellicott City resident harks back to her own youth, lacing up her roller skates and gliding gracefully around a maple rink in Laurel as organ music booms from ceiling speakers.
“Skating is a good way for me to decompress,” said Rosado, 39. “It keeps me grounded. It’s my outlet so that when I go to work, I’m happy.”
At 56, Megan Larko has weathered the good-natured jibes about her passion for roller skating.
“I’ll hear ‘Grow up’ or ‘You’re how old and you do this?’ ” said Larko, of Laurel. Her response?
“I’m not dead yet — and it’s a lot of fun out there.”
Moreover, there are trophies to be won. Competitive skaters both, Rosado and Larko have medaled in roller figure skating in national events. A technical whiz, Rosado’s forte is tracing, with her skates, a series of circles painted on the floor, while the free-wheeling Larko excels at the flashier jumps and spins.
And you thought roller skating was just sidewalk folly for 5-year-olds.
All told, 15 skaters of both sexes, ranging in age from 8 to 80, train at the Laurel Roller Skating Center under the four coaches there. Nationally, there are 2,500 competitive figure roller skaters, of which 60 percent are female and half are over the age of 18, said Eric Steele, executive director of USA Roller Sports. All compete in age groups.
Both Rosado and Larko train with Ron Fitzgerald, 81, of Jessup, a world-class skater 60 years ago and a member of the U.S. Amateur Roller Skating Association Coaches Hall of Fame. All are hooked on a low-profile sport whose popularity peaked in the mid-1900s. Despite its similarity to ice skating — or, perhaps, because of it — roller skating has never crashed the Olympics, or put one of its own on a Wheaties box.
More’s the pity, said Rosado, who practices twice a week at Laurel.
“You’re working your arms, legs and abs, tightening your glutes and burning calories all the time,” she said. “When you wake up the next day, you really feel it.”
Last year, her first as principal of Savoy Elementary in Southeast Washington, Rosado greeted students and their parents on back-to-school night while wearing her skates.
“I did some turns, a few circles and spins, and skated down the halls. The kids were laughing hysterically and cheering me on,” she said. “It was a nice way to break the ice — and they got to see me as a person.”
Among the 70 medals hanging in Rosado’s den is the silver she won in figure skating at the 2016 USA Roller Sports National Championships in Lincoln, Neb. Her goal? Get the gold.
“Every little girl wants to win the nationals,” she said. “I dream about skating; I go to bed with dance routines playing in my head. My skates [$300 to $500 a pair] are my babies. When I’m out there competing, I’m tapping into my childhood. It’s the little girl dream of putting on a pretty dress, wearing makeup and feeling feel free and graceful, like a dancing ballerina.”
Though she toyed with roller skating as a child, Rosado was 33 when she gave it her all.
“When my two kids were young, they went ice skating while I sat and watched,” she said. “Now, I roller skate and they come to see.”
Married 22 years, she said her husband is “my biggest supporter. Plus, he zippers up my outfits.” That wardrobe includes a half-dozen sequined costumes, from baby pink to Ravens’ purple, like those worn by ice skaters.
Her next event: The Stars on Wheels Invitational, a regional classic at the Wheels Skating Center in Odenton March 16-18.
She’ll never outgrow the sport, Rosado said:
“I’ll keep skating until I fall to the floor and can no longer get up.”
Quit competing? There’s too much of the tyke left in Megan Larko, who's three times the age of some of her rivals on the rink.
“I like to play head games with them,” she said. “I’ll say, ‘You know, I’m old enough to be your mother’ — and watch their expressions. My original goal was to skate freestyle until I was 50, but I’m past that.”
Why stop? Three times in the past seven years, Larko has placed third at the nationals in freestyle, wowing judges with her salchows, axels and camel spins, the same moves that are done on ice.
“Since turning 50, I’m known not so much for skating well but for the fact that I still do it at all,” said Larko, a computer systems administrator at Fort Meade. “What’s neat is that this is a lifetime sport. I’ve seen people in their 80s and 90s out there skating with wheels on their walkers, while socializing with friends. They’re not doing fancy dance turns, just weight-bearing exercises that bring back fond memories — but don’t impact their joints.”
A onetime gymnast at Wilde Lake High, Larko took up roller skating in her mid-30s. Her first trip to the nationals, in 1999, ended badly. While performing an outer forward camel spin, a move in which one leg is parallel to the ground and the other spins on the skate wheel, she broke an ankle. In third place at the time, Larko finished fourth.
“Losing the medal bothered me more than the busted ankle,” she said. Three times since, she has ascended that podium, surpassing her wildest dreams.
“I never expected to place nationally,” Larko said. “I’ve met every goal I set.” Yet there she is at the Laurel rink, 10 hours a week, skating to organ music and honing her moves for crunch time.
Her workouts have also paid off outside the rink.
“Four years ago, on a winter morning, I was leaving for work with a cup of coffee in my hand when I slipped on the ice,” Larko said. “I slid sideways, stuck one arm out, found my feet and stood back up without spilling a drop. It was the same kind of move that I do on skates. I thought, ‘That’s a major achievement.’ ”
Wherever the sport takes her, Larko’s performances will always be steeped in tradition: “Win, lose or draw, I celebrate with a hot fudge sundae — just because I went out and tried.”