At 6:30 on steamy summer mornings, Katherine Bofkis pulls on heavy tights and a sweater and heads to Benfield Pines Ice Rink in Millersville to practice backward cross-overs, pinwheels and swizzles.
It's the only time she and the other members of the Chesapeake Stars Precision Ice Skating Team can find to practice, she explains.
The early morning practices don't bother her, she says, because "I just find it kind of boring just sitting around the house."
The Chesapeake Stars are a synchronized skating team that performs the kinds of routines to music that one might see at the Ice Capades.
As many as 24 skaters link arms at times to form the pinwheels, arcs and circles that mark the routines.
"The hardest thing about it is all the foot work because the music is so fast," says Katherine, 11, who lives in Bowie.
The team's music includes songs from the Broadway hit "Grease," a polka, and a medley of Christmas carols.
The team is divided into three age groups, 12 and under, 14 and under, and 12 to 19.
Danielle Bofkis, Katherine's mother and the team's fund raising coordinator, says the Chesapeake Stars are the first team to represent Maryland in the national precision skating championship, where it has competed for the past three years.
She said the team once placed first in the silver round, which is equivalent to a ranking of about 6th or 7th in the nation.
The team began training for the 1995 season last week.
Members practice twice a week for nine months out of the year.
Their parents pay $600 a year for the practice sessions and ice skates can add a substantial amount.
Top-of-the-line skates cost more than $500 and custom-made skates can cost up to $1,000.
Meanwhile, the fund-raisers must come up with about $1,500 for costumes for the entire team and another $3,000 to rent buses to travel to competitions.
Next year, the team plans to compete in January at the Colonial Invitational in Lowell, Mass., and at the U. S. Eastern Championship in Fitchburg, Mass., in February.
If the team places in the top four, it will move on to the U.S. National Championship in San Diego Calif.
Team members miss about a week of school for each competition, but that's one of the advantages of being on the team, says Amy Plourde, 12.
The other advantage is being with her teammates, the Crofton resident said.
"We just really have a good time together," she said.