Caleb Niva is philosophical for a 14-year-old athlete: "You do whatever you have to do to skate."
In his case, it means taking three buses four days week from Bellingham to Edmonds, beginning at 7 a.m., and then walking half a mile to train with his ice dancing partner and coaches at the Olympic View Arena. For Niva, the rink has an appropriate name, considering that he and ice dancing partner, 11-year-old Gianna Buckley of Seattle, have the loftiest possible goal: to qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
But that's only part of his training. On Tuesdays, he buses to Everett for different power workouts. On Saturdays, he takes ballet lessons in Bellingham to strengthen his legs and his balance.
He's also about to begin his fifth semester of online school at the Washington K-12 Virtual Academy.
First, though, he'll get a well-earned "break" from his training sessions of at least two hours daily - at the U.S. Figure Skating Nationals in Omaha, Neb.
He and Buckley, along with coaches and family members, will leave Jan. 23. They'll begin competition the next day against 11 other teams in the Juvenile Division for skaters 15 and younger.
"Our goal is to win a medal, to get to the podium," said Niva, the son of Doug and Lisa Niva.
If you go their web site - gcskating.com -and check out their stylish routines to a variety of musical styles, you'll get an idea of why their goal seems realistic.
Caleb Niva is not only philosophical, he's also pragmatic. He and Buckley were pleased to finish a close second behind an older Southern California team, Jonathan Schultz and Elizabeth Addas, while competing against skaters from 11 states at the Pacific Coast Sectional at Provo, Utah, in November.
"Our goal was just to get to the podium (top four)," Niva said. "The idea was to get to nationals."
This isn't the pair's first national trip. In the previous annual nationals, they finished 15th in a field of 26 mostly older skaters (the Junior and Senior Nationals have been combined this year, with fewer national qualifiers). They became a team in June 2011.
Niva, who has a distinct sense of humor, says one of the major reasons he has retained his devotion to ice dancing is how much fun his coaches in Edmonds, the husband-wife team of Steve Baker and Sharon Jones Baker, have made the untold hours of training.
"They're hilarious. They really know how to make it fun," Niva said. "And we sometimes play pranks on them."
Niva feels he could not have better coaches. The Bakers are both former national champions from the United Kingdom and Sharon competed at both the Olympic and world levels. Caleb says their son, Jean-Luc Baker, will be bidding for a spot on the U.S. ice skating team for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Niva and Buckley plan to move up to the intermediate level at the Junior Nationals next year.
"We're definitely in it for a long time," said Niva, who was recently featured on KING-TV's "Evening Magazine."
Niva, who turns 15 in May, is three years older than Buckley, who turns 12 in June. It's not uncommon to have such an age difference in junior ice dancing, since the girl's weight must be manageable for the boy to handle (that's true on all levels, but especially for younger boys).
"Gianna's exceptionally mature for her age," said Doug Niva. "She really has her act together. She's businesslike and serious. Caleb is more of a free spirit."
Considering Caleb spends about five hours most days on buses, he has to be mighty serious, too.
"I loved skating right away," said Caleb, who first hit the ice when he was 4 years old. "I began real skating when I was 6 and starting skating smoothly and doing jumps. I did solo skating for a long time, and I still do it for fun, but I like ice dancing a lot better."
Ice dancing can be extremely demanding, combining technique, grace, showmanship and muscle.
"You have to have more endurance than you do in solo skating," said Caleb, who undergoes special training for leg power and leg extension on Tuesdays with Emma Cyders at Comcast Arena. On Saturdays, he studies ballet with the Bishop family at Bellingham's Northwest Ballet Theater.
Doug Niva, a video producer, and Lisa Niva, a teacher at Wade King Elementary School, also have sons Jonathan, 9, and Jackson, 5, so the family is always active. They are grateful that Caleb has made numerous friends on the buses, especially since he spends so much time on them - some five hours daily.
"There's a sense of community on the buses," his father said. "After the regular riders saw Caleb and Gianna on television, they clapped for Caleb the next time they saw him."
Caleb said he feels "very lucky" to have parents who can support his goals, since thousands of dollars are involved every year.
"We have to make sacrifices," said Doug. "Caleb has had to step up and become more independent. He's armed with his cell phone, laptop and ipod."
In fact, Caleb doesn't have any print textbooks - everything is digital.
At the nationals, Caleb said he and Gianna will do routines to "Anastasia," "New York, New York" and "The Adams Family" - yes, the 1960s television comedy - so the music is varied and fun. Their coaches do the choreographing.
In order to keep up with his friends, Caleb started a Facebook page. He formerly played soccer, but now must devote his athletic time to ice dancing, especially since travel is such a time-consuming challenge.
One of his goals is to become bilingual - Spanish is his favorite online subject.
He's already about as fluent as a 14-year-old boy can be on the ice.
NOTE: Spelling of Sharon Jones Baker's and Emma Cyders' names corrected Jan. 14.