The movie opens with Casey (Michelle Trachtenberg) skating on a backyard rink at her house. Her mom (Joan Cusak) calls her in, but she wants to stay out for just a bit longer.
We then see Casey in Science class. The teacher is cooking toast over a Bunsen burner, and offers a slice to Casey. When she accepts, you know she's a science geek. The teacher suggests that she go for a scholarship, and should do a research project to improve her chances of winning. He suggests that it be technical, yet personal.
After class, Casey is discussing the project with her math geek friend, and another girl surprisingly calls them over and offers Casey an invitation to a party. Casey is flattered until the girl asks Casey to give the invitation to a guy in her science class. It appears we've just encountered the enemy.
Casey and her Math geek friend Ann (Amy Stewart) discuss the research project, and they decide that the physics of figure skating would be a great topic.
Casey shows up at the rink and admires the trophies and photographs of synchronized skating teams, and what appears to be an older picture of coach Tina (Kim Cattrall). She pulls out her video camera as the skaters take to the ice.
Suddenly coach Tina shows up and starts yelling at her for spying. She is accused of being associated with skaters from another club, and is checking on the competition. Apparently the competition is stiff at the upcoming regionals, and only the top 4 skaters will make it to the sectional championships. Tina comments that the CIA used to train figure skaters as spies.
Casey explains that this is for a science project, but Tina asks for more proof. She pulls out her notebook, which is checked out by Zamboni-Guy Teddy (Trevor Blumas). He sees pages of complex physics equations, and jokingly tells coach Tina that she is a spy! She's got a secret code book!
Tina agrees to let her film, if it is okay with the parents. The parents of the three star junior skaters reluctantly agree. Gen (Hayden Panettiere), the nasty girl who was earlier handing out the invitations, turns out to be one of the skaters, and coach Tina is her mom! She warns Casey that if a picture of her falling on her butt shows up at school, Casey is dead meat. Casey videos Gen, as well as Nikki, the short-but-spunky red-head, and the graceful Tiffany.
Casey puts her project together, but she and her math geek friend agree that it is lacking something. It needs more passion. Casey wants to try to apply her research to herself. She asks Tina about signing up at the skating club. Tina looks down her nose at her, and tells her that there is a beginner program starting soon. She'll have to skate 3 times a week, and the cost is $800. Casey is determined, and gets a job at the rink's snack bar. She takes various abuse from the younger patrons ("She breathed on my hot dog!"), as well as Gen, Nikki and Tiffany.
When the 3 girls buy lunch (a hamburger patty - hold the bun for Tiffany, and a salad with only lettuce, garbanzo beans, and a bit of cheese for Gen), she gives them the price, along with all the permutations and combinations of the prices added up. Spunky red-head Nikki tells her she can keep the change if she'll stop doing that!
Casey joins the lesson group, and is slammed by the 6 and 7 year old kids. After one lesson, Casey is watching the smooth ice laid down by the Zamboni. She sneaks onto the ice, and finds she can skater much nicer on the smooth ice. She is caught by Teddy, who yells at her. She explains that she's only ever skated on the rough ice of her pond. They share a laugh, and next thing you know, it's almost test day for the beginners.
Casey wasn't planning on going for the test, but changed her mind. Tina gives her one of her old skating costumes to wear. Casey knows she has a conflict - a Harvard applicant party - that is expected to wrap up just before the test is scheduled to start.
We see that Casey's mom is a professor, and has high expectations for her daughter. She has Casey practice her lines prior to the party - why she likes Harvard, and why she loves physics, however we can see that Casey is not into it. Mom has bought Casey a lovely new outfit for the party - a skirt and blouse with a tweed jacket. Mom is very much a feminist who doesn't believe in skimpy skating dresses. Luckily she doesn't find out that Casey is wearing her skating dress underneath her business attire.
Casey makes it to the skating test just in time. The beginner skating kids skate as a group to a song. Casey leads them through some basic steps, then throws in a few much more complex moves, including a double jump. The kids get their test results. They all passed that level, but Casey has skipped 2 levels to Junior, which is the same as the three star skaters. The kids are excited for Casey saying that skipping levels is virtually unheard of.
Casey asks Tina about joining the group. Tina says no - because she doesn't have the determination nor the money to get new $600 skates plus blades, take ballet, and private ice time. Looks like Casey is down for the count. She has no hope of making the money necessary to pull this off - until her science teacher tells her that her project is so good she could make some money from it.
Casey studies the skaters weaknesses, realizes she can help and approaches the 3 Junior skaters, and tells them that she can help them improve their weak areas that need adjustment. Nikki (now known as the Jumping Shrimp, which her mom copyrighted) denies that she has any faults, but in the end, they all listen to Casey, and their programs improve. Casey has her video camera, laptop, and finite element analysis software at the rink, and is pointing out what each is doing wrong. They are impressed, and Casey is welcomed into their world.
She trains hard, doing ballet, working out at the gym, and trying to get her homework done late into the night.
One Saturday, Gen is fighting with mom Tina. She wants to go out, but mom says no. She's got a 5:30am practice the next day, and she won't sparkle if she's out late. Gen asks if she can go out with Casey. Mom says yes. Gen suggests they take in a movie but takes Casey to a wild party instead. Casey protests she is not dressed for a party. Gen being quite nice, and helps Casey with her hair. Casey doesn't know anyone and Gen introduces her to a hockey player and makes it appear they have something in common. However she quickly abandons her to be with her boyfriend, Brian. Casey tries small talk, but he runs away when she starts babbling physics equations. Things are not going well, but then Zamboni Guy show up! She and Teddy hit it off and she finds out that he is Tina's son.
Before you know it, the Regional championship has arrived. The four skaters, their parents and coaches all ride in a bus to the out-of-town location. Casey's mom is not there. The night before, Casey got found with her skates and costume in her bag and she and her mom had a fight. Her mom wants her to ditch skating, but Casey has realized she loves it, and wants to compete at regionals. So, she sets out the next morning although her mom is dead against it. When she arrives at the van outside Harwood Skating Club, the girls are psyching each other out, but at least they explain what's going on to Casey. They certainly don't see her as a threat.
At the competition, they meet Zoey Bloch, the skate thief. Apparently she steals other girls skates to wreck their programs. She looks at Casey's skates (garage sale specials), and figures there's not much to worry about here.
The girls perform well. After the short program, the Jumping Shrimp is in first, Zoey is second, Tiffany is third, Gen is forth, and Casey is fifth. Everyone is surprised at how well Casey did and Gen tells Casey that she has a chance to knock her out of fourth position, which Tina overhears. Remember, the top four will get to go to the Junior Sectional championships.
Casey's blade is coming loose on one of her old skates. They are obviously on their last legs. Tina pulls out her credit card, and buys new skates and blades for Casey. Wow. Thinking that Tina is being generous and supportive, and wants Casey to do well, she accepts the gift. However during the program, Casey falls and the new skates cause major blister trouble (the bloody foot scene may be too intense for younger children). Zoey ends up first, followed by Nikki, Tiffany, Gen, and Casey is still in fifth.
In the locker room, Zoey notices the new skates (she would - she is the Skate Thief), and asks about them. She can't believe that Casey would skate in brand new skates for the first time at a competition and proceed to tell her that it takes at least 10 days to break them in. She figures that Tina must have done that to mess up Casey's long program, and ensure that Gen would make it into the top 4 to qualify for Sectionals.
Casey uncharacteristically (ie: stupidly) accuses Tina, Gen, and Teddy of conspiring against her, when Gen and Teddy knew nothing of Tina's plans, as Tina was the only one who saw Casey as a threat to her own daughter's chances. Casey is mad and frustrated, and calls her mom to come and get her. Tina and Casey's Mom exchange words when Casey is picked up from the competition. We find out that mom and Tina go way back. Tina was the prom queen, and stood for everything that mom hates.
Gen is not happy. She is fed up with pressure of skating. One day at school, she tries to talk to Casey to convince her that she wasn't involved in her mom's "new skates" sabotage, but Casey brushes her off and walks around the corner of the hallway. Just then Tina marches in to yell at Gen for being late for practice. Those in the school halls are forced to scatter after Tina bawls out the gawkers. Gen tells her Mom how she really feels about skating and tells her mom that she is quitting. Tina leaves and Gen finds a wall to slide down so she can cry. Casey walks up. Gen asks if she heard what happened. Casey did and realizes they are still friends. Gen tells Casey that she will inherit fourth place, and will be able to skate at the upcoming sectional championships. However, Casey tells Gen that she won't take that "slot", because Harvard is her "slot".
Casey is pondering this as she sits through her Harvard entrance interview. She tell the interviewer that she was passionate about skating, and that helped her with her project. He asks her why she is passionate about Harvard. She stops, thinks, and says that she'd rather skate than go to Harvard. The interviewer reminds her that there is no rescheduling or second chance. The interview is over. Mom is devastated that she blew the chance and doesn't understand her daughter. They exchange words. Mom accuses her of giving up her dream. Casey replies that she is giving up Mom's dream in order to follow her true dream.
Casey is reduced to skating back on the pond at home. She just can't do the jumps any more, as the ice is too rough. But wait! What's that? It's Teddy driving the Zamboni down the lane to smooth her backyard rink. She understands that he didn't know about Tina's cruel plan. They're friends again.
Now Casey has to prepare for Sectionals. There is still a problem. Casey, up to this point, has been skating without a coach. She approaches Tina, and asks for 5 minutes of her time. Casey asks Tina why she gave up skating. Casey says "You're a coach with no student, and I'm a student with no coach." Tina agrees to coach Casey for the big Sectional Championships.
Casey's mom accuses her of becoming just like Tina, of wanting to tell lies and be glamorous and feel beautiful. Casey asks Mom why she is jealous of Tina, and asks her to come watch her skate just once. Mom refuses and walks out. Mom and Casey barely talk to each other for two months.
Cut to Sectionals, where Michelle Kwan and Brian Boitano are commenting for ESPN. After the short program, Zoey is in first place, Jumping Shrimp Nikki is second, and Casey is in fourth. Casey is happy to be in fourth, but Tina is not and criticizes her performance. As soon as Tina leaves the room, Gen walks in and encourages Casey.
Mom is teaching a class, but keeps looking at the clock.
As the long program skating starts, Tina gives Casey earplugs and tells her to "go into the bubble". Just before Casey's turn to skate, she tries to call Mom at home, but gets the answering machine.
Casey is the last person to skate. Tina finally gives Casey some encouragement and places a tiara in her hair. Math Geek friend is sitting with Gen. Tina is rooting for Casey and is very nervous to watch her performance and is standing next to a seated Gen. Casey starts her routine, but falls on her first jump, a triple salchow. Gen offers her mom some popcorn to help her nerves and the two are seen holding hands during Casey's performance. The two have resolved their differences. A little while after Casey resumes her performance, she notices that her mom has come to the arena for the first time. She gets excited and picks up the pace. She throws in an extra triple jump, and nails the rest of the program. Everyone is amazed at how well she did. The scores are announced. Casey is just behind Nikki and gets the silver medal. Michelle Kwan announces that Casey is going to Nationals and speculates that Casey could be at the 2006 Olympics.
Casey finally reconciles with Mom. Then she goes back out on the ice to relive some of the best moments of her performance, but is interrupted by Teddy bringing her red roses. He offers to let her drive the Zamboni anytime, and they finally kiss.
Nikki chews out her coach and parents because she almost lost, and she is worried that Casey will be unbeatable in six months. She really is nasty - until a TV reporter starts interviewing her. Then she turns on the fake smile, and says a few nothings to the camera.
All is well, as Mom, Casey, and Tina leave the arena. Mom and Tina start making plans for Casey. They discuss what kind of sponsor to get for Casey, to pay the bills. She'll have get rid of the boyfriend (both moms agree). Mom says that she'll have to take 4 university courses next term. Tina says no courses. They compromise on 2.
The screen darkens and the credits roll.