Miami University’s Synchronized Skating Team

Miami Quarterly, Sports Section

Issue Date: 1/20/11

Take the grace and beauty of ballet and the artistry and preciosity of a dance team, add the harmony of a drill team and put the performance on ice. What you have is a sport that is easy on the eyes and tough on the competitors: synchronized skating. To succeed it takes immense concentration, discipline, rhythm and teamwork, all while keeping a smile on your face and balancing with thin steel blades on solid ice. If you look close enough, you may be able to see the weight held on their shoulders.

Miami University’s Synchronized Skating program is one of the most unique programs in the country. It is made up of three teams: Collegiate, Junior and Senior. Collegiate, the standard varsity team competes against national university varsity teams. The Junior Team is at a higher level than the Collegiate, yet holds an age restriction: they cannot turn 19 before July 1st of the season they wish to complete. And this leaves the Senior Team, which consists of 20 of the strongest skaters in the program.

Their competitions aren’t like any other competitions. In January, the Junior Team will be traveling to Czech Republic for the Prague Cup and in February, the Senior Team will be traveling to Milan, Italy for the Spring Cup. These competitions are different than any other competitions. They will be competing against teams at their levels from all over the world. In March, the Junior Team will compete again at the Synchronized Skating Junior Challenge in Switzerland and the Senior Team will take part in the World Synchronized Skating Championships in Finland in April.

“When you walk out on the ice when they announce ‘United States of America’ and see the American flags waving,” said Miami skater Lauren Bracken, “it’s just an incredible feeling knowing you’re representing your country.”

Miami’s Senior Team is perhaps the most unique, being one of the only programs in the nation to have Senior Team in its program. Because the Senior Team has placed 3rd in Nationals last year, they will be representing Team USA in their competitions.

Throughout first semester the girls practice long hours, getting stronger and faster. They work with a ballet instructor to sharpen their movements and appear more graceful as they move as one. It takes time and patience to perfect a performance. Knowing that will being leaving the country for about a week each for these competitions, they have to talk to their professors, get notes, and be on top of their work so if that they have an 8 a.m. test the day after they return from their trip that they will be prepared. “We’ve trained ourselves to do it,” says Senior Marisa Hutchinson of the Senior Team. “We are always doing our homework and studying on the long flights and in our hotel rooms.”

Before they know it, they’re in a beautiful city across the globe. “We get part of the day to explore and be in another culture,” Hutchinson said. The sightseeing, however, doesn’t last long.

When they arrive at the competitions, it is exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. There are teams from all over the world, all with different skating styles and techniques. At these competitions, they aren’t just competing for a win for Miami University, but they’re going for the gold for Team USA. If they don’t place in the top three places at Nationals this year, they will be dropped from Team USA next year. The pressure is intense, yet incredibly motivating. “As a skater it’s another experience when you’re representing your country and you get to experience a whole other side of competiveness,” Kelly Critchfield said, another Senior on the Senior team,” so it a completely unique experience.”

On top of representing Miami and Team USA, three Miami skaters have been selected in October to become part of the US Figure Skating DREAM Team: Sarah Arnold (Senior Team), Taylor Walker (Senior Team), and Lauren Bracken (Collegiate Team). The DREAM program selects 10 figure skaters from teams around the country that represent determination, responsibility, education, achievement, and motivation. The program was created in 2008 by Miami alumna Rebecca Search, chair of the Synchronized Skating Development Subcommittee. “The goal of the Dream Team is to use the skating and leadership skills of America’s top synchronized skaters to influence the lives of developing athletes,” Search said. Each year, 10 skaters are selected from a highly accomplished pool of applicants from skating programs around the country. The Synchronized Skating Committee looks for the applicants that are a part of Team USA, and show strong leadership and communication. The applicants are also asked to write five essays about their experiences of skating, why they should be chosen, and how they can make an impact.

“I’m so proud that some of our very own Miami athletes were selected to be part of the US Figure Skating Dream program,” Miami’s Coach Carla DeGirolamo said. “These three young women are very bright, driven individuals and will serve as great ambassadors for US Figure Skating and Miami University both on and off the ice.”

When the skaters aren’t competing in a foreign country or studying for a test, they are fulfilling their duties of the DREAM Team. “With school, Team USA, and the DREAM Team, I’m always busy,” Arnold said, “but you get used to it.” For each of the 10 issues, the members of the DREAM Team write an article, whether it’s about their first experience competing in an international competition, or writing about confidence in skating throughout their lives. “The magazine is especially geared toward skaters going to college and shows them how to stay involved at the collegiate level,” Arnold said.

The DREAM Team commitment goes year round. Over the summer, the skaters attend figure skating festivals where they give speeches to aspiring figure skaters. “We are the faces of US figure skating,” Walker said. “It’s our job to help promote the sport.”

Whether they represent Miami, Team USA, or the DREAM Team, Miami’s synchronized skating team consists of far more than student athletes.

“It’s an honor to represent our school nationally and internationally,” Walker said. “We’re apart of something that’s known throughout the world and it’s rewarding to know we’ve worked up to this.”