Park City Icing synchronized skating team prepares for U.S. Championships (w/video)
On Feb. 22-24, Park City Icing, a 16-person juvenile synchronized skating team, will become the first team out of the Park City Ice Arena to represent Park City at the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in Portland, Oregon.
As you might imagine, the sport is similar to synchronized swimming, but on ice. Park City Icing will go through a six-move routine set to “Tritsch Tratsch Polka” by Johann Strauss II, during which they will be judged on the moves they perform and the skill with which they perform them — the same system used to judge figure skating in the Olympics.
On Sunday, Park City Icing invited its athletes’ families to watch a dress rehearsal of the program.
The girls — and one boy –, all between the ages of 8 and 13, took the center ice, forming a V.
Erika Roberts, the team’s head coach, stood by the scorekeeper’s box.
“Representing the Figure Skating Club of Park City, Park City Icing juvenile!” she said, then cued their music.
She watched with a kind of quiet apprehension as the team started its routine.
She said it still makes her nervous to watch.
“Just because we’re a new team and they’re inexperienced, so we don’t know what they are going to do,” she said. The team was formed last May, and started practicing in August.
“As a coach, once you put a skater, as an individual or a team, on the ice, you don’t know what they’re going to do,” she said. It’s nerve wracking.”
But the team skated its routine cleanly, and the parents in the stands applauded.
“Let’s get out falls out,” Roberts says to the team.
They lined up around the center circle, then fell down, into a ring of upturned knees and legs.
“It’s kind of a tradition,” Roberts said. “We always get our falls out — they fall on purpose so that when they get to competition, they know what it feels like and they don’t need to fall in competition.
If the team has indeed gotten all its falls out, and it performs well at the national championships, the elements will be rated at a Level 2 (of 4) for three of their components and a Level 4 for two more.
“We have the creative element, the intersection, the pivoting block, the line, the circle and the traveling wheel,” said Brynn Roberts, one of the teams captains. “The creative element, five skaters go into five spins while the others do-si-do, and do their own thing, and I think it looks pretty cool, then the intersection, we’re all going in backwards and turning, sometimes there’s a lot of collisions, but hopefully there’s none at nationals.”
Her teammate and co-captain Chloe Taurel said the team then goes into the pivoting block, which is arguably the toughest part of the program.
“We have two pivots,” she said. “We’re in three different lines and we come around and turn 180 degrees. We start out facing the judges, then we turn our back and come back around to the judges.”
Then they do it again, keeping the same grid pattern as they turn, like a square distending as if someone was tugging at its corners. As the sport’s name suggest, the trick is staying synchronized.
“Since you’re lined up in a specific order, we’re staggered, so when we are going around, if one line cuts in front, then we can’t finish the block, so it’s really important that we are all in line with each other,” Taurel said.
Erika Roberts said the team has dedicated several practices to nailing the pivoting block, and has changed how it’s performed after each of their three competitions. For the coaching staff, it’s been a learning curve too.
“That’s something that I never did as a skater,” said coach Haley Smith, who competed in synchronized skating at the University of Michigan. “It’s a newer element, so it’s a little bit more difficult to teach something that you’ve never done, but I think we’ve got it now and they feel pretty confident about it. It has taken us the entire season to get it down, but now’s a great time to get it — right before nationals.”
As only the sixth team in Figure Skating Club of Park City’s synchronized skating program, the team is still new, and because this is its first time going to the national championships, the coaches and athletes consider this a learning opportunity. Any success will be taken as a bonus.
“We want to make sure that the kids can do synchro, but also that they can participate in singles skating if they want,” Smith said. “A lot of the Midwest teams only do synchro, so that’s kind of what we’re up against.”
She said those teams will practice their routines for six to eight hours a week, while Park City Icing has about an hour and 15 minutes per week of ice time.
“We are managing our expectations, but we think they can do really pretty well,” Smith said.
The athletes seemed to be on the same page.
“I hope we skate our best,” Brynn Roberts said. “Our personal best right now is 27 points, so I’m hoping we can beat that and skate the best that we’ve ever skated and have fun.”
Taurel said she hoped they could step off the ice feeling proud.
“Since July, we’ve been training this program,” she said. “To be able to skate a clean program at the end of our season would be really awesome.”
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