Staying In Sync

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Viewers of the 2012 London Olympics may have gained some familiarity with the sport of synchronized swimming. A group of girls at Ohio University take part in a very similar practice during the winter: synchronized skating.

Synchronized skating, affectionately known as synchro to those who participate, takes the precision and teamwork of synchronized swimming and puts it on the ice.  Some members of the Ohio University synchro team were kind enough to sit down and explain their sport.

“I started skating synchro when I was six and I’ve been doing it ever since. I’m in love with it. That’s one of the reasons I came to (Ohio University), was for the skating program,” junior Tally Topp said.

Topp is not only a member of the team, but she is the coach as well.

“I became the coach this year because (out) of everyone that was on the team last year, I had the most experience and was willing to do it,” Topp said.

As the coach, Topp is responsible for designing the program, choosing music and deciding on the costumes. The routine Tally designed this year has a distinctly Celtic theme, which will stand out at competitions mainly dominated by popular artists like Lady Gaga. However there is a good reason for this music choice.

“The judges are in their 80’s so I usually try and find music that will appeal to the judges’ taste while still being modern,” Topp said.

Once the music has been chosen, she will choreograph a routine so it matches the music. For the current routine, she kept the music’s Celtic roots in mind.

“We have a lot of sharp feet to make it more Celtic,” Topp said.

She then completes the program by designing costumes that match the theme of the routine and the music. However, that’s just the first step. Next comes practicing the specially designed routine to get the precision they need for competitions.  

“We practice three days a week, two of days on ice and one day off the ice. On the off-ice days, we drill the footwork, the arm movements and the facial expression on dry ground,” junior Ashley Guarinere said.

Guarinere has been on the team since her freshman year. Like most of the girls on the team, Guarinere is very involved in figure skating groups around campus, as well as national groups.

“Most of the girls are part of PSA, USFSA and Athens figure skating club,” Guarinere said.

Many of the girls maintain these memberships so they can teach learn to skate at Bird Arena. Bird Arena is also where the team practices. All this practice pays off when the team goes to tournaments during its season. Just recently the team placed second at the Mid American tournament in Michigan.

However, it still has some more work to do.

“We generally have 4 competitions in a season, and normally the range would be 10 different schools we compete against from all over the country.”

They will compete in two more tournaments this year.

The Ohio University synchronized skating team currently consists of 13 girls. The roster size can grow to as much as 16, and the team holds open try outs every year.

“This year we had about 20 girls try out. Typically we have about 20 girls try out. We all re-try out every year.” Guarinere said.

One of the girls that tried out and made the team this year is freshman Danielle Podlaski.

“I wanted to be as active as possible so I wasn’t homesick and to meet a really good group of girls” Podlaski  said, explaining her reasoning for joining the team.

So far Podlaski has really enjoyed her experience and agrees with Guarinere that the most important part of the team is the relationship.

“There are 6 rookies on the team but it’s like a mini family, I can go to them for anything. They’ve helped me adjust to living in college,” Podlaski said.

Guarinerere’s resounding point was the same, as she emphasized the closeness of the team and how important it is for the girls to be more than just teammates.

“It’s a really good experience, you make so many new friends and bond with so many girls. We’re not just a team we’re a family,” Guarinere said.

The family will showcase its skills this weekend, as it hits the ice to entertain all the Ohio Hockey fans at Friday’s game. The award-winning synchro squad performs in between the first and second periods.