Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Letter to the Future

A Letter to the Inaugural United States Synchronized Skating Olympic Team:

     I write this letter to you shortly after returning home from the ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships in the year 2015. I am unsure of when in the future this letter will actually find you, but do know with all my heart, that one day it will.

     You have been chosen to represent your country on the Olympic stage, so I am writing to remind you what this truly means. I am writing to remind you what this sport it truly about.

Haydenettes celebrate a clean short program at the
2015 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships
     In 2015, there is a common misconception that Synchro is the discipline that skater’s “fall back on”. You and I both know this to be untrue. If you are like me, then the sport didn’t choose you, you chose it. You chose synchro because it was the biggest challenge you had yet faced. You had to master the jumps of Freestyle, the turns of Ice Dance and the lifts of Pairs Skating - all while staying in perfect unison with your 15 team mates. You chose to be a person your teammates could depend on. You took on the responsibility of not only looking out for yourself and improving your skills, but also lifting up those around you with support. I like to call synchro the “Miracle Sport”, because you and I know that 16 people skating a perfectly clean program in perfect unison can be somewhat of a Miracle.
The Haydenettes - my teammates for life 

Nothing will replace the feeling you have after 
you've skated your best
     You are now representing the Ultimate team sport. You will not only skate together on the Olympic stage, but you will become one unit. You are representing the best of what the United States has to offer, past and present. I ask you now not to forget what this sport is truly about. The skaters who competed this weekend in the 2015 World Championships did not grow up choosing to skate synchro in the hopes of one day becoming Olympians. We did it in spite of the fact that the Olympics were not an option. There is something special about this sport that grabs on to your heart and does not let go. It is a sport for fighters, the kind of athletes who do not give up on themselves or each other. It is a sport where you will have your highest highs and your lowest lows, but yet you will never be alone. It is a sport where in those few moments in your career when the miracle does happen, you can skate to the middle of the ice, hug your adjacent puzzle pieces, and stand side by side as you share your accolades with your best friends. You are a part of something so much bigger than one person. So please do not forget the sport and the love for being a part of something that reaches far beyond your own wants and needs. We have been working tirelessly so that you would have this chance.

2015 World Synchronized Skating Team
So please, skate with your heart, skate with your soul and know that generations of synchronized and precision skaters before you are smiling, knowing that all of our dreams came true! We know you will represent us well, now GO GET EM’ USA!

A member of the 2015 United States Synchronized Skating & World Team                

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How Did We Get Here?

I write this blog post to you as I’m about to depart for the 2015 ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships, which is the final event of the season for me and my team, the Haydenettes (Team USA 1), and I think to myself “how did we get here?”.  In less than a week from now another season will have come and gone; final performances will have been skated and champions will have been crowned.
Haydenettes last practice at home before heading to Canada for the World Championships

So how did we get here?  Well I guess you could say time just flies when you’re having fun.  But most of all we got here from the help, support, and dedication of many incredible people. 

Our coaches.  They push us every practice, they know what’s best for us, we give them our all and trust them 100%.  We have succeeded and reached this point thanks to all the hard work of our coach, Saga Krantz.
With Coach Saga after the short program at The Spring Cup in Milan, Italy

Our family.  They love us unconditionally, day in and day out.  From sitting in the crowd at a competition or watching online, they support us whether we win or lose and we would not be the individuals we are today without them.
Me with my parents at the Award Ceremony at this year's National Championships

Our managers.  Who organize travel plans, schedules, and everything in between, and are there to support us every step of the way throughout the season. 
Haydenettes with our team manager, Gail Mayer, at the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk earlier this season

Our friends, who might not understand anything about the sport, but are always there to cheer us on.  
Younger skaters, who look up to us and remind us of where we once began our journeys and why we fell in love with this sport in the first place.

Former skaters, who created a legacy for us to follow, acted as role models for us, and created dreams for ourselves that we are living out today.
Current and former Haydenettes at the 2015 US Championships

And then of course, our teammates.  We wouldn’t be where we are if we didn’t put our undivided trust and love into our team as a whole.  We work as one unit on and off the ice and are able to create lifelong memories and friendships along the way.
2015 Haydenettes

So how did we get here? We practiced, we sacrificed, we worked as hard as we could.  But we wouldn’t have made it here on our own.  Thank you to everyone who has helped me get to where I am today, off to compete at the World Championships.  I couldn’t have done it without each and every one of you.  

Let’s go USA! 

Ashley Tomich

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Final Push

After months and months of practice, countless run-throughs, and even more “Let’s do that section one more time” comments, it’s hard to believe that we are already at this point in the season, making that final push towards stepping out onto the world stage. In just a few days 25 teams, representing 20 countries from all around the world will meet in Hamilton, Canada for what is sure to be a tight competition and an incredible event.

Scott Brown with the Miami Senior Team
Coming off of the US Synchronized Skating Championships with such strong performances by all the teams in the senior division, the Haydenettes and Miami University were thrilled to be named the 2015 US World Team, but the hard work definitely did not end there. For Miami, our goal was certainly to reclaim our spot on their World Team, but also to take it much farther than that. These past several weeks have been packed with skating and training in an effort to ensure that we are as prepared and well set up for success at the ISU World Championships as possible.

While the rest our classmates and the Miami University student body cleared out of Oxford and headed for the beaches over spring break two weeks ago, we stuck around and put in several hours of intense practice, pushing our stamina and tweaking our programs ever so slightly. We were very lucky to welcome back one of our choreographers, Scott Brown, for some attention to detail in the short program. He helped us prepare to fill the FirstOntario Centre in Hamilton with our joy of skating from the moment we enter the ice.

Miami Skating taking a quick break to watch the Varsity Hockey Team on TV

We truly have been pushing ourselves harder than ever and putting in a tremendous amount of work over the past month. The best part of this work however, has been doing it together as a team. Without all 19 athletes giving everything that we have each and every practice, we couldn’t have accomplished everything that we have so far this season. It’s in those times that you don’t think your legs can take even one more crossover, that looking over at your teammates is the most empowering. This one glance allows you to do what you yourself might not have been able to do without your teammates giving 150% as well.

“You will never know your limits until you push yourself past them!”

Former Skyliners Junior teammates and DREAMmates Audrey McQuade and Ashley Mulhern ready to take on the World once again
It’s always so important to remember that anything can happen on any given day, at any competition, but especially at the World Championships. In the sport of synchronized skating, there are so many things that are out of our control as skaters when competing. We can’t control the judges, the technical panel, or even the other teams, but the one thing we do have control over is our own performance. As we look towards the World Championships, we have set our sights as high as we can and will head into the competition with the goal of putting on another show, skating with strong performance all week long, exciting the arena, and leaving our mark on Hamilton. We may not be able to control our final placement, but we can most definitely control how we feel when we hit our ending position and give ourselves and the audience a performance to remember. This is sure to be a week that will remain in our memories for the rest of our lives.
2015 US World Team

We can’t wait for another ISU World Synchronized Skating Championships in North America, where you can count on the crowd to be bursting with spirit, deafening cheers, and a true passion and appreciation for the sport of synchronized skating. Good luck to all the teams competing and we’ll see you there!

Representing the USA with Love & Honor,
Ashley Mulhern

Friday, March 27, 2015

Fueling the Grind

As soon as Nationals were over I wanted to get right back to practice! Competing at Nationals, watching teams at every level, and qualifying for Worlds motivated me to take on the next step in training with the Haydenettes. 
Some of my favorite moments after competing at 
Nationals were the hugs from my teammates and my family
[Photo taken by Kaleigh Corbett]

Leaving the locker room after competing the 
short program at Nationals
This season, nutrition has never been more significant. As the training grind gets more intense, nutrition and hydration play an even more important role. Did you know that when you start to feel thirsty, your muscles are already approximately 20% less efficient? I only wish I had known sooner because now that I am drinking almost 4 Nalgene water bottles a day, I’m less sore after an intense practice or workout.

Post-practice recovery: water and a protein shake 
As a team, we have made a big push to eating healthy and fueling our bodies with the right foods: the less processed, the better. Protein, fruits, and vegetables have become our main focus!

As synchro athletes, we train in multiple disciplines, often more than once in one day. My favorite start to a day of training and school is a good breakfast. For example, on Wednesdays I’m on the ice first thing in the morning for a lesson, after which I go to class, and then head to practice where we’re on the ice for 2 ½ hours and then do a high intensity workout right after. Eating a power-packed breakfast affects my focus and mood for the whole day, so I like to have a lot of protein and some fruit.
My favorite breakfast: egg white omelet with spinach and ham, cottage cheese, and berries
Remember that everyone’s body is different and requires different fuel. Nevertheless, I encourage you during this season of tryouts and recovery to try to drink a little more water every day, or add an extra serving of fruit or vegetables to your next meal because it really makes a difference!

Good luck with school and tryouts everyone!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Caught up with Post-National Blues?

It has only been 18 days since the 2015 US Synchronized Skating Championships concluded in Providence, Rhode Island. But who is counting? Unforgettable programs were skated, champions were crowned, and I am sure tons of selfies were taken. Instead of doing homework, you browse through all 500+ of your teammate's photos.  You constantly have flashbacks to being out on the ice with your teammates and skating your very best. And you cannot stop watching your performance on YouTube.

You, like many other skaters are displaying classic symptoms of post-National blues!

With former DREAMmate Audrey McQuade and DREAMmate Eliana Marostica post Senior Award Ceremony at Nationals.   

Is it socially acceptable to #tbt to #SynchroChamps15 already?

Here are a few suggestions on what you can be doing to keep your mind off last season and help prepare you for next season:

1.     Keep skating - practicing your individual skills will help you maintain your current level of skating. Work on skills that where challenging for you this past season and master what you were already comfortable with. Never underestimate the amount of time and dedication you put into making yourself a better skater.

Taking advantage of private ice at Walter Brown Arena at Boston University.

2.     Test: Moves in the Field, Ice Dance, and Freestyle – taking tests is important to eventually compete at certain levels in qualifying competitions. Or you can take tests to continually challenge yourself and your abilities.

3.      Cross train – the off-season is the perfect time to try new activities that keep you active. Whether it is running, swimming, cycling, kickboxing, or yoga, your options are endless and should be fun! 
Ashley Tomich & I powered through a Vinyasa Flow class.

4.     Participate in the S.T.A.R.S program – a fun and interactive off-ice fitness assessment designed to promote all-around fitness and to physically prepare skaters for more complex and demanding skating skills. This is a great way to see your performance in comparison with with matched age-, gender-, and level- skaters from across the US. It also provides you with a baseline for where your fitness levels are and what areas you can focus on in training for next season.

5.     Attend Summer CampsDREAM Camp, Synchro Training Festival, or other summer camps are the perfect opportunity to meet and skate with other skaters from across the country. You also get to work with some of the best coaches in the US and learn new skills that you can take back home to share with your team.

Goofing around between on-ice sessions at Elite Camp 2014.

Registration for DREAM Camp and Training Festival opens on April 1, 2015!

6.     Rest – this is also the perfect time to focus on your individual needs! Whether you take a few weeks off to rest an injury or go on a vacation with your family, do not worry about not being able to skate. Everyone deserves time to rest and regroup during the off-season, which can actually help you prepare for next season.

No matter what you end up doing during this off-season, make sure you keep your skates sharpened and your body healthy so you are ready to take on next season. I know I cannot wait to spend time with my friends and family back at home in California.

Feel free to reach out to any DREAM skater or myself if you have any questions about what we do during our off-season! We would love to hear from you or see you at DREAM Camp/Training Festival this summer!

-       Devin Wang

Monday, March 9, 2015

No “Right” Path

As another season comes to a close for United States Synchronized Skating, we are all aware that no time is lost in planning for the next season.   All of this has a different meaning for the athletes who are looking toward the next step in their skating career.  

For many athletes, the love for this sport was developed through a single organization.  This club gave you not only the skills to succeed, but many best friends - which makes it all the more difficult to move in a new direction. This decision does not weigh lightly, as it asks not only what team you will find yourself on, but also how will you balance your life outside of the rink.

My advice to the worried skaters who have this daunting decision ahead of them is simple; decide what matters most to you.  A favorite quote of mine that reads “Ask yourself what is really important and then have the wisdom and courage to build your life around it”.  If the answer to this question is skating, then I know a few girls who were in your shoes not very long ago.

As a small town girl from Howell, Michigan I joined the Ann Arbor Hockette organization at age 12. I had been skating freestyle and synchro for my local club team since the age of 5, but I was ready to take on a new challenge in hopes of pushing myself further.  For five amazing years I skated for the Hockettes and made friends that are still like family to me, today.  I then found myself in the position to move toward my biggest dream - becoming a member of the Haydenettes. 

Lifelong friends that I made during my time on Hockettes, Maggie Mayer (above) and Tessa Hedges (below)

It is hard enough deciding which team may be a good fit, but what about the life you will have to build outside of the rink?  Take a breath - like I said before, just follow year heart. If your greatest goal is to skate, then you will find a way to make it happen.

There is no single or “right” way to make your dreams come true.  My team has followed a number of paths:
  •  Many of the girls on my team attend college full time.  This is perfect for them because it not only allows them to continue their education, but it also gives them a place to call home. 
  • Others have jobs (instead of, or as well as school) to help offset the costs of skating and living expenses. 
  • Some have graduated college already and move to Hayden as their next step – (even from other countries!)
My path has been a bit more winding than that of a normal student athlete. For the past four years I have been a part time Biology/ Pre-med student at Fitchburg State University. Being part time has given me the chance to focus on skating, as well as maintain my GPA. I have had the freedom to work multiple jobs and the flexibility to balance amazing volunteer/internship opportunities, such the Boys & Girls Club and The Special Olympics.  My favorite volunteer opportunity outside of the rink has been working for the New England Aquarium’s Rescue and Rehabilitation center. Each week I shadow Biologists and Veterinarians as they treat wild animals found on the coast of Massachusetts!
A photo taken by The Boston Globe during the record breaking sea turtle stranding season of the fall/winter of 2014-15
I hope all of this can help to ease some of your minds. I know that there is still much uncertainty, but if you are working towards a goal that drives you, then the sacrifices will be nothing in comparison to reaching those goals! Though we are all synchronized skaters working towards the same dreams, our paths will certainly veer in different directions before merging into one.

-Lindsay Grajek

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My “Rhode” to the 2015 US Synchronized Skating Championships

The idea that all good things must come to an end is one that I refuse to believe is true… at least in this particular situation. As I sit here on the 13 hour bus ride with the Miami University Skating Organization, headed to my final National Championship, I am thinking about how my experience as a synchronized skater over the past 16 seasons has not just been a good thing, but an incredible life changing experience.  A long road came prior to this year’s National Championship.  A road that had some bumps and many hills to climb, but also some unbelievable views from the tops of those hills. Although this may be my final National Championship, I don’t see it as the end of the road, but just a veer in a new direction.

2004 Juvenile National Championships
It all started as a seemingly giant goal for a fairly small 9 year old attending her first Nationals at the juvenile level back in 2003. I had a dream of competing on a nationally ranked senior level team that would compete internationally as part of Team USA. Things really started three years before that when an even smaller 6 year old little girl, begged her mom to let her try this thing called precision skating. Year after year I became more and more in love with the sport, and thrived on the energy I received from performing and competing. The road to where I am now was not always a smooth sheet of ice, but it had some rocky starts, downfalls, and uphill battles.

The first several years that I competed at the U.S. Synchronized Skating National Championships, I was absolutely thrilled to be there and to experience it all. The outcome however, was not quite as exciting as the event itself, ending many times towards the bottom of the division. As the years went on, my teammates and I worked even harder, became more and more driven to succeed, and finally began to rise in the ranks. It wasn’t until 2006 that I finally earned my first national medal, the novice division pewter in Grand Rapids, MI. Moving into the junior division, we struggled to make it onto the podium, but it was those times of adversity that brought us together and made us fight even harder the next season. This perseverance through even the most devastating of performances afforded me 4 international competitions with Team USA at the junior level and 2 appearances on the Junior World Team as both Team USA 1 and Team USA 2.

2006 Novice Pewter Medalist
Starting a new chapter of my life and moving on to college, I could not be happier or luckier to be a part of the Miami University Varsity Synchronized Skating teams, where I have been given the best of both worlds. Competing on the senior team for the past 4 years has been a dream come true and the only place you can proudly say that you represent your university and your country each and every time you take the ice with your 19 best friends. While things haven’t always gone the exact way that I may have wanted them to, I have learned more than I could have ever imagined from each of these experiences. The synchronized skating world and culture as a whole have shaped me into the athlete and person that I am today. I have countless memories, lifelong friendships, and connections that I will hold close to me wherever the future may take me.

2011 U.S. Junior National Champions - Skyliners
I am beyond excited to compete at my final U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships as an athlete, alongside my 18 teammates. I truly could not think of a better group of girls to compete with. However, my Nationals road is not ending here, I look forward to returning to future U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in a new way that will keep me as close as possible to this sport that has given me so much, and that I will love forever.

Best of luck to all the skaters competing this weekend in the 2015 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in Providence, RI. Remember to fully enjoy each and every moment, cherish your teammates around you, and most of all have a blast!
Miami Senior Team ready to take on Providence and the 2015 US Synchronized Skating Championships
Photo Credit - Chandler Carroll

Love & Honor Forever and a Day,
Ashley Mulhern