Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dr. Porter: Lauren, Sarah and Taylor

The entire week leading up to Dr. Porter, our teams were all atwitter with pre-competition jitters. We had great difficulty containing our excitement to perform at our first competition of the season. With nearly 12 weeks of training under our belt, and new Adidas warm-ups, we were off to conquer our first competition of the season. Skaters and coaches alike can attest to our enthusiasm for and anticipation leading to finally competing and entering a crowded arena filled with skaters, parents and fans. 

After a fairly short drive from Oxford, Ohio, to Ann Arbor, Mich., the senior team was fortunate to have a teammate from the area open her home for a team dinner. Our parents graciously made an Italian-style dinner and holiday desserts. It was warming just to know that we have such a supportive group of parents on our team. As we finished our meals and headed out the door, they patted us on the backs with encouraging words for the weekend.

The most memorable event of the competition for Taylor and Sarah was skating the senior short program. The entire team was alive with energy. We were very fortunate to have worked earlier this season with Paul Guerrero, who gave us some exercises to connect with each other before we skate. As we left the locker room and headed toward the arena to compete, glistening in various shades of blue, we noticed there wasn’t a single volunteer or skater hanging around "backstage." Every single person was sitting in the stands, watching the competition, which only added to the anticipation and excitement to skate. As we took the ice and stood in our warm-up block, we heard the screaming and cheering from just about every section of the arena. On the left were Miami’s collegiate and junior teams cheering with pride. To the right we could see and hear our parents waving red and white flags, excited to see the progress we’d made since they last saw us perform at our parent’s weekend exhibition in early November. Dispersed throughout the arena were other members from U.S. Figure Skating’s DREAM program, signifying the connection of all teams in one place. During the program we would reach one side of the ice, and the teams seated there would smile and cheer as we skated by, showing support for their friends and former teammates. We couldn’t have been happier with our performance and felt our program portrayed our joy and passion for the sport.

Lauren and the Miami collegiate team travelled to Ann Arbor the next morning, arriving just in time to eat lunch with the junior and senior teams. After lunch, the team was excited to watch the junior short event and cheer on the junior team in their first competition! The team had a quick unofficial practice prior to the senior short competition and was able to skate a few sections. The team skated with assurance and excitement as the first competition was finally here. 

Sunday morning the team got to sleep in a little bit before preparing for competition. With hair sewn and make-up on, they departed for the rink ready to perform their Brazilian Carnival program. Dressed in bright orange and blue, the team skated a solid first performance, enjoying every moment of the program. It is always an incredible and warming feeling to look across the ice and catch a teammate’s eye and pass along and receive such positive energy.

The three of us can attest to the pride the Miami skating family shares as we travel as a group of 53 skaters, plus the entourage and coaches. Taylor remembers walking up the stands after the junior team performed, and a man tapped her on the shoulder and told her, “Hey, great job out there!” While Taylor doesn’t compete on the junior team, it shows how easy it is for our skaters to be mistaken for competing on either the junior, collegiate or senior team. We are all one unit, so similar in age, which is something we all love about being a part of Miami skating--skating for love, and skating for honor.

Lauren, Sarah and Taylor

Friday, December 10, 2010

Introducing Taylor Walker

Hey everyone! My name is Taylor Walker, I’m from California, and I skate for Miami University’s senior varsity synchronized skating team. I am a sophomore at Miami, majoring in anthropology. I initially came to college with an undecided major. I had taken an introductory anthropology class in my first semester of freshmen year, and at first thought nothing of it. Toward the end of last year I randomly researched anthropology as a major and thought to myself, “You know what, Taylor, I think this sounds like you!” And on a whim I decided that was the direction my academic life would take!

I began skating when I was 5 years old. As the story goes, I was sitting on the floor watching TV, and it just so happened that a skating show was on. Kristi Yamaguchi was performing, and I instantly fell in love. I called my mom into the room and asked timidly, “Can I do that?” Surprised, she responded with a “Sure” and walked away. About two seconds later, I called her back in and asked, “Can I have a dress just like that?” So it was the sparkle and shimmer that initially drew me in to the sport that now consumes my life...but either way I’m glad it did.

I started synchro about a year after I started skating. For years I balanced both singles and synchro until my junior year of high school, when I decided to turn my focus mainly to the team. In total, I’ve been on four teams; however, the one I attribute most of my life lessons to is the ICE'Kateers, with whom I skated for nine years. Skating with the ICE'Kateers, I developed lifelong friendships and memories that will never fade. The time I spent on this team will forever be referred to as “the good old days.”

Being a part of Team USA provided some pretty great memories, though none of them were really specific moments in time that I can label as “the best.” I would have to say my first experience skating for Team USA was probably the most memorable. We went to Miskolc, Hungary, and it was my first time ever traveling abroad, so everything was new and exciting for me. We took pictures with every sign we saw that wasn’t in English. And we harassed our translators every five minutes to help us say something else in Hungarian. The entire experience--from the food to the people to stepping onto the ice knowing I was skating for my country--was one that I will never forget.

My life outside skating is also a great deal of fun. I spend a lot of time with the friends I've made here at Miami. I was fortunate enough to find a group of friends that loves the outdoors as much as I do. My friend and I created Mighty Adventure Monday. Every Monday we take a “study break” to adventure somewhere we’ve never been before! I am also involved with the campus organization known as Cru, or Campus Crusade for Christ. Last year I was very blessed to have been placed in a room with two girls who were pursuing a relationship with God. They told me what it was all about, and I decided to go with them one Thursday night to a Cru meeting. Since then, my life has changed for the better. I’ve made the decision to give every aspect of my life to God, including skating.

And now the part you’ve been waiting for, my favorites!

Top five most played songs on my iPod right now: I don’t trust this feature on my iPod...I think its lying to me.
Favorite musicians/bands: The Beatles, Mumford & Sons, The Killers, Ingrid Michaelson, Florence + The Machine and many many more!
Favorite movies: Parent Trap, Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Favorite books: Harry Potter
Favorite TV shows: SpongeBob, Gilmore Girls
Favorite vacation spot: I imagine it would be somewhere with lots of open space and no buildings, cars or noises that show proof of human existence
Favorite food: I LOVE Mexican food!
Favorite quote: “I sound my barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world” --Walt Whitman

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dr. Porter

Hey guys, it's Annaleigh!

Early Friday morning at 4 a.m., and California Gold met at LAX to catch the four-hour flight to Detroit. After a smooth and very sleepy flight, we quickly checked into our hotel and hurried to prepare our novice team for their official practice. We cheered them on as they skated their Wizard of Oz program beautifully and then headed to Noodles & Company, a delicious restaurant that we don't have many of on the West Coast. Our long day still wasn't over; we practiced late at night so we could get in our ice time before official practice the next morning. Despite the fact that we were all exhausted from the plane and rushing from place to place, we had a spectacular practice, with speed and enthusiasm the whole time.

The next morning, we ate breakfast in the hotel lobby, then went to do our hair and makeup for short official practice. Our official practice went extremely well, and we were more than ready to compete. We had some downtime before we had to redo our hair and makeup, so we hung out in our room and had a chance to just relax for a while. Then, as it was time to compete, we got pumped up by doing an off-ice warmup. After skating our short program to Michael Buble’s "I’ve Got the World on a String," we felt amazing! This team has a very unique spirit. I think it is from the passion and determination within each and every skater. In order to come down from this adrenaline high, we got together as a team and did a quick yoga session before bed to relax and put our minds at rest.

On Sunday morning, we were glad to be the last to skate in the long program; it meant we could sleep in a little! But we still got ready quite early to warm up and do hair and makeup for official practice. Our official was a little rough at first, but by the second run-through, we were able to pull it together and push through it. We didn't have as much down time as we did on Saturday, but our team rested, and when we came together for off-ice again, we were eager to compete. Before we stepped out onto the ice, we recited a line from Robin Hood: “Rise and rise again until lambs become lions.” In the movie, Robin Hood's friend asks him what it means, and he responds, “Never give up.” And that's exactly what we did in our long program. We had a couple bobbles and a fall, but we did not stop pushing ourselves until the very end, and we were proud of ourselves for accomplishing that. Now that we have the feedback from the technical specialists and judges, we are ready to work to perfect our program.

This weekend went by so quickly, but I was so happy to be able to meet and catch up with most of my “DREAMmates,” as we call each other. After getting through security at the airport, Audrey, Ashley and I snapped a quick photo before I went running to catch up with my team.

Dr. Porter is always such a quick competition, but there are so many good memories I will walk away with from this weekend. California Gold would like to give a shout out to Chicago Jazz Junior: we're so excited and looking forward to the Cup of Berlin!

Happy Holidays!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bryant Park Christmas Tree Lighting and Dr. Porter

Hi, everyone! It's Jenna and Noelle here.

Our strenuous weekend started out in New York City on Thursday for the annual Bryant Park Christmas Tree Lighting. Driving down New York's famous 5th Avenue, the Haydenettes got in the holiday spirit while window shopping from the bus as we rushed through traffic. We opened the Christmas Show skating to "Let it Snow" and "White Christmas." We shivered along the boards in our dazzling new dresses, waiting in anticipation for the band to set up. We then warmed ourselves up with some hot cocoa and tea. We got to chat with Michael Weiss and the Reed siblings, a dance team from Japan, while waiting to perform our short program. Closing the show with our short program, we then helped count down to the lighting of the tree. We got one more enchanting look at the city decked in lights before heading to the bus en route to Boston.

Arriving back in Lexington late Thursday night, we headed to a few skaters' houses for various slumber parties. We were woken up early with a delicious breakfast before heading to the airport. We weren't the only sports team boarding the plane to Detroit. The Harvard men's basketball team just cleared the plane's ceiling (literally) right next to us! After arriving in Detroit, we were able to settle into our rooms, have a quick rest and prepare for our unofficial practice ice. We had a strong practice, but we were all eager to hop in bed!

Saturday morning we woke up to muffins and bagels in the hair and make-up room. We got a chance to eat and get ready for official practice at the Ice Cube. Our official practice was extremely strong. The Haydenettes returned to the hotel feeling confident for the night's performance.

For lunch, we headed to downtown Ann Arbor. This year's team is keen on playing "contact," a guessing game we learned from technical specialist and former Haydenette Caite Renzi. Two of our teammates were able to stump us for a whole 24 hours! On the bus ride back, we practiced our countoff numbers in Finnish, French, Spanish and Japanese.

After arriving back at the hotel, we had a little break before starting our competition preparations. After some Haydenette traditions, we arrived at the rink more than prepared to compete! All in all, our short program was thrilling and exciting for us to compete for the first time. Although we struggled to hear our scores, we saw our parents' excitment and soon realized how well we had done.

Sunday morning came faster than expected, and we were up and at 'em quite early. Long program official practice went well. After some reassuring words from Saga and our teammates, we felt ready to take on our next performance. We quickly packed, got ready and headed back to the rink to compete our long program.

Skating to Cirque du Soleil's "Kooza Dance," a burlesque piece, we took the ice first in the second group. We were pleased with our skate and all that we had accomlished this weekend. Placing second overall gave us confidence for this season. With the feedback from the judges and protocols, we are ready to head back to work!

The Haydenettes had a great weekend in New York City and Ann Arbor. We were excited to see all our competitors, realizing that the competitive season has begun! We wish everyone a happy and safe holiday!

We can't wait to see our East Coast teams next weeked at the Cape Cod Classic.


Jenna and Noelle

Thursday, November 25, 2010

And so it begins! Kalamazoo 2010

Standing there, in the final pose of our senior short program at the Kalamazoo Kickoff Classic, I quickly glanced up at the judges to my right and knew that while this marked the end of our first competition, it was really only the beginning.

My teammates and I had an early start Saturday morning, on the ice at 6:30 for a quick practice before we left Chicago for Kalamazoo. When we arrived at the rink, hair already slicked back into neat buns, we had a quick floor practice, then headed straight into the locker room to get ready for our monitoring session. The best way to describe our first run-through of the session was definitely "nervous." However, we pushed through the program and the stumbles before skating over to our coach standing in the doorway. Hearing her voice as calm as ever, we all started to breathe again. She reminded us of the things we tell ourselves every day, and we all skated back into position with a new sense of confidence. After that, the rest of the 45-minute session went extremely well, and we left the ice in high spirits.

Although we'd missed our preliminary and juvenile teams' strong third-place performances earlier that morning, we were eager to watch our novice team perform its "Soul Train" number for the first time in competition. As soon as they took the ice, we were cheering as loudly as we could! They skated beautifully, and we were all so proud of their second-place finish: a great start to the season!

After finishing our hair and makeup (with everyone smashed into the mirror of the hotel's fitness center!) we loaded the bus to head back for the senior short competition. Finding an open space in the emptying rink, we warmed up, stretched and, in what felt like no time at all, we were in the locker room slipping on our "Lace and Leather" short program dresses. When we took the ice, I heard all our moms cheering as loudly as they could, attempting to replicate the cheers the other teams normally lead. This sight made us all smile and relax a little as we hit our starting pose.

At the end of the day, we walked out of the Ice Cube with a silver medal, which is always something to be proud of! Although not our best skate, we were still very happy with the program we put out on the ice that day. Some elements went really well, while others we got straight to work on at practice the next morning.

As I said before, Kalamazoo is only the beginning. It is a starting point from which we are able to gain both experience and valuable feedback from the judges. With the Dr. Richard Porter Classic in Ann Arbor coming up next weekend, we are excited to compete against many of the teams we will eventually see at the U.S. Championships, and are EXTREMELY excited for the debut of our free program!

Hope to see you there!


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The 2011 Season is Upon Us - Kalamazoo Kick-Off

The Crystallettes had a long, but fulfilling day to mark the beginning of our season.                                                                                                                                                         We are fortunate enough to live within reasonable proximity to the competition site, so we began with practice at our home rink around 8 a.m.  On the bus, we were able to relax and watch Toy Story 3. We arrived in Kalamazoo at 11:30, and although we missed preliminary and juvenile, we had the opportunity to watch many more teams.

One reason the senior team values this competition so much is that it is the only competition in which we are able to cheer for many of our other teams.  Our coaches know how important it is for younger Crystallettes to receive support from the senior team, but quite often the times conflict, and the seniors aren’t able to attend.

As we slowly prepared for our own event at 7:30, we were able to watch several divisions and cheer on three of our own teams.  The day picked up around 2 p.m., when the beginner one division began. This  For spectators, this division was the highlight of the day. Watching those fearless little girls and boys skate for the pure love of the sport was not only entertaining but also quite inspiring. Another highlight of the day was the novice division.    This division is highly competitive and always exciting to watch.  Every team looked strong for this early in the season. The Crystallettes conquered the division with their "Sorcerer’s Apprentice" theme, earning 61.28 points.             We are extremely proud of our novice squad for their gold medal and amazing start to the season.

When our turn finally arrived to take the ice, we were more than ready.  Although much of the arena had left by the time we skated, it felt as though there was a full crowd. We were calm and confident as we took the ice.       The program was a little tentative at first, but as it progressed we began to relax and enjoy the experience. We skated a clean, solid first performance. My teammates and coaches were overjoyed.

Our scores are extremely beneficial in that they tell us exactly what needs to improve. Leaving the arena with a gold medal was satisfying, but the more important accomplishments lie in the months to come.

The organization left the competition with three silver medals and two gold medals.          Needless to say, it was quite a successful day.  Now each team is back to work with critiques to conquer before the Dr. Richard Porter Classic in less than two weeks. With a team traveling from Finland to compete at the senior level, it is our first “international” competition of the season!

(Photographs by Kit Hammond Scheessele)