Wednesday, March 9, 2011

2011 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships

Hey Everyone,

From the moment that we got off the plane in California, it was clear that this competition was going to be a special one for the Skyliners. We were confident and ready to compete. We started off the week with a few unofficial practices at both the arena and at a local rink. They all went very well and helped us to feel very comfortable going into the competition.

As Thursday rolled around, so did our short program official practice, the juvenile and intermediate competitions, and the junior short program competition. We were very happy with our official practice and knew that we just needed to turn up the expression for the competition that night. Later in the day we headed back to the rink to watch the juvenile division. It was great to see the competitors just having a ball out on the ice without a care in the world. This was a wonderful reminder of where we all started so many years ago, and how far we have come since then. The Skyliners juvenile team put out their best skate all year, full of enthusiasm and expression, earning them the gold medal.
This was extremely exciting for all of us, as it was the first National gold for the Skyliners organization.

As we waited for the intermediate competition to begin, we got the chance to walk around the rink and visit with friends from all over the country. Returning to our seats we heard the familiar tune of the flash mob, which we then preformed alongside several teams in the stands. The intermediate competition was very strong and the Skyliners intermediate team was able to finish with a silver medal in their first season ever as a team. As the rest of the team went back to the hotel to begin hair and makeup for the short program, Audrey and I stayed at the rink and were honored to have the opportunity to hand out the trophies for the juvenile and intermediate champions. This was a very cool experience that we were able to share with our Dreammates. Finally it was time for the junior short program and we were so excited to be skating last in the event. Getting off the ice, we were all happy with our performance, but most pleased with the amount of expression we were able to bring to it. As the scores came up, we could not believe that we had just earned a 63, our highest score all year, and were sitting in 1st place.

Friday morning we skated a strong official practice and knew that we would need to keep up the same energy all day in order to achieve our goal of improving upon our 2nd place finish from last year. In the middle of the day, we went back over to the rink to watch our novice team compete. We cheered loudly as they entered the ice and hoped for a great skate. They put out an extremely strong program, which made us very proud and landed them in 4th place. At this point we could not have been more thrilled with the Skyliners organization as a whole for medaling in every level so far, and now it was our turn. Waiting in the locker room before walking rink side, the spirit and enthusiasm were unlike anything I has seen before. I knew that this was our time and we were ready to go out and skate the program of our lives. From the minute that we stepped out onto the ice, the crowd roared, and it was clear that they were behind us 100%. The program flew by and before I knew it we were hitting the ending pose in shock of how we had just skated. Although there were still 3 more teams to skate after us, when our score of 127 came up, we all went wild in the kiss and cry. It was unreal to us. Waiting in our locker rooms for the final teams to skate, we opened to curtains in between them, joining together to perform the flash mob dance once again, this time in our skates and with Chicago Jazz and Team Braemar. Soon Josh came in and relayed the amazing news that we had done it, and we were now U.S. champions. It was unbelievable to us all. Standing on the podium, so many things were running through my head, but two of the most important were how extremely proud I was of my team and what we had just accomplished, and the second was the fact that dreams really do come true with hard work, determination, and passion. We then had a blast taking our Junior World Team picture with Team Braemar, and heading up to a reception where we received our World Team jackets. It was an incredible experience and certainly one that none of us will ever forget.

As I sit here on the plane to Switzerland with all 39 of my fellow Team USA teammates, it is still so surreal what happened last week, but none of us are stopping there. We are all ready to go again and show the world what we’ve got, feeling even more confident than before. I am extremely honored to be representing our country in the coming week, and hope to make everyone at home proud.
More from Neuchatel and the 2011 JWCC,

Ashley Mulhern

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