Thursday, June 27, 2013

Meet Sharon Neff

Hello, everyone! My name is Sharon Neff and this is my first year as a member of the U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program.  I am so excited for all of the summer fun and skating to come!  Originally, I am from China, but when I was about one year old, I was adopted and brought to live in Birmingham, Michigan; I have lived here ever since.  I also have two brothers.  Both adopted from Vietnam, John (16) and Jimmy (14) joined our family when I was 4.
Now, 14 years later, I have completed my freshman year at the University of Detroit Mercy looking to major in special education elementary teaching.  
At about the same time my brothers came to the U.S., I became very intrigued with skating. A competition on TV caught my attention and my eyes were glued to the screen; I could not wait to try it myself.  Now, as time seemingly flies by, I will be starting my fourteenth year of skating with 11 years of synchronized skating under my belt. This past synchro season marked my sixth year skating for the Crystallettes and my fourth year in the senior division. Before I came to Crystallettes, I skated as a member of Team √Član for five years. I, however, am not the only member of my family to have taken up an interest in skating.  My brother, John, is an ice dancer who currently skates with his partner at the Detroit Skate Club and competes at the intermediate level.  

The 2013-2014 Senior Crystallettes
Outside of skating, you can find me catching up on schoolwork, coaching my little ones, spending time with my family, or hanging out with friends.  From watching movies with my family, like Lord of the Rings and 27 Dresses, to going to the mall with friends, I love to make the most of what little time I have with all of them.  I also try to keep in shape by working out everyday and maintaining a good lifestyle.  In addition to these things, I absolutely love to travel both nationally and internationally, whether or not it is for skating.  In fact, it is one of my goals to visit every state in the US (at least once) and travel all over Europe and Asia in my lifetime.  

Just recently, I was afforded the incredible opportunity to attend and help out at a skating camp with a team in Sugarland, Texas with three of my DREAMmates and one alumna.  The camp, hosted by the Unity Figure Skating Club, was a great weekend filled with so many eager and gifted young kids; they truly have bright skating futures ahead of them. We worked on turns, edges, footwork, choreography, and we even got to break out of our shells with some fun presentation and improvisation activities followed by some off-ice conditioning.  It was a great start to a new season.   With the summer just beginning, I look forward to all of the other amazing opportunities I will have to meet new people, make new friends, and spread the love for our sport with my DREAMmates.  I hope you are all having a happy summer!! 
DREAMmates Lindsay, Dana, Ashley, Tessa, and I in Sugarland, TX


Friday, June 21, 2013

Meet Lindsay Grajek

Hello out there!  As one of the newest Dream Team members I would like to take this chance to introduce myself. My name is Lindsay Grajek and I am currently living in-between Massachusetts and Michigan. I grew up in the small town of Howell, Michigan, where at the age of 5 I started skating for my local synchronized skating team at Grand Oaks Ice Arena.  I then went on to skate for the Hockettes out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where my younger sister Christine actually still skates.  At the end of my junior year of high school I decided to take a large leap, trying out for the Haydenettes. It was an absolute dream come true to receive the news that I had made the team, but immediately after the reality of that dream became very clear. If I wanted to be a member of the team I would have to move out to the Boston area and attend a new high school for much of my senior year. It was extremely hard for me to leave the home I had always known and my friends that had been there for me my entire life, but it was well worth it.
During the year I live and train in Massachusetts.  I go to a small school in the Western part of the state called Fitchburg State University. I am a part time student studying biology, in hopes of later going into Veterinary medicine. With the remainder of my time outside of classes and skating, I work at the recreation center at my school. It was originally planned that I would spend one year after graduation in Massachusetts and then transfer back to Michigan to be a full time student. Well, as I go into my third year at Fitchburg and my fourth season with the Haydenettes, I can say that plan didn’t exactly pan out, and thank goodness for that!
So far this summer I have driven the 12 hour haul from Massachusetts to Michigan about 3 times round trip with my teammate, Courtney Cameron, who also lives in Michigan. Recently we took the time during our drive to make a quick stop at Niagara Falls in Canada. When the team has practice during the summer I spend my mornings working as a lifeguard at my school’s recreation center and then drive over to the rink for the rest of the evening.  I also took part in my first worksop as a DREAMer this summer. The camp was hosted by the Unity figure skating club in Sugarland, Texas and it was an amazing experience. There were so many young, talented and hardworking skaters that really helped remind me what our sport is all about.
Courtney Cameron and I at Niagara Falls in Canada
Rylee and I in Sugarland, Texas
When I have time at home I can be found one of two places, at the rink or on the water.  Living in Michigan it is easy to find open ice at just about any point of the day. Many times on nice days I am the only one at the rink. There is nothing better than having an open sheet of ice and the ability to play whatever music I choose. My other love is for the water.  I live on Lake Chemung back in Howell and I love just about any activity that can be done on it; skiing, wakeboarding, tubing, or just swimming. I guess that would include skating as well in the winter! (Frozen water).

I hope that everyone has a great summer!


Friday, June 14, 2013

Meet Dana Manson!

Hi everyone! My name is Dana Manson and I am from Denville, NJ. I am a senior at Morris Knolls High School and am currently counting down my last few days until graduation. I feel that my high school years have flown by and it is hard to believe that it is already time for college! Not only will I be transitioning from high school to college, but also moving to a new team. For the past three seasons I have been a proud member of Skyliners Junior and although moving on is tough, I am incredibly excited to be spending my tenth year of synchro with Miami University in August! I love everything about the school and I am confident that I will be able to use the skills and values I have gained from my previous teams to make me successful in my transition to college. I look forward to all that lies ahead and cannot wait for all the amazing experiences I will have in the years to come!     
Even though my synchro season has ended, I've been busy finishing up my last few weeks of senior year, skating at the rink, working out at the gym and helping out other skaters! When I’m not doing synchro, I enjoy helping out our basic skills skaters at my home rink. In April I helped out basic skills classes at Mennen Arena’s Learn to Skate program and have enjoyed doing that since my freshman year in high school. 

This past weekend, I got the chance to meet some more young skaters and headed down to Houston with my DREAMmates, Lindsay, Ashley T, and Sharon as well as former Dream member, Tessa, to coach at a workshop for the UNITY Synchronized Skating Teams. We flew down to Texas on Saturday afternoon and coached the workshop on Sunday. During our trip on Saturday we enjoyed the Texas culture by having some delicious “Tex Mex”(Texas’ Mexican Food) at “Lupe Tortilla”  where we discussed plans for the workshop with the coach. We had a little fun and pretended it was Lindsay and Tessa’s birthdays so we could wear sombreros and have the waiters sing to us. I have to say, the sombreros were pretty stylish! On Sunday we all had lots of fun teaching skills and drills, off ice conditioning, transitions, no hold blocks, musical interpretation, judging and off ice dancing to the skaters at the workshop. What a full day! It was such a great time for all of us and we got to meet so many awesome, dedicated skaters. We cannot thank the Unity Synchronized Skating teams enough for such a wonderful experience and wish them the best of luck in their upcoming season.

DREAMers Lindsay, Ashley, Sharon and I at the UNITY Worskhop

As for the rest of my summer, I will be beating the heat at the rink. I will be training hard all summer for Miami’s tryouts and will spend some time on campus at Miami elite camp before I move in August which will be fun! I also look forward to spending time with my family before heading to college. My twin brother, Alec and I will both be packing for school and going our separate ways in August. Alec will go to Northeastern University and I’m off to Miami which is very exciting for both of us. I always enjoy our family trip to Long Beach Island every summer and love reading and relaxing on the beach. I am very excited for my summer and hope everyone enjoys theirs as well!


Friday, June 7, 2013

Meet Ashley Tomich

Hi! My name is Ashley Tomich and I’m from West Caldwell, New Jersey.  I’m finishing up my senior year at James Caldwell High School and will be graduating in 2 weeks.  This will be my first season as a member of the Haydenettes as I will be attending Merrimack College in North Andover, MA in the fall where I will be pursuing a degree in elementary education.

For me, skating runs in the family.  My mom is the head coach for the Synchroettes organization, my older sister Kaleigh skated for the team when she was younger and now coaches along side our mom, and my dad played college hockey and worked at the rink where he and my mom met, which is in fact the rink that I spend most of my time at now!  I started skating when I was just 18 months old.  In 2001, the Synchroettes (the team my mom founded) had their very first season, which I was a part of.  We had an intermediate and preliminary team that year, and that was my first year of synchro at the preliminary level as a 6 year old.  This past season was my 12th year on the Synchroettes as a member of the Junior team, which was also the organization’s very first Team USA appointed team.  During my 12 years as a Synchroette I skated at the preliminary, juvenile, novice and junior levels with 3 years of cross skating as well.

2013 Synchroettes Junior short program: "Trashin the Camp"
Starting my senior year this past fall, I was faced with the question of “where do you want to go to college?”  I knew I wanted to continue my career as a synchronized skater, but I had to figure out where.  Since the highest level the Synchroettes field is Junior, I knew I’d have to spread my wings and start looking at my options.  I applied to Miami University of Ohio, University of Delaware, and several schools in the Boston area, all of which had the chance for me to skate and continue my education.  After trying out for the Haydenettes in March, I was thrilled and honored to hear the news that I had made the team, which also helped me narrow down my college decision.  After visiting my remaining schools, I chose Merrimack College as my new home for the next four years and I can not be more excited to be a Merrimack Warrior, plus a Haydenette.

When I’m not at my team’s practice or practicing on my own, I like to help out with the younger developing teams at my home rink.  The past few years I would help out at the Synchroettes beginner and preliminary team practices throughout the week as I love to give back to the sport that has done so much for me and help it to grow.  Assisting with the younger teams has always been a great and rewarding experience and I strive to inspire them and be somebody that they can look up to.  Through skating I have also found the opportunity to work with children with special needs through the Special Olympics program at my home rink, Codey Arena.  This has been something that I have always enjoyed and has given me the chance to combine my passions for skating and volunteer work.

It’s not often, but when I’m off the ice you can find me spending time with my friends and family.  I have created so many great friendships through synchronized skating and we spend just as much time together off the ice as we do on.  You can also find me catching up on schoolwork since skating takes up most of my time, although with school coming to an end, it has been nice to have some free time.  With the Jersey Shore so close to where I live, I frequently take trips down the shore with friends or family during the summer.  I’m a big New York Rangers fan, and my dad and I practically watch every game together.  With New York City only a half hour train, bus, or car ride away from my hometown, we like to go to games from time to time.  I also love taking trips into the city to shop around, go to dinner, or to see a Broadway show.

My sister, mom and I at the Leon Lurje Trophy award ceremony in Sweden
Being a member of Team USA is such an honor. My first experience competing internationally this past season with the Synchroettes, and many of the girls I have grown up with who are my best friends, was incredible.  Traveling to Sweden in January and hearing the words, “representing the United States of America” while seeing the US flags in the crowd and hearing our parents and loved ones chant “USA! USA!” was amazing.  Coming home with the bronze medal from the Leon Lurje Trophy after our international debut was the icing on the cake.  I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for the Synchroettes, and though it has been hard to leave the team that has been such a major part of my life, I am very excited to continue my synchro career with the Haydenettes and embark on the next chapter of my life.

Ashley Tomich