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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cross-Training Outside of Skating and Spring Cup

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work” - Vincent Lombardi,

As synchronized skaters, we dedicate countless hours skating on the ice and working off the ice as a team every week. The focus of these practices is usually functioning together as one unit to ultimately build and work towards that one common goal for the season. Outside of practicing with the team, it is always encouraged to be practicing individual skating skills that will benefit not only you but the team as well. While there are many other ways to improve your own skating skills such as working on in moves in the field, ice dancing, pairs, and freestyle elements, it is also important to incorporate cross training into your training program. 

This season, the Haydenettes have incorporated an off-ice conditioning program to our weekly practices with Kat Arbor at Ice Dynamics. Through Kat’s off-ice programs that features basic weight lifting and total body exercises, we have increased our strength, power, balance, flexibility, and cardio demands that match our on-ice needs as synchronized skaters.
There are many other ways you can incorporate cross training into your practice besides lifting weights and doing team works outs. I personally have found practicing yoga has helped with my flexibility, core strength, mental calmness, and total body relaxation. To support my cardio endurance and extra quad strength, I participate in indoor spinning classes at least once a week; or I will go for a run outdoors when the weather permits. All of these extracurricular activities outside of skating practice have added fun and variety into my daily life, in addition to providing a beneficial workout that targets my whole body. Changing up your training is also a great way to bond with your teammates outside of what you are used to doing at the skating rink.
DREAMmates Ashley, Devin, & Sharon with teammate Samm took Erin's SoulCycle class in the city. 

The Haydenettes were led through a private yoga class at lululemon athletica in the Burlington Mall. 
Listen to your body and know your limits. Do not try and push yourself into trying something you are not physically ready to do. I have taken my practice of yoga and incorporated a short vinyasa flow sequence into my warmup and stretching routine before I compete because I know that is what works for me. The benefits of cross training are endless when done properly and they will ensure a healthier, happier, and well-rounded skater out of you.  

The Haydenettes and Synchroettes just returned from Milan, Italy where we both competed at Spring Cup, the last international competition for Team USA leading up to Junior and Senior Worlds. It was a very quick trip for the Haydenettes, leaving snowy Boston on Friday and returning Monday evening. With all of the cross training we have participated in this season, we felt strong and ready to compete for the third weekend in a row. We skated two clean programs that produced our highest scores so far this season and are incredibly honored to have placed third in the Senior Division amongst Nexxice of Canada and Team Surprise of Sweden. Congratulations to the Synchroettes, who also skated two clean programs and placed sixth in the Junior Division. 
The Haydenettes & Synchroettes take a Team USA photo before dinner at Spring Cup 2015 

Best of luck to all of the teams that will be competing at the 2015 Synchronized Skating Championships in Providence, Rhode Island next weekend!

Devin Wang

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sisters in Synchro

Skating with a sibling on your team or on another team within your organization can be tricky but also rewarding. 

In the very beginning, all three of my sisters skated. It started with my older sister. Then I followed in her footsteps, and my two younger sisters followed in mine. In the end, only my younger sister Eliza and I stuck with it, and when I joined the Synchroettes, so did she. Because of our three year age difference we have never skated on a team together, but having a sibling in the organization, despite its occasional ups and downs, has been a very special experience.
Just some of the many Synchroettes sisters posing for a picture during Kickoff in August.

You could say that Eliza (or Liza as I always call her) and I have been each other’s sidekicks from the very beginning. We practice together, we workout together, and when things get tough or one of us gets frustrated, we have each other to give our encouragement and support. But this doesn’t mean that skating with a sister is always easy. Because we spend so much time together, it is not unusual that we sometimes get into arguments. But over the years we’ve learned how to “leave our baggage at the rink door.” When we step into the rink we clear our heads so we can have a productive practice session. And almost all of the time, after skating for a couple of hours with clear minds, we realize on the ride home that what we were fighting about was either unimportant or could be easily solved. 

These occasional arguments have made our relationship stronger, and it all becomes worth it when we can share exciting moments with each other. 

Eliza and I at the awards ceremony at the Eastern Section Championships.
Though Eliza is my biological sister, the 19 other girls on my team have also become like family to me. The things I have learned from my relationship with Eliza have applied to relationships within my team in ways I could never have imagined. The bond my team and I have has made us closer than ever before, allowing us to work past any differences we might have and work together towards our common goal of skating our very best this season.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Importance of Being There

“Teamwork makes the dream work,” right? Well, a huge part of being a member of a successful team and working together is being there for your teammates no matter what setback may come.  A major factor in keeping a team going is the support and motivation each member gives to one another.  Of course there are several important lessons we all learn from being on a team, but to me, this is one lesson that is so vital to an outstanding team. It is one that can be forgotten when we get wrapped up in everything else going on in our lives. 

Haydenettes celebrated great program debuts at the Boston Synchro Classic
No season can be described as “easy.”  Some are filled with more challenges than others and some are more successful than others.  Although we ultimately strive for the medals and trophies and spend our time, money, and energy working for them, there is something we can always take away from the time spent with our team.  It is knowing that our teammates were the ones who got us through the season’s ups and downs despite the outcomes at competitions. They are the people who keep us going during the tough times because they are the ones who can always have our trust and are able to make us feel better with some words of encouragement, smiles, and a hug.  

Teammates Jordan, Samm, &
me after our 1st competition with the Haydenettes
This past week at the French Cup was a very successful one for the Haydenettes, but not before going through a fair share of setbacks with many injuries, severe illnesses, major program changes, etc that have come our way this season.  Overcoming these obstacles has only made us stronger and more prepared than we would have ever been without them, as I am sure they do for every team that face similar setbacks.  As my fellow DREAMmate, Lindsey Maynard, talks about in her last blog post, overcoming these setbacks is part of any sport. They are just easier to get through with the support of your teammates.  It is so cliché to say, “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but the truth to that statement is incredible. It can also be hard to believe sometimes.  

Your teammates are the people that will be in your life for a long time and hopefully will still remain equally important to you after you retire as a competitive skater.  I am sure that we will all face many more setbacks, but knowing that my teammates have my back gives me peace of mind and allows me to enjoy the sport even more than I already do.  Appreciate and be thankful for your amazing teammates.  You wouldn't be there with them if you didn't love what you do, and all of the dedicated coaches who also love the sport would not put you on their team if they didn't believe in you one hundred percent. Be there for yourselves and for your teammates always.
Haydenettes at the Eiffel Tower on our way back to the USA after competing at the French Cup.  

On a quick side note, I would like to congratulate all those who qualified for the U.S.Synchronized Skating Championships over the last few weeks and wish the best of luck to those who are competing at the New England Challenge Cup for the Junior World Team selection. 

See you all soon!