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Becky Search's diary from the U.S. Synchro Champs

Which teams shined brightly on the big stage?

Two of the author's heroes, Toni Swiggum (left) and Pam May (right), cheer on their team.
Two of the author's heroes, Toni Swiggum (left) and Pam May (right), cheer on their team. (Mickey Brown)

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By Becky Search, special to icenetwork.com
(03/09/2009) - icenetwork.com is lucky to have Becky Search provide some behind-the-scenes insight from the 2009 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships. Becky graduated from Miami University in 2007 and was a member of the RedHawks squad that won the silver medal at the 2007 World Synchronized Skating Championships.

So long Synchros
The stands are empty and the lights are low as I sit and reflect on memories made this week in the Civic Center at the 2009 Synchronized Skating Championships. Each season starts as a seed of hope, a small ray of sunshine, and as the season progresses the seed grows and the sun shines brighter. This nationals in Portland, Maine, the sun was shinning on the accomplishments of U.S. synchronized skating teams from the East coast to West.

There was victory embraced by smiles when Miami University won the national title in the Senior division with an artistic and innovated "Swan Lake" program filled with speed. We saw perfectionism at its best as Haydenettes senior team came back with an award-winning free skate after an uncharacteristic short program and a ten-point gap.

History was made in the display of passion as Team Bramer Junior effortlessly skated to the top of the podium. Flawless color coordination was demonstrated as the Starlights shined under the direction of head coach Heather Paige. University of Illinois clinched their first ever-national medal to a solid and rockin' performance choreographed to Aerosmith and who could forget Miami as it won their fifth straight title in the collegiate division as they skated an impeccable performance to "Mama Mia." Denver Synchronicity impressed the crowd and judges with their one of kind performance in the masters division, and who didn't enjoy watching Ice Magic's electric performance to "It's Raining Men" with funky and hip break dancing moves to finish on a high note. Crystallettes, Chicago Jazz and Esprit de Corps finished No. 1, 2 and 3 to show all just how competitive the Adult division has become.

The competition was fierce in the novice division, but the Crystallettes finished on top with a marvelous and one-of-a kind program that was sharp, crisp and clean. The West coast synchronized skating teams were a force to be reckoned with, as three teams finished in the top half of the Intermediate division. The Junvenile performances by Chicago Jazz, Starlights and The Colonials set the stage as they kicked of the competition Thursday with energetic performances and original themes.

Yes, this year there were accomplishments and disappointments, yet each team managed to make an impact on the sport of synchronized skating. As athletes you showed your sacrifice, wiliness and commitment to your teams, yourself, and your dreams. It was clear as you skated that each one of you has a passion, desire and love to be involved in the sport of synchronized skating, and I am proud to say I had the opportunity to watch all of this year's athletes compete their best.

Keep dreaming big!

Lots of Synchro love,
Becky Search

The All-American Synchro Coach -- we, as athletes, parents, and fans, support YOU!
Here's a special version of Real American Heroes:

Today, we salute you, synchronized skating coaches of America.

Standing long hours on your feet in a cold and Zamboni-infused arena, you're living the real American Dream. (It's COLD!)

Cracking the code of the IJS and creating programs that get calls is what you do best.

Sure, it's tough work -- sore feet, chapped skin, brain freezes and excessive coffee consumption. (Make that a Double!)

You tell us there is only one run-through left, yet your perfectionist tendencies push your teams to the limit. Your loud voice echoes for all to hear, and let's not forget your willingness to change the program ONE more time. (LAST time, I swear!)

At competition, you jump up and down and skate the program in unison, except you're in shoes not skates. (Put me in, coach!)

So here's to you, synchronized skating coaches of America, sit back and relax, we'll get the job done. (2,4,6,8, show 'em how to synchro skate!)

This goes out to all the synchronized skating coaches who dedicate their time, love and passion to better the sport of synchronized skating. Without you and your gift, we as athletes would never accomplish the memories that morph us from beginners on the ice to leaders in the world!

Thank you does not begin to acknowledge all you have done for your athletes.

Really, where does that mascot come from?
Every team has an idolized mascot, a chosen image that every skater connects with and fans recognize from a far. Let the history lesson begin.

Yes, you've seen it running around Portland, Maine -- the big, yellow, one-of-a-kind banana. It seems a little out of place, but here's the scoop. One day, a girl name Melanie Barton from Esprit de Corps (adult) wore a banana for a Halloween costume, except she didn't just dress up as a banana, she skated her practice wearing a banana costume. It was such a hit and, of course, a source of laughter that the dancing, skating, and extra yellow banana are all here to stay, so look for it a synchronized skating competition near you.

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's Elmo? ... No, it's SWOOP the Redhawk, and he's here to support the Miami University Synchronized Skating Teams as they swoop you off your feet with spectacular performances. Look for him to be flapping his arms wearing a coordinating wrap skirt according to the team dresses. Yes, he's not only a symbolic image for the team, he's a fashion statement.

We are family, I got all my synchronized skaters and me!
They say, when you become a member of a synchronized skating team you become part of a family, part of a movement that is larger than yourself. For all of us, myself included, there comes a day when you realize that skating is just in your blood -- that for some unexplainable reason wherever you go and whatever you do synchronized skating will be a part of you. In Portland, Maine, I found that skating really does run deep and has connected and bonded many families for generations.

Pretty in pink, every girl's dream, or is it every father's? The proud fathers of Jessica Cappis, Paige Sinker, Megan Carr and Kelsey Bergeson are making a fashion statement this year during the Chicago Jazz junior team's long program. The four fathers are wearing baby pink shirts in honor of their daughter's senior year in high school. Here's a shout out to the synchro dads, Bruce Cappis, Randy Sinker, Scott Carr, and Don Bergeson, all of whom are supporting their daughters during an outstanding season. Good luck tonight!

It's a family affair for the Wisenors. Sisters Courtney and Brittany Wisenor have skated together for more than 10 years. Their mom, Shelley, became involved in the sport as well and skated on a local team in St. Louis in order to gain knowledge about her daughters' passion for the sport. Courtney Wisenor, a senior on Miami (OH) University's senior varsity synchronized skating team, will be competing on March 6 in the short program.

"Skating has been a big part of the Wisenor family and I am excited to share my final nationals with my sister, mom and grandma cheering my team and me on tonight," Courtney said.

Sister Brittany graduated from Miami in 2006 and is now the head coach of the newly-organized varsity synchronized skating team at Lindonwood University in St. Charles, Mo.

"It was amazing to share not only a sisterly bond but also a teammate bond," Brittany said. "Winning the 2006 national championship with my sister skating beside me was a dream come true, and I can't wait to begin the next chapter of our synchronized skating career as coaches."

Signing off until tonight,
Becky Search

The Show Must Go On
The careers of skaters are often plagued by unexpected and career-changing injuries. Synchronized skaters from around America know all too well the pains that go hand in hand with this exciting, exhilarating and beautiful FULL-contact sport.

It was an average practice day at the Ann Arbor Ice Cube, where the Hockettes junior team was preparing for the 2009 U.S. Synchro Championships. During the second run-through of their long program, they were entering the whip intersection when Rosa Argiero collided mid-intersection with her teammate. She received a serious concussion and an injury calling for eight staples in the back of her head. Hardly a week later, she was back at practice supporting her team by the boards and only recently has gotten back on the ice wearing a cautionary helmet. After having also suffered from a vicious blade wound only about a month prior, Rosa has showed the ultimate perseverance and commitment to her sport and teammates. Good luck, Rosa, and to the rest of the junior Hockettes!

Haydenettes senior team member, Erica Hoffman, member of the 2009 DREAM program, knows the pain of an injury all too well. It was the final practice before the team left for their international assignment in Rouen, France, when Erica had a minor accident. As most skaters do, she put her game face on and kept going. However, when Erica arrived in France, the pain in her left knee was intensifying. Doctors scheduled an MRI for Erica as soon as she arrived home in the U.S. The MRI revealed she had torn her left ACL, meniscus, and her patella had little support. Since returning from France, Erica has been off the ice receiving intense physical therapy in order to compete this week. She has only returned to the ice this week and is planning to skate both the short and long programs here in Maine. Best of luck, Erica! You clearly have HPT (high pain tolerance).

Good luck to all synchronized skaters this year. We know you always put your pain aside in order to deliver your best.

Let's Give a Round of Applause to the Parents
Each year, thousands of athletes compete in the sport of synchronized skating. Their successes can be attributed to the skaters putting in countless hours of work, the coaches wracking their brains as they devise creatively themed programs and conquer the IJS rules, and, of course, the harmony and camaraderie of the team itself. However, we shall never forget the parents.

The parents are often quiet, yet sometimes loud, and are usually seen from a distance as they support their child's dreams and quest for a chance to compete in the national championships. Here's what a few lucky parents had to say about their experience supporting their children in this rewarding and once-in-a-lifetime journey.

"It's a dream come true, and it's worth every minute, penny and tear. A parent can't feel more proud then we all feel today."
- Nancy Smith, mother of Shawnee Smith, member of Denver Synchronicity (intermediate)

"In an arena such as this, in a day such as this, it doesn't matter if it's your daughter or another skater's daughter, we as parents all come together to cheer for one another's skaters, coaches and teams. This is a sport that pulls together to teach children about unity and the importance of togetherness, which is what the sport of synchronized skating is all about."
- Eileen Sullivan, mother of Jacqueline Sullivan, member Team Image (intermediate)

So this article is to YOU, skating parents of America, because without your undying love for your kids and will to help them set and accomplish their goals, there would be no one to celebrate our championship accomplishments.

Thanks,
Becky (with an assist to Jeri Stroupe)