The Inside Edge: How to succeed in synchro

Sarah, Drew reveal behind-the-scenes discoveries from Lowell

Precisely Right added a new dimension to their synchronized skating team: a man.
Precisely Right added a new dimension to their synchronized skating team: a man. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(01/11/2012) - The 2012 World Junior Synchronized Team Selection Competition took place last weekend in Lowell, Mass., in conjunction with the 2012 Colonial Classic Synchronized Skating Competition. Lowell is just up the road for Sarah, so she headed to the Tsongas Center on Saturday night to watch the junior free skates and senior short programs.

On the way there, her anonymous source, a former synchro competitor, shared a few inside secrets: Before competing, the coach gathers the team together and sprinkles "fairy dust" over their heads. All the tights are washed together in one load, so they won't fade unevenly. Skaters aren't allowed to use hairpins, so they sew hairnets over their buns. On bus rides to competitions, synchro performances are played continuously on the bus TV. And there is screaming ... lots of screaming. We cannot, of course, confirm any of this. Well, except the screaming.

Even before the junior competition began, high-volume screams greeted the announcement of the event officials, and they increased as each team took the ice. The Synchroettes started the competition off on a high note, with an excellent program featuring great spirals and a fast-moving circle. Precisely Right took the ice next, with an unusual team member for their Sherlock Holmes program: a boy!

Evolution had a tough skate, with several falls, to Les Miserables. The crowd support for them was heart-warming, though. Up next, the Hockettes won a well-deserved ovation for their fast, clean, dramatic program with beautiful transitions.

During the ice make, we talked to some members of the Skyliners senior team: Nicole Owens, Alexa Reisen and Amanda Flink. They told us that this is the first year the Skyliners have had a senior team; they're currently training for Easterns.

"There are only three teams so we hope to do well," they said. "We hope to skate clean and move forward."

The three were excited to cheer on their junior team.

"I think if they keep their head in the game they can do well," said Flink.

The Hayden teams had a large contingent at the competition, and their shrieks for the Lexettes shook the rafters. The Lexettes delivered a fast, energetic Brazilian program, marred by a couple of falls. They finished in third place with a total score of 151.29 points. Miami University skated a sophisticated and flirty cancan number, but also suffered an unfortunate fall when two skaters hooked blades. Their score of 114.00 points was good for fifth place. The Chicago Jazz had a rare low-voiced cheering section of dads and skated a pretty program to Spartacus, with nice pass-throughs, particularly on back lunges. They finished fourth with 130.96 points.

The Skyliners, in second after the short program, skated to Swan Lake, dressed in beautiful black dresses with white accents. (A large New York contingent in the audience greeted the team with more deafening screams.) The lovely, intense ballet program was beautifully choreographed and got high marks for moves in the field and step sequences. Their score of 162.44 points put them in first place, and with only one team left to skate, they knew they had made the world team; they wept and hugged each other in the kiss-and-cry. Team Braemar, last to skate, delivered a sprightly, difficult Hungarian folk program with nice characteristic accents. They scored 161.24 points and also made the world team.

"The U.S. will be very well-represented at the junior worlds," Robin Greenleaf, event referee, said. "I'm very proud of both teams; on any given day, they could trade places."

The 2012 Junior World Challenge Cup takes place March 15-17 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Ice in the forecast

Ice dancers Shannon Wingle and Timothy McKernan, who finished seventh at the 2011 U.S. Championships, recently announced the end of their partnership.

"We had been talking about it since Mids," McKernan told us by phone. "We weren't planning on competing next season anyway, and we weren't happy with how things were going in this season. We wanted to move on to other opportunities in life. It was a mutual decision."

"This decision has been difficult for both of us," Wingle said in a press release. "Tim has always been respectful, a gentleman, and became one of my best friends. I wish him nothing but the very best in his future endeavors and will miss him. I remain undecided about my future plans."

McKernan has now registered as a full-time student at Eastern Michigan University, studying geology. He told us he has been coaching about five hours a week and he is actively looking for more coaching opportunities in the Detroit area.

"I'm doing all dance right now," he said. "I have a good group of beginning level skaters in Brownston and middle-to-high testing in Northville. I also have a sectional appointment for technical specialist in ice dance."

But wait... he's studying geology? Where did that come from?

"I had taken a class in it a couple of years ago and I had always been really interested in weather," he said. "I actually want to study meteorology, and possibly be a weatherman!"

"We owe all our successes to our coaches Igor Shpilband, Marina Zoueva and Adrienne Lenda. And we will always cherish the great friends we've met during our careers, and owe a special thanks to our world-class training mates in Canton," Wingle said.

McKernan added, "I can't forget to thank my Colorado Springs coaches Patti Gottwein, Rich Griffin, Tom Dickson and Christopher Dean for teaching me the skating skills and discipline that has helped me throughout my career and will serve me well in my future endeavors."

They both added their thanks to their home clubs, Arctic and Broadmoor Figure Skating Clubs, the Memorial Fund, and their parents for the long-term support they provided with training resources, support and encouragement.

Fleming Jenkins Tasting Room closes

Peggy Fleming and husband Dr. Greg Jenkins have been producing wines in the Los Gatos region of California under the label Fleming Jenkins since 1999. On December 31, their Tasting Room in Los Gatos closed.

"While we are really proud of what we have accomplished, the 40 different varietals and vintages we've produced, our Victories Rosé campaign -- which donated over $57,000 to breast cancer research and patient care -- and the many customers and supporters we've gained over the years, at this point we're happy for this to be the end of our era and for Peggy and me to move on to new chapters in our lives while at the same time reducing our responsibilities," wrote Jenkins in an email.

"We'll continue to be winegrowers and will continue to grow and harvest our Chardonnay grapes in the Santa Cruz Mountains ... we are going on sabbatical."

We wish Fleming and Jenkins all the best. We'll see them, and you, in San Jose in two weeks. We can't wait!

Sarah and Drew
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