Synchronized skaters prepare for Eastern Sectionals
January 29, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's synchronized skating team, LU Radiance, performed a dress rehearsal of the routine it has been practicing since late August on Monday night at the LaHaye Ice Center, in preparation for this weekend's Eastern Sectional Figure Skating Championships in Lake Placid, N.Y.
The 12-skater ensemble will leave Wednesday and perform early Saturday morning, hoping to light up the Olympic Center rink, site of the 1980 Winter Olympic skating events, with its lively program of graceful skating infused with rhythmic dancing.
"It's a mixture of songs about Africa," Lady Flames head coach Tatiana Payne said. "We skate to part of a remix of the ‘Lion King' song (and transition) into the song ‘Africa' by Toto into ‘Waka Waka' by Shakira, so it's a really fun, upbeat mix."
Payne and assistant coach Meghan Bower choreographed the 3-minute, 9-second program, which comes in just under the time limit.
The team, which features a 13th member as an alternate, has practiced the routine two to three times per week for the past five months.
"They're at that point where they can't quite read each other's mind, but they're right before that, so it's good," Payne said. "Everybody knows the program pretty well, so right now, we're just trying to put all the finishing touches, making sure they have like their toes pointed and their heads up and they have expression and just attitude throughout the program. They know the program, it's just we're making sure that it's great."
Payne said synchronized skating is not unlike ballet or other forms of dance.
"It's most similarly compared to synchronized swimming, but on ice," she said.
Liberty will be competing against 10 other teams from up and down the East Coast in the open collegiate division.
"We're going to skate last out of all the teams in our group, which is really good because then you're last in the judges' minds before they put up the markings," Payne said. "The only bad thing is the group we skate in starts at 7 in the morning on Saturday. That means we have to be to the rink by 6, so it's really, really early. We're going to be up at like 4:30 in the morning getting ready to go."
She believes she and her teammates are ready to shine on the ice, reflecting their name.
"This is our one big shot," Scuilla said. "It's really important to us. It's the one chance we have to get our name out there and get Liberty's name out there in the skating world. There's a lot of really good teams that we'll be competing against, but we have an amazing program put on by our coaches and it's just a lot of fun. If we skate clean, then I think we have a competitive chance at placing."
Next year, LU Radiance wants to move up from open collegiate, which allows eight to 16 skaters of any level to compete, into the collegiate bracket, which requires the 10 to 20 participating skaters to pass the first three "moves in the field" tests.
"That is like a major goal of ours," Scuilla said. "It all depends on the type of skaters that come out next year, but that would be amazing and a really big leap for the program here."
"Right now, we have half a team that would be able to compete on a collegiate team and half a team that wouldn't," Payne added. "Our goal from now until then is to get that other half of the team to pass the test required to then be on the collegiate level team, so we need a lot of work."
The reward of that work will be the opportunity to move on to the national championships with a strong performance at sectionals.
"You can actually go to nationals and compete against the top colleges for collegiate teams in the nation," Payne said. "That's what our goal is next year."
Payne has recruited a strong class of incoming freshmen.
"One of the girls who has committed to coming to Liberty is actually skating on Team USA's synchro team right now, which is huge," she said. "So, we're looking to build a really strong team for next year and moving up to that bracket will really put us in the spotlight as a new, up-and-coming team in that division."
She said that will help Liberty attract even more high-caliber skating recruits over the next few years.