Liberty Radiance ready for Eastern Sectionals at Hershey
January 31, 2014 | Hershey, Pa.
Constructive criticism from judges at the Seventh Annual Capitol Critique, held Nov. 10 in Arlington, Va., helped Liberty University's synchronized skating team fine-tune its program for Saturday's Eastern Sectional Synchronized Skating Championships in Hershey, Pa.
"We went to the critique and we heard what the judges had to say and we took their feedback and made the changes that we needed to make," Liberty Radiance Head Coach Tatiana Payne said. "Now, we have a much stronger program."
After auditioning its revised routine — set to the theme of the Broadway musical "Phantom of the Opera" — between periods of two ACHA Division I men's hockey games at the LaHaye Ice Center in November and December, Liberty Radiance will skate it for the first and final time in competition Saturday morning.
"We'll be skating at the Hersheypark Arena, which is a really big stadium, so it will be really fun for the girls," Payne said. "They do quite a few big shows there. It is one of the bigger venues."
The competition itself will be held in both the 7,500-seat Hersheypark Arena and the 10,500-seat Giant Center to accommodate skaters from 150 participating schools. Liberty is in the Eastern Sectional, which includes Boston College, Colgate, Maryland, New Hampshire, Princeton, Syracuse, and Vermont.
"The quality of the skating is very good at the East Coast Sectionals and our section is one of the most challenging," Payne said. "We definitely have a stronger team than we've had in the past, so we're hoping to do well at the competition."
Liberty placed seventh at last year's event, but Payne believes a top-three finish is very possible for the 10-member team.
"We took the best of the skaters and put them together and build the best program, so it's fairly strong," Payne said. "We're hoping this year to be able to at least medal. I think that's pretty realistic for us as long as we skate a clean program."
She said the skaters have polished their technical moves and team precision on the ice. They have spent the past few weeks working on enhancing their artistic impression and bringing out more elements of the Broadway musical.
"We're at the point now where all we're trying to do is build the characters of the program to make it a little more dramatic," Payne said. "Now that they've got the program itself down pretty well, we're trying to create a little bit more drama, to bring it to life in a sense."
The costumes are black with silver designs and the skaters' faces will have an artist's touch.
Liberty Radiance skaters and alternates include junior captain Katie Scuilla, junior McKenna Orcutt, junior Kelsey Rieschl, graduate student Vanessa Garland, sophomore Caleigh Gallagher, freshman Rebekah Leahy, freshman Rebekah Hicks, freshman Katherine Lash, sophomore Megan Mutchler, junior Rachel Halvorson, senior Caitlin Fontaine, sophomore Emily Boyles, freshman Adrielle Benner, and junior Shannon McVeigh.
Fontaine, an assistant captain, was able to remain in the program despite spending this semester on an internship in Washington, D.C. She drove down to Lynchburg, Va., last weekend for her only two practices of the new year before the competition.
Since it is still classified as an open collegiate team, Liberty Radiance won't have the opportunity to advance to next summer's United States Figure Skating Collegiate National Championships, but it may as soon as 2015.
"Next year, we're hoping to move up to the collegiate level," Payne said. "That would enable us to hopefully qualify for nationals. A handful of the teams that we're competing against field more than one team so they have a collegiate and an open collegiate team. We don't have enough skaters to field teams for both, but we might be looking to do that in the future."
Coming up, from Feb. 28 through March 2, Liberty will host the Eastern Sectional Figure Skating competition at LaHaye.