Synchronized skaters qualify for Collegiate Nationals in Ore.
January 20, 2018 | Fort Myers, Fla.
Liberty University's synchronized skating team competed at the collegiate level for the first time in program history and qualified for its first U.S. Synchronized Skating National Championships, Feb. 24 in Portland, Ore., with a fourth-place finish in last Saturday's Eastern Sectional finals in Fort Myers, Fla.
The Lady Flames placed behind Boston University, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of Delaware in Saturday's finals, after finishing a close second to Boston and ahead of UMass when they skated their "Royal" themed program for the first time in competition at the Dec. 9-10 Cape Cod Classic.
"We felt really confident going in," Liberty Head Coach Tatiana Payne said. "We have a very dedicated and talented team this year and the whole team worked really hard leading up to the competition, even coming back from break a week early to prepare."
However, the Lady Flames did not perform up to the potential they had demonstrated in practice.
"We didn't skate clean, it's a simple as that," Payne said. "All that you work for in session comes down to what you can put out on the ice in a four-minute program. Nerves definitely play a role in how our team skated and there are a couple areas we can improve upon in our program in preparation for nationals."
Liberty realizes the pressure will only intensify on the national stage, so the team is determined to fine-tune its performance before its first cross-country trip as a program.
"The team is very excited to go to nationals," Payne said. "This is our first time qualifying and we are looking forward to seeing Liberty University synchronized skating be recognized on this type of platform. We will be using these next few weeks to simplify areas of our program that haven't been scoring well."
Payne has had to adapt the Lady Flames' routine throughout the season due to injuries and illnesses.
"To say this year has been a struggle is an understatement, but I've been constantly impressed with the team's ability to step up to the challenge and press on," she said. "I'm proud of the character these ladies have displayed despite all the unforeseeable circumstances they have had to overcome individually and as a team. We hope that nationals will be a comeback event in the sense that we perform our best skate of the season."