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    July 8, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |


    Hannah Pulley (’21), who served as an assistant under Liberty University synchronized skating Head Coach Emily Hughes last season, was promoted to the helm of the team for the 2022-23 school year.

    Pulley, whose first day on the job was July 1, learned the ropes under Hughes, who is going back to school to pursue her Ph.D. in Communication. Pulley also skated for Hughes during her last season on the team in 2020-21, also her fourth and final season competing on the Lady Flames’ figure skating team. Pulley will be assisted by fellow alumna Haley Gram (’20), her teammate for three seasons.

    “Hannah will do a phenomenal job,” former Liberty figure skating and synchronized skating Head Coach Tatiana Payne said. “She is very strong in her communication of on-ice instruction, has excellent rapport with the returning team members, and is passionate about recruitment of new athletes.”

    Pulley competed for the figure skating team all four seasons at Liberty and on the synchro team her sophomore and senior years.

    Pulley started skating at 5 years old and picked up synchronized skating as a fifth-grader when she joined Richmond (Va.) Synchro. She stayed with that program through her high school career and helped coach through its beginners’ program over Christmas and summer breaks. Additionally, she fulfilled Christian service (CSER) hours at Liberty each year by assisting with its eight-week Learn to Skate sessions at the LaHaye Ice Center in the fall and spring semesters.

    “Hannah is one of the most tenacious and hard-working athletes I’ve ever had the privilege of working with,” Payne said. “Those qualities paired with her love for LU synchro give me every confidence that she will do great things as the head coach.”

    After originally pursuing a degree in public health at Liberty, Pulley switched to exercise science with a specialization in therapeutic science, which she uses daily as a technician at OrthoVirginia, a physical therapy clinic in Lynchburg, Va.

    “I am aiming to go to physical therapy school in the future, and am now building my resumé,” Pulley said. “Coaching allows me to do something I love and have been doing my whole life, incorporating my exercise science knowledge and my skating skills. I know how the body functions and how we can strengthen certain muscles to create better overall skaters through certain movements.”

    Gram, who graduated with a B.S. in psychology and works at the new Blue Ridge Autism Center in nearby Forest, Va., will complement Pulley’s coaching style.

    “We work well together, and have been best friends since we met our freshman year, and I knew she would be a great fit for the team because of the experience she has had with both Liberty synchro and the figure skating team,” Pulley said.

    Pulley started a recruitment program with the synchronized skating team during her sophomore season, actively reaching out to prospective skaters while at away collegiate events.

    “I took that under my wing and started recruiting at competitions for the Liberty Synchro team, and we have definitely seen the numbers go up these past few seasons due to our changes,” she said.

    However, due to offseason losses from graduation and attrition, Pulley anticipates only returning five skaters from last year’s team, though she has an additional six recruits lined up for this fall.

    “We have a decent number of skaters coming in, just not as many as we would like to have,” Pulley said. “But we do have two figure skaters who will also be joining the synchro team and could have some more potential skaters show up at tryouts.”

    The drop in total team members will likely necessitate a move from Collegiate, which requires a minimum of 12 skaters and culminates with U.S. Synchronized Skating National Championship competition, to Collegiate Open classification for the program this coming season.

    “We aim to get back to the Collegiate division in the next year,” said Pulley, who flew with the team to Colorado Springs, Colo., for nationals this past April after previously traveling to Portland, Ore., to compete in the 2018 nationals and Plymouth, Mich., for the 2019 nationals. “That’s my goal, and I am hoping that next season, 2023-24, we will be able to get to nationals again.”

    Beyond Eastern Sectionals, scheduled for mid-January, Pulley is awaiting dates for two other regular-season competitions for this upcoming season, one in December and one in February.

    Pulley will be assisted by Haley Gram (’20), who competed on the figure skating and synchro teams all three of her years at Liberty.

    Pulley will continue to meet with Payne and Hughes as she transitions into her new role, to gain insight into Club Sports coaching policies.

    “Tatiana has been a huge help to me preparing for this next season,” Pulley said of Payne, who started the program and recruited her in 2017. “They are both kind of mentoring me through the season and I’m excited. I have already been working on a lot of stuff for the preseason, ordering apparel and designing the dresses and creating the music. There’s already been a lot done before I started, but it’s been a fun process so far.”

    She said the routine that the team will skate to is completely different from last year’s.

    “In synchro skating, you have to work together and create different formations on the ice, such as blocks and pinwheels and lines,” Pulley said. “We have been working on the ice with the music and figuring out the different parts of the program that we have to include, based on the U.S. Figure Skating requirements. We will take that and create (choreograph) a program to music that the girls will learn at the beginning of the season, then we’ll critique it throughout the season.”

    The theme to this year’s routine is “Warrior.”

    “We are warriors for God, and it is a very strong and upbeat program,” Pulley said. “Our goal is to incorporate our faith into our program, with music to bring people to wonder what Liberty is about, and to allow them to see what God and the Christian life is like by bringing that biblical aspect to skating. We are putting on the armor of God and getting out there and showing what gifts and talents we have.”

    The team will hold its choreography boot camp from Aug. 26-28 at the LaHaye Ice Center, which will include team on-ice sessions on top of team bonding activities, including meals together, and a service project.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer