Synchronized skaters set for season debut in Michigan, first live event since before pandemic
Liberty University’s synchronized skating team will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to compete in Saturday’s Dr. Porter Synchronized Skating Classic, its first performance skating in front of a live audience and judges in nearly two years.
“We have a lot of energy going into this first competition … knowing we are going to be able to get in front of judges this season, which is great … because we’ve had a whole season where we didn’t get to compete in-person,” Lady Flames Head Coach Emily Hughes said. “Last year, obviously, was a little bit of a struggle with a couple competitions being canceled or being moved to virtual. We are really excited to kick off our season and continue on from there.”
The team’s last competition was the U.S. Synchronized Skating Collegiate National Championships in Providence, R.I., where they Liberty placed 10th in the Collegiate Division on Feb. 29, 2020, right before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It will be a good year this year to be able to get back in person and skate,” senior Alexis Cairns said. “It’s just good to be on the ice with everybody and get to practice and see everyone and have somewhat of a normal year this year.”
She said team continuity has carried over from last season and been strengthened with the addition of a few promising freshmen.
“It’s good that we have a majority of the girls from the team last year,” Cairns said. “We only had a few that graduated, so I think it’s good that we kind of know each other and have that team bond, so it makes it better for us to bond even more with the new girls and just have a bigger, better team this year.”
One of those freshmen is McKenna Powers, who has competed with the same synchronized skating team for the past 10 years out of Gainesville, Va.
“This season, the girls have been so welcoming,” Powers said. “This is such a new experience and I’m so excited to meet the new personalities on the team. We definitely have been skating for a lot of hours in the mornings and it’s been great to work together. There have been a few struggles with different setbacks, but we’ve kind of laughed through those and had fun and that’s brought us closer together, working through those setbacks and coming out even stronger.”
The team will be skating to a program set to the song “Bird Set Free” by Sia, which Powers considers “inspirational and empowering” and “a lot of fun.”
“It is a long program because we are in the Collegiate Division again this year, so it has to be a little bit longer than it was last year,” Cairns said, noting that required putting in a lot of extra hours on the ice, especially to bring the newcomers up to speed.
Hughes has emphasized rekindling a passion for the sport in those skaters who have competed for years, and allowing the newcomers to help fuel that fire with their influx of energy and spirit.
“We started the year talking about this program, basically going back to why we all started skating, and what I wanted the girls to remember is why they fell in love with this sport and why they’re passionate about skating and then bring that to the ice,” she said. “We want to skate to the glory of God, but also just for the love of the sport and not strive for perfection, but just strive for the passion that we all share on the ice, so that’s been one of the key themes for our program.”
Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media