Local synchronized skating team second in world


The Junior Teams Elite practices at Northbrook Sports Center for their National and World Championship competitions in March. Eight of the team’s 20 skaters are Glenbrook North students and represent the United States at international competitions. Photo by Claire Satkiewicz

No matter where in the world they are, the Junior Teams Elite synchronized skating team members warm up by standing in a circle, holding hands and breathing in unison. During the warmup the girls sing their favorite songs to boost energy and visualize their routine before going out onto the ice.

“While you’re competing, it’s a big rush of adrenaline right when you step out,” said junior Alex Smith. “They announce you, and [when you] hear the audience clap for you, you’re standing next to [your] teammates, like squeezing them.”

The Junior Teams Elite team’s roster includes 20 skaters, eight of whom are Glenbrook North students.

A day before the Hevelius Cup in Poland which took place from Jan. 5 to Jan. 8, the team had to rearrange positions to include an alternate skater after an injury. With 30 minutes left of on-ice practice, a teammate’s skate sliced senior Angela Zhang near her calf, leaving a deep cut requiring stitches.

“She had a full spot in both [routines], so we had to teach someone new her entire spot within 30 minutes.

“We all had to come together and help her with every different part of the program and then just rally to compete,” Smith said.

The team placed third in Poland with a score of 169.74.

The team placed first with a score of 197.26 in their most recent competition, the French Cup, which took place from Feb. 4 to Feb. 5.

Each routine is scored based on several elements including skill, difficulty and execution, Head Coach Danielle Ostrower said in a video conference.

Synchronized skating consists of 16 skaters creating different formations and various shapes. Routines are paired with music to tell a story.

The team performs two routines at each competition, one long and one short. Each routine has a theme, respectively Missy Elliott and Oujia. Before each performance the girls get into character to better convey the theme.

“We always talked about stepping through this portal to do the Ouija board, and [we] have a whole story that we portray of the Ouija board and the spirits that are part of it,” Smith said.

For the past three years, the Junior Teams Elite team has been named Team USA.

In order to be named Team USA, teams must achieve a threshold score and compete in two out of three national qualifying International Selection Pool events, Assistant Coach Jamie Whyte said in a video conference.

“This season, the qualifying score would put you in probably the top five at any international event so far,” Whyte said.

There are eight synchronized skating teams representing Team USA at the junior level.

As of Feb. 15 the junior level team is ranked second in the world for the 2021-2022 season.

The team is scheduled to compete in the U.S. Championships in Colorado from March 2 to March 5 and in the World Championships in Austria taking place on March 17 to March 19.

“When they call your name as ‘the United States of America,’ you feel there’s definitely more pressure because you’re not just doing it for your team, but also Team USA,” Smith said.