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BU’s Synchro Skating Team Spins into Top 10

Best served over ice

1

In the video above, the Terrierettes compete at the 2009 national championship last March.

Blocks. Circles. Wheels.

The basic moves sound like Tinker Toy pieces, but the finished product is anything but mechanical: synchronized skating is a graceful and complicated team sport.

“Think Rockettes on Ice,” says Melissa Hampson (CAS’10), president of the Terrierettes, Boston University’s synchronized skating team, which traveled to Ann Arbor, Mich., this past weekend for its first big invitational of the year. The experience was well worth it, though the team finished ninth.

Officially begun as a competitive sport in 1976, synchronized skating, or synchro, teams have from 8 to 20 skaters performing coordinated choreographed routines, called programs, for two panels of judges.

The BU team, which has been competing nationally for a decade, comprises women of all shapes and sizes, but their black-clad knees and ankles move in unison as they sweep from one end of the rink to the other, gliding through a four-minute program they practice over and over until the National Championships in March.

Accuracy requires hours of repetition, and not just on skates. As well as spending four and a half hours on the ice weekly, the Terrierettes put in an hour and a half practicing precision moves in a dance studio. An extra hour of independent skating a week is mandatory.

But tedious practice pays off in front of the judges, whose scoring system is a bit arcane. One set of judges looks at technical issues, assigning each move a level of difficulty and points. The other is a “program components” panel, assessing skating skill, choreography, interpretation, and other aesthetic values. The two are averaged for the final score.

Since the Terrierettes were formed in 1999, they’ve been climbing the national ranks, rising from 11th place in the 2006 championships to 8th place last spring.

While most of the skaters come to the team with a background in synchro, some are used to skating solo. Synchro becomes a way to keep their blades on the ice.

“I would never come to the rink if I didn’t have synchro,” says Leigh Makely (SAR’10), Terrierettes vice president.

“It really is the best way for a lot of skaters to continue skating in college,” Hampson says, “because you have a team holding you accountable.” She had given up skating before joining the team.

With the exception of two part-time coaches (who spend a combined total of two hours per month with the team), the club is entirely run by students. The executive board, Hampson, Makely, secretary Leigh Pressman (SMG’13), treasurer Jessica Meisel (SMG’13), and choreographer Susan Gillmor (CAS’10), handles decisions made by other teams’ varsity coaches, from choreography to costumes.

“One year, we bought white dresses, and then spray painted them — while we were wearing them,” says Makely.

This DIY attitude is the key to the Terrierettes’ success, according to Hampson. Figure skating is expensive; Hampson and Makely estimate yearly dues at $700 to $1,000 per skater. Fortunately, BU offers free rink time.

“My sister, who is on Team USA, pays around $12,000 a year to skate,” says Pressman, not including travel.

But the Terrierettes say being part of the team is worth the time and money.

“We’ve got a couple of fan groups on Facebook,” Hampson says. “And we’re skating at a varsity hockey game for the first time this year, which will help us out.”

“I love this sport,” says Pressman. And she’s given plenty of thought to its attractions, as proven by her Facebook profile: “Twenty Reasons to Date a Synchronized Skater.”

The 2009–2010 Terrierettes competed in the Dr. Richard Porter Synchronized Classic, in Ann Arbor, Mich., December 5 and 6; they will go on to the Eastern Sectionals in January and the National Championships in March. Learn more about the team and its competitions here.

Devon Maloney can be contacted at devon.maloney@gmail.com.

1 Comments

One Comment on BU’s Synchro Skating Team Spins into Top 10

  • Anonymous on 12.07.2009 at 1:15 pm

    the movie

    Although this was a group effort, I would have liked to see more close up shots, because it was difficult (and therefore a little boring) to see what they were doing…

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