In more than a decade only the Haydenettes, the Crystallettes and Miami University have remained consistently in the top four in the senior division, securing a spot on the podium every year. Team Elan medaled reliably until 2006, and since then California Gold and the Starlights are the only other teams to make it to the top—until this year. The 2012 national championships welcomed a new senior team to the podium. The Ice’Kateers from Anaheim, Calif. earned their first medal at the senior level, and the second medal in the history of their organization.
The Ice’Kateers journey to the top began in 2000 with two ISI teams. By 2002 they were able to field both juvenile and intermediate teams and qualify for nationals in Lake Placid. Over the years, coaches Kathi Pargee and John Saitta shifted team levels to accommodate the age and skill of their skaters. In 2005 the Ice’Kateers took home an intermediate pewter medal from nationals in Lowell, Mass. Three years later the Ice’Kateers placed 6th in the junior division at the 2008 national championships—a strong enough finish to earn Team USA status. In 2009 they took home a silver medal from their first international assignment at the Jegvirag Cup in Miskolc, Hungary and in 2010 they entered the senior division.
Finishing 8th at nationals, their first year in the senior division proved to be a challenge, but both skaters and coaches were up to the task. They moved up three spots by nationals in 2011, finishing 5th, and earning back their Team USA status. The end of the 2011 season brought a large turnover in skaters leaving the team with only 10 returning to start the year. It wasn’t until the first week of September that they had 16 rostered skaters, enough to field a team for 2012.
“We usually start our programs late July and early August, however because we didn’t have a full team, we got a late start on our programs. This reality really caused us to buckle down and put in more practice time as our international competition and nationals grew closer. The girls really got on board with this idea and committed extra time to make it happen. The key for us was time together on the ice, understanding and patience with one another and a common goal,” Pargee said.
The Mozart Cup in Austria was a successful trip on many fronts. The Ice’Kateers placed sixth out of thirteen senior teams, including some of the top teams in the world including Marigold IceUnity, Rockettes, Nexxice and Team Unique. The skaters also made lifelong memories—an important component of Pargee and Saitta’s coaching style and philosophy.
Pargee’s goal for the team at nationals was to have two strong performances, and she said, “although you have no control over your scores and ultimately your placement, I hoped that with two strong performances it would be enough for us to earn a medal.”
The team and the coaches were full of energy following their fourth place finish in short. They were nervous, excited, relieved they put out a strong performance and confident in the way they were practicing long. Pargee told the team “you can’t win the competition with the short, but you can lose it…[you have] not won anything yet. [You] still needed to go out and attack the long.”
On Saturday night a member of the Ice’Kateers family, one of the novice skater’s dads, passed away suddenly. Putting aside their emotions was almost impossible for many of the skaters who knew him well, so they dedicated their performance to honor him and his family. They skated beautifully and returned to their locker room to await the final results.
The news that they held on to the fourth place spot sent the team into a “happy mess”. There were tears of joy, laughter, screaming and hugging. When they exited the locker room for the awards ceremony the Haydenettes, the Crystallettes and Miami University cheered and clapped loudly, welcoming the Ice’Kateers to the top teams in the United States. The experience was surreal for many team members. “To watch the girls’ excitement as they skated out and to see the other teams cheering for them, it is something I have burned in my memory,” said Pargee. “I was so proud, happy and so happy for them. It truly was the achievement and accomplishment of a goal.”
The end of this season brings the beginning of a new season for the Ice’Kateers, which for Pargee means new memories and new goals. “The first medal at the senior level at nationals is always the sweetest and it is so hard to repeat,” Pargee said. “While it would be wonderful for us to medal again at nationals, we have such good teams at the senior level that you never know who will end up on the podium. How wonderful it would be to someday have a team at worlds, but you never know what each season will bring. In the meantime, we will continue to try to put out a quality product while making great memories along the way.”
Click the links below to read full interviews with coach Kathi Pargee and members of the Ice’Kateers senior team.