By Alex Orlov
Stroke… stroke…. stroke… tango stop, freeze. My body is a statue as the rest of my teammates skate out to join me on the ice at the 2011 Eastern Sectional Championship in Lake Placid. A lip-sticked smile conveys a happy confidence, but inside I feel as though I am about to round the top of a rollercoaster and plummet downwards. Even though I skated at my first synchro competition when I was in fourth grade, my body still fills with adrenaline and excitement at any public synchro performance.
The cold air of the arena fills my lungs and I take in the view. Butterflies flap around my stomach. Synchro fans young and old are scattered around the stands, hardly filling half the seats. This isn’t Senior Long, after all. Spectators clap politely as our open collegiate team named “Hamgate” takes the ice.
My teammate glides to a stop next to me, and her grip on my shoulder is comforting. Though the crowd may be sparse, we mentally prepare ourselves for our best performance yet. All 11 of us have filed onto the ice and are perfectly lined up.
Hailing from Hamilton College and Colgate University, we founded the open collegiate team “Hamgate” this season. Some skaters have experience competing internationally, while others have just started learning the ins and outs of synchro. Working with everyone’s hectic semester schedules and with everyone’s varied experiences were challenges, but our presence at the competition today makes it all worthwhile.
Skating on an Open Collegiate team differs greatly from my experience skating competitively for “The Colonials” for seven years. I recall line managers keeping track of endless amounts of details about hair and makeup, traveling, practice times, and meals. Now, it is up to members on the team to recruit members, balance a budget and secure practice ice, coaching, and costumes.
Nevertheless, the pure passion for skating is still the foundation of our team. Some of our college friends think we are crazy for commuting to Hamilton and Colgate to practice as a team twice a week during the season to work through choreography. Although we were patchy and unsteady at the beginning of October, we are now confident in our footwork. Time seems to stand still, yet my mind races a thousand miles and hour. Another teammate chants “5-6-7-8” and our team is off, snaking around the rink with our back crossovers. Memories of competitions past echo around my head as my legs go through the familiar push and cross motions.
Our snaking line winds itself into a circle and glides smoothly to a stop. Each girl strikes the opening pose as the audience quiets down. I take a few deep breaths. The first few chords of our music pound through the arena speakers, and tunnel vision takes over. My head, heart and body immediately commit to the performance, and we are off, skating unified and proud for our three minutes in the spotlight.
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