By Katie Spurgeon
I have been skating freestyle for many years, but it wasn’t until recently that I was asked to join a synchronized ice skating team. At first I declined; I had tried it once before, but pumps and three-turns just weren’t as fun to me as jumping and spinning. I loved a challenge, which is exactly what freestyle skating gave me – the excitement in learning new elements, the hard work in practice, and the thrill in success. Synchro? Not really my thing.
I agreed to audition for an Open Juvenile level synchronized skating team called Madison Energy, at the new rink where I skated. It was exactly the big challenge that I longed for. Except, I quickly learned that maybe this challenge I was now faced with was too big! I found myself struggling to keep up with any of the girls, and discovered that the moves I was expected to perform were ones that I had never even heard of, let alone practiced! Nevertheless, I had made a promise to my new team and though I could see it wouldn’t be easy, I was prepared to rise to the challenge. This decision to give synchro my best shot is the best decision I ever made.
That first year of synchro, I fell and fell (and fell) millions of times in my struggle to keep pace with the team, but through that, I learned to always keep going and keep trying. Freestyle allowed me the lenience to perform at my own pace and change anything that gave me difficulty. Not with synchro. This was the first time that I had people counting on me to do the steps correctly, and also in time, in position, and in synch. Staying within my comfort zone was not an option. It caused me to call on every ounce of drive and determination to get it right, and eventually, I could do it! But, it wasn’t without the help of my amazing teammates.
My teammates recognized that I was new to the sport, and were patient with me, taking extra time to help me learn and perfect the steps. Without them, I never would have learned the importance of teamwork, and working together. We were not just eight girls skating next to each other, we were one unified and cohesive team that strived to achieve. Through thick and thin, we worked hard and gave one-hundred percent for our team, knowing that win or lose, we were in it together. We fought through obstacles as one, and even in the face of frustration, were able to give each other positive encouragement.
I knew almost instantly, that I had made friends for life. I was no longer one skater in it alone; I always had my synchro friends to support me, encourage me, and bring out the best in me. This community became so important the day that tragedy struck our group.
We lost our dear friend and teammate Lacey Meinel to a drunken driver on her way home from our first synchro competition. In the face of such overwhelming sadness, it was comforting to know that I had my teammates at my side. We were there for each other, and always had someone to lean on. By helping and supporting each other, we were able to keep the dream and the team alive, and finish the season.
This current year marks my final season with Madison Energy, and I am amazed at not only the progress my synchro skills have made, but also my freestyle skating – making me stronger, more confident, more determined, more precise and more willing to try new things. I am excited to bring my determination, drive and all that I have learned from synchro to the Unversity of Wisconsin – Madison next year, where I hope to audition for the UW Collegiate Synchronized Skating Team. I know that though it will be a fun journey, it will not be an easy one, but I will never ever give up.