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A Golden Season for Synchronized Skaters

Northwestern’s synchronized skating team excels in competition

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February 19, 2014 | by Matt Paolelli

By day, members of the Northwestern Women’s Synchronized Skating team are typical college students—taking classes, doing homework and staying active in a variety of clubs and extracurricular activities. But several nights a week they retreat to an off-campus ice rink until nearly midnight and put on their skates for an intense rehearsal of their choreographed routine.

“Our coach teaches us all the basic moves because most of us have never done synchro before, so we learn a wheel, a circle, a traveling line and any little pieces of footwork that she wants to include in the program,” said Emily MacArthur, a senior in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the team’s co-president.

The 12-person team is part of a non-qualifying, open collegiate division and performs their routine in four competitions throughout winter quarter, competing against other Midwestern schools including Michigan State University, University of Michigan and University of Notre Dame. They recently placed fourth and received pewter medals at the 2014 Midwestern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships in Hoffman Estates, Ill., and received gold medals at the 2014 Tri-States Synchronized Skating Championships in Traverse City, Mich.

The team also will perform its routine at its annual exhibition at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 12 at the Robert Crown Ice Arena in Evanston. The event is free and open to the public.

Most of the women on the team come from solo figure skating backgrounds and must adapt to the increased traffic on the ice, MacArthur said.

 “You really have to focus and pay attention to what everyone else is learning at the same time that you’re learning your part,” she said.

The team formed in 2004 and has been coached by Kathy Janik since 2006. She works with the team’s assistant choreographer to develop the main technical structure of the routine at the beginning of the season in October.

This year’s program, set to music from the film version of “The Great Gatsby,” has continued to evolve artistically throughout the learning process, said Samantha Stankowicz, a Weinberg senior and team co-president.

“Sometimes it will be as simple as someone doing something wrong, but it looked better than what we had to begin with, so we change it,” she said.

Although synchronized skating presents different challenges than figure skating, team members love the opportunity to continue skating competitively, MacArthur said.

“To me, skating was 100 percent about doing jumps and spins, and synchro isn’t as much about that,” she said. “But when I came to college, Northwestern is so rigorous that I didn’t have time to skate for hours every day, and synchronized skating takes much less of a toll on your body, so I prefer it for the stage of life that I’m in now.”