GVSU synchronized skating gears up for 2015

GVL / Courtesy - Juliana Barla
GVSU synchronized skating team

GVL / Courtesy – Juliana Barla GVSU synchronized skating team

Andy Smith

Some people are natural dancers, born to dip, twist, twirl and leap across a stage and wow an audience. Others excel on the ice, strapping on bladed shoes to glide, skate and carve over icy sheets.

Some do both. They are members of the Grand Valley State synchronized skating club.

“It is not just about jumps. Synchronized skating involves a lot of formations,” said assistant coach Allison Ford. “Teams are required to focus more on the edge work. Teams can have jumps, but we have to use more of the ice. We get judged more on shapes, circles and how in unison we are as a team.

“We choreograph our own music and routines and our dances to what interest us. We spend the whole offseason getting costumes ready and choreograph a lot of the work behind the scenes.”

The club has existed since 1996 and is currently gearing up for its 2015 season, which begins with the Kalamazoo Kickoff Classic on Nov. 21.

Synchronized skating is a club sport and the team has anywhere from eight to 16 girls on the team each year. The team is made up of skaters with different varieties of experience. Some have never skated competitively, others girls have only figure skated, and still others have competed exclusively in synchronized skating events in the past.

“The expectation for the team this year is that we want to grow as a team,” said club president Juliana Barla. “The bigger team that we have the better we are. We are excited to do well and improve on last year.

“We placed in a couple of competitions and we are hoping to build off that and keep the program moving forward.”

The Lakers practice two days a week on the ice, and also have off ice workouts where they have training on foot and get their dancing down to prepare for the competitions. The Lakers also have six to seven hour on-ice training sessions once a month.

GVSU has three to four competitions a year, and the athletes have to pay for everything on their own, making fundraising ever-important. The Lakers have three competitions in Michigan from Nov. 21 to Jan. 16.

The Lakers’ season winds down with a three-day tournament in Portland, Oregon – the Midwestern and Pacific Synchronized Skating Sectionals. The competition is held by the U.S. Figure Skating Association, which also hosts the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

GVSU also partners with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and was asked to skate in a couple of games during the first and second periods and share their performances in 2014.

“It helps us to get better and used to being in front of a big crowd and it’s great practice.” Barla said. “We also do different fundraisers to help us raise money for the club.

“I have always had a passion for synchronized skating. The team is very supportive of me and we get to share every experience that we have as a team. It is student-led and the coaches take our opinions and ideas into account.”

The Lakers are looking to showcase their unique form of art on the ice come the 2015 season. GVSU’s season ends with the Tri States meet in Dearborn, Michigan on Feb. 13.

“We are looking to break through as a team this year. We have a great group of girls that want to push the program and our skaters are really motivated to do that,” Ford said.