In the world of collegiate synchronized skating, the U.S. Synchronized Skating National Championship is the highest competition a team can qualify for.
Last season, Oswego State’s synchronized skating team was forced to move down a division because the team lost many members due to graduation. This year the Oswego State Ice Effects are back in the Collegiate Division. They qualified for nationals after a year in the less competitive Open Collegiate Division.
“It’s the best of the best,” said junior vice president Brittany Hoffmann. “You really can’t go anywhere in our division beyond nationals.”
Since the team was unable to participate in the national competition last year, this time is even more important for the Ice Effects.
“To be able to even qualify and go to nationals this year and still be competitive is a really big deal,” Hoffmann said.
In order to qualify for the national competition, the Ice Effects had to be a top team in their division, which they did by performing a strong program at the Eastern Sectional Synchronized Skating Championship.
Now the Ice Effects will travel to Plymouth, Mich. for nationals, which takes place between Feb. 27 and March 2. Going to the competition is not only the highest achievement for the Ice Effects, but the trip is also a team building experience in and of itself.
“It’s always been a treat to go there,” senior Kayleigh Marko said. “The places you get to go and experience as a team are amazing.”
The Ice Effects are the only synchronized skating team in the SUNY system and many members of the team attend Oswego State largely because of the team’s presence.
“This is pretty much the reason I came here,” said Christie Williams, a freshman on the team. “I’ve been [skating] since I was six.”
The team forms close bonds during the year because of an intense practice schedule and the nature of the sport, which requires coordination.
“We’re like a family,” Williams said.
Synchronized skating also is highly reliant on each member of the group being present; without even one person, a program cannot run smoothly.
“Every person on this team is as important as the next,” Hoffmann said.
Because of the importance of every skater, it was particularly tough for the Ice Effects if team members were sick during the season.
“It’s like missing a piece of your puzzle,” Marko said.
This also makes it difficult for the team to readjust each year with girls graduating and other new members joining the team.
“Every year it’s a challenge,” Hoffmann said.
Despite all these variables, the Ice Effects have made it to nationals after a challenging season back in the Collegiate Division.
Hoffmann said that although their season has been competitive, the team tries to have fun in the locker room to ease the stress of competition and they also perform well under pressure. She said at the Empire State Games, the team skated its best program after being rushed onto the ice without even having their hair tied up or their skates properly taped.
“If we treat nationals like Empires, that would be a great way to relieve the tension,” Hoffmann said.
Members of the Ice Effects have individual goals for nationals, but the team goal is to place eighth. The Ice Effects placed 11th last time they went to nationals two years ago.
According to Hoffmann, the top five teams that go to nationals are practically in a whole different division, so eighth place is an attainable and realistic goal for the Ice Effects. Although eighth may not seem like a high goal to those unfamiliar with the competition, it is an honor to simply go to nationals. Anything more than that is just icing on the cake.
For the Ice Effects, nationals marks the end of their competition season, which is a bittersweet ending for the team, especially for the lone senior, Marko.
“It’s been a journey,” Marko said. “Every year we’ve become closer. And even after I leave the connections are gonna be there and continue for years to come.”
But the season will not be over until after nationals, which marks the culmination of the team’s dedication all year long.
“All that hard work you’ve been putting in since September… it’s all leading up to nationals,” Hoffmann said.