Hannah R. Miller

For those outside the sport, synchronized skating can be pretty confusing. How are teams organized? What do the scores mean? How many people skate at a time? Here are the basics:

Miami University has three varsity-level synchronized skating teams composed of 20 skaters each. Though each team has 20 skaters, only 16 can skate at a time. There is a junior team, a collegiate team and a senior team. The junior and senior teams skate in consecutive divisions (the senior team in the higher of the two).

“The senior and junior teams don’t have to be associated with a college, and we’re actually one of the only colleges that has a junior team,” senior skater Carli Jenkins said.

On the other hand, the collegiate team must be associated with a college.

“We’re one of about 20 schools with a collegiate team,” Jenkins said.

Even though Miami has three teams, none of the three ever compete against each other. In addition, the skaters must be 18 or younger by the previous July to be eligible for the junior team. This limits the team to being composed of mostly freshmen and a few younger sophomores.

“It’s actually kind of like a feeder system,” Jenkins said. “Girls who excel on the junior team feed into the collegiate team, and then the girls who excel on the collegiate team can feed into the senior team.”

So who do Miami’s teams compete with?

“The collegiate team only competes within the U.S.,” Jenkins said. “They aren’t eligible for international competition. But, both the senior and junior teams are eligible to skate internationally based on their placement at nationals.”

While preparing for the season, each team needs a choreographed routine for both short and long programs. The coaches prepare the majority of the short program themselves, but then they create the long program with the help of a choreographer named Sara Kawahara. Kawahara was the chief choreographer for the synchronized skating performance during the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

“(The coaches) bring in other choreographers who come to help perfect the routine and add the finishing touches,” Jenkins said. “They help with the presentation aspect of things.”

In terms of scoring, at the end of a competition following the short and long program presentations, a final score is awarded to each team. This final score is made up of two parts, a technical element score and a program component score. The technical element score gives the skaters a score based on the different levels of difficulty incorporated into their routine. The program component score, on the other hand, assesses the

choreography, the interpretation and the execution of the performance.

“There is a maximum base score, but there are a lot of other factors that go into the total, so there’s no max score necessarily,” Head Coach Carla DeGirolamo said. “Technically the sky is the limit. It takes a lot of preparation on and off the ice to synchronized skate in college. You need to have the strength, flexibility and technical skills. It takes years and years of training to get to this point.”

The RedHawk synchronized skating team has continued this season’s success with a fifth place finish in the Colonial Classic/Junior World Qualifier held Friday and Saturday in Lowell, Mass. The ‘Hawks junior team skated in its short program Friday, finishing fourth. Saturday, the skaters took fifth overall. The final score was a 96.13, a more than 20-point increase from the team’s score in the first competition of the season at the Dr. Richard Porter Classic in December 2009.

In December’s competition, the senior team placed third in its division, the junior team took fifth in its division and the collegiate team finished second in its division. The team looks to build on its success at the Mid-America Championships coming up Jan. 16 and 17 in Fraser, Mich.