Sonya Danchak’s Skyliners team took 1st place at the US Synchronized Skating Championships in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The tri-state squad competes in the juvenile division.
Sonya — a Bedford Middle School 7th grader– performed to music from “9 to 5.” Eight of the 9 judges gave the team the top grade. The national title capped a season in which the Skyliners won gold medals at every event they entered.
Synchronized skating is exactly what it sounds like. 8 to 20 skaters combine speed, intricate formations and challenging step sequences. There are 600 synchronized teams in the US. The sport may be included at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
As a rule, “06880” does not run sports stories. For one thing, “sports pages” in all the local papers do this well. For another, once I report on one team’s 6th grade YMCA basketball championship, I’ll have to do it for every other team, in every other league and sport.
But rules are made to be broken. Some sports stories are definitely “06880”-worthy.
Like Katie Orlin representing the US at the World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships in Croatia.
The Staples High School sophomore recently returned from Zagreb. She was there as a member of the Skyliners, a tri-state area team that competes in the very difficult sport formerly called “precision skating.”
Sixteen skaters flow as one tight unit at high speeds, while completing difficult maneuvers. Judging is based on teamwork, precision, speed, difficulty and performance. Katie calls it “Rockettes on ice.”
The Skyliners placed 6th out of 24 teams, from 19 nations. They were beaten only by teams from the synchronized skating-mad countries of Finland, Russia and Canada.
Katie has been skating since 1st grade. Her mother signed her and her siblings up for lessons at the Stamford Twin Rinks so they’d gain a skill needed for birthday parties.
Katie flourished. She competed in freestyle the next year, then moved on to “synchro.” She loved the team aspect, and her coach.
But it’s a time-consuming, exhausting sport. Katie skates at Stamford Chelsea Piers, and in Westchester and Monsey, New York. Saturday practices can last all day. “Shorter” sessions during the week are still long: 1 hour off the ice, 2 hours on.
Katie loves the girls, and the competition. She’s traveled all around the East Coast, to France, and now Croatia.
Katie Orlin (left) in action.
Her Staples friends “kind of” understand what she does. When they ask about an event, she finds it easier to show a video than explain.
Her Staples teachers have been very interested and cooperative, she says. She gets work before she leaves on a trip, and does plenty of independent and online studying.
Synchronized skating is just one of Katie’s activities. She’s also on Student Assembly, and is a member of the Circle of Women club.
What’s next, now that she’s seen Zagreb?
Katie is not sure. But, she says, in June a decision will be made about adding synchronized skating as an Olympic sport.
So — if everything falls into place — Katie may be headed a lot farther than Croatia.
The 2018 Winter Games are in Pyeonchang, South Korea.
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