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Choreographed competition

Local skating team members strut their stuff

Posted: August 17, 2009 8:35 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2009 4:55 a.m.

The California Girls synchro team strikes a pose as they practice to music of "Austin Powers." The team took top marks for their performances at the Ice Skating Institute World Recreational Team Championship.

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A passion for skating met cool competition when the California Girls synchro ice skating team of Valencia competed in the Ice Skating Institute World Recreational Team Championship skating competition in San Jose.

The California Girls brought home first place in the event late in July, second place in the compulsory event and fifth place in the synchro skating event.

The team of 10 female skaters, ages 12-16, competed with ice skaters from 18 states and from all over the world, including synchro ice skating teams from China, Mexico City, Australia, the Philippines and Taiwan.

The girls practice out of the Ice Station Valencia in Santa Clarita and joined more than 40 skaters representing the station at the competition.

"Team skating means close friendships," said West Ranch High School ninth-grader Noelle Shalkevich, 14. "My teammates are some of my best friends, and I thought it was really special to have this experience with them."

The team started locally more than eight years ago; Shalkevich is among the last remaining original members.

Since its inception, the synchro team has offered young skaters a chance to hone their skills on the ice in more ways than one.

"The girls are all individual skaters who work with different coaches at the station," said Lisa Jordan, who co-coaches the team with Juli Marshall. "But then they get together for the synchro team and they create something together."

With a practice schedule of three to four hours each day leading up to the competition, as well as team practice twice a week for an hour each time, the girls on the team felt ready to twirl into action.

"This was my first year at the competition and it taught me a lot about challenging myself," said Rancho Pico Junior High student Suzan Frierson, 13.

Frierson has been a part of the synchro team for the past year and feels that her experiences have made her a much stronger skater so far, she said.

She's not the only one.

"There may be better skaters than any one of us individually, but not too many people can do what we do together," Shalkevich said.

The girls competed in two routines.

The compulsory routine was done to the music of the movie "Austin Powers" and consisted of five particular skating moves that each skater had to perform.

The team also performed a routine to the theme of the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean," which is a longer and more artistic act with harder choreography.

The girls use skating moves such as wheels, intersections, blocks, lines, jumps and spins.

"Everyone skated so well, and we were so proud of all of them," said Jordan, a gold-medal professional skating coach with 18 years of experience.

Jordan started the team with Marshall, another gold-medal professional of 18 years' standing.

"The ‘surprise' competition was my favorite," Shalkevich said. "It's a competition where we don't know what we have to do ahead of time. It turned out to be a ball-dribbling relay race on skates."

The girls took top marks for their performances in the event and showed that perseverance is the true name of the game.

"A team of boys thought that they would be unbeatable and, well, we beat them!" Shalkevich said.

The team has competed at Worlds in Anaheim and Denver in previous years and will join the competition again for 2010 in Boston.

But for many of the team members, being part of the team is more than practicing for competitions.

"This is my third year at Worlds and I love to skate," said Marie Samuel, a 14-year-old freshman at West Ranch High School. "It's more than just skating, though. It's being with friends and sharing memories that will last forever."

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