All together now….a great ending to a challenging season

For the Tampa Bay Skating Club’s junior synchro skaters, there’s only one thing that beats doing your personal best – and that’s doing it in unison. 

After a series of setbacks and injuries at sectionals, the Florida Sunsations put themselves back together and did what they had hoped to do at nationals recently: skate their best.

The junior Florida Sunsations synchro team.

“I just really wanted us to have a clean skate and be proud that we skated our best,” senior member Laura Verkyk says. “After we got off the ice we were all in tears. We really acted like we got first place.”

The team finished in last place out of 12 teams from across the nation, but performing well was their No. 1 goal.

“Even though we got last place, the place wasn’t important,” senior Allyson Klovekorn says. “We beat our scores from sectionals and we skated a clean long program.”

One of the commentators for the 2013 US Synchronized Skating Championships in Plymouth, Michigan, said the 12-member synchro team from Oldsmar, FL, had the most important thing going for them during their long program:

“They should feel very proud of this performance to come out and really just hit each element,”
said commentator Becky Search, 2007 World synchronized skating silver medalist. They look like they were having so much fun, which when it comes down to it is the most important thing.”

For Laura, 18, part of what made it so fun was the support of the audience.

The Sunsations perform at the 2013 US Synchronized
Skating Championships.

“The best part was the feeling of being out there on the ice and hearing our name being cheered from the fans and everybody clapping to our music,” she said. “We’ve never had that before. It was such an accomplishment. It was very overwhelming.”

(See the video of their long program performance at nationals as they skate to the music Material Girl by Madonna and Sparkling Diamonds by Moulin Rouge.

Two years ago the team started participating in the more competitive US Figure Skating events, which have strict rules and guidelines for performance and allows teams to compete at sectionals and nationals. Prior to that, they only competed in Ice Skating Institute (ISI) events, which are geared toward recreational skating. 

Rachel Duckworth, who co-coaches the junior Sunsations along with Nicole West, says she never doubted the team would compete at nationals this year.

Coach Rachel Duckworth

“I would tell them, ‘We’re gonna make it to nationals,’ and they would say, ‘No, there’s no way,’ and I would say, ‘Yeah, we really are,'” Duckworth said.

The top four teams at sectionals go to nationals. But because there weren’t any junior synchro teams competing from the western division, the Sunsations just had to participate at sectionals to get a ticket to nationals.

“We’ve never had a synchro team get to nationals before so to get there was exciting,” she added.

After skating their personal best at the March 1, 2013, national championships, the Sunsations came back home to compete again. It was as though that ‘first place’ feeling stayed with them because this time performing their best won them the top spot locally.

Coach Nicole West

At the March 23, 2013, ISI Spring Fling competition at the Tampa Bay Skating Academy they captured first place out of four other teams.

While they ended their synchro season on a high note, their road to nationals was a bumpy ride fraught with setbacks. At the 2013 Eastern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships in February in Lake Placid, NY, the team endured one injury after another.

“They stole the show when they ended up with four people in the hospital,” Duckworth said.

Intermediate member Carla Brunini and junior members Alisa Goldstein, Alisha Sarley, and Tori Kerr were all taken to the local hospital for a variety of injuries.

Carla had an asthma attack. Alisa fell during the competition and someone accidentally ran over her finger. She received several stitches but went on to compete at nationals. Alisha injured her knee and wasn’t able to compete at nationals. And Tori injured her foot but was able to skate at the national championships.

Tori slipped and injured her foot on the icy walk to the Lake Placid Olympic Center to perform. She went on the ice to compete anyway.

“Rachel carried me off the ice,” Tori said. “I couldn’t walk anymore.” Other than that, though, she said, “It was a lot of fun.”

Just having the opportunity to go to sectionals and then nationals was an exciting experience for the team.

“Especially since I’m a senior it means so much to me,” Allyson said. “I always wanted to go watch nationals. I never imagined skating at nationals. So it was great to get to go my last year.” 

At left, Allyson Klovekorn, and
Laura Verkyk

Allyson, who also competes as a single skater, says being on the ice with other team members is more fun then skating alone.

“It’s not as stressful. The pressures not all on me,” she said. “It’s me and all of my team. So I can have more fun out there.”

And, synchro skaters know, there’s something about skating with others that tends to bring out the best in a skater.

“I didn’t like competing solo,” said Laura, whose been on the team for four years. “When I started skating synchro, skating just became so fun for me. I progressed so much. They encouraged me. When I am with my team I want to do it for them.” 

And that’s exactly what the junior Florida Sunsations synchro team members did for each other this season – saved the best for last. 

Team members wait to hear their scores at nationals.
Allyson Klovekorn, Olivia Naab, Alisa Goldstein,
Sarah Bowman, Caroline Tuxhorn, Ali Stipe,
Mariah Salas, Laura Verkyk, Tori Kerr,
Brittany Rossow, BrookeLyn McGauley, and
Sarah Fuller, who filled in for injured Alisha Sarley.