Five minutes on April 2 were purely surreal for the Capital Classics’ Team Intensity, especially its four high school senior synchronized skaters.
They came into the final, premiere round of the Ice Skating Institute (ISI) Nationals in second place, beating out teams from across the country in the teen category and leaving them one performance away from earning the top title.
Anticipation, nervousness and excitement filled the 16-member team while they waited in the bay by the ice rink in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. For the seniors, realization set in knowing this was their last time competing, their last performance of the season and their last time skating as a team.
However, once Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance With Somebody” started to play, Team Intensity started dancing on the ice, it was about being in sync and enjoying that time together.
“When we skated at nationals this year, everything just came together. It was one of those things that you didn’t think about the choreography or the footwork. You just take it all in, and we had a great time. It was a very surreal five minutes,” said Brittany Patrick, Jefferson City High School 2017 valedictorian. “I remember the coaches when we got off the ice; they were bawling. They said, ‘We don’t care about your placement. That was the best you’ve ever skated.’ I looked at everyone when we were doing our last maneuver, and we were all crying a little bit.”
Their “Platinum Beats” performance launched them to the highest accomplishment a Capital Classics synchronized team as achieved in ISI since it started 21 years ago. Team Intensity became 2017 ISI national champions.
That victory was a perfect ending to a long synchronized skating career at Washington Park Ice Arena for seniors Brittany, Sierra Foster, Rylie Kever and Madeleine McDonald. The sisterly bond shared between the seniors, their teammates and coaches will continue long after graduation.
Getting in sync
Synchronized skating is a program with music where each skater forms individual patterns that are integrated together to create a moving image on ice. Many of Team Intensity’s members began ice skating at a young age, further developing their skills while synchronized skating. Brittany is a seven-year member of Capital Classics synchronized skating teams, but she has also individually competed in ISI for 10 years, passing her United States Figure Skating (USFS) intermediate moves in the field and preliminary freeskate levels.
Sierra, who also is a longtime participant in ISI competitions, has skated since she was 6 years old and has been involved with Capital Classics synchronized skating teams for eight years. A Jefferson City Figure Skating Club member for 11 years and Capital Classics FSA member for two years, Madeleine has skated for 12 years total and synchronized skated for eight, six with Capital Classics.
Rylie has skated for 14 years, synchronized skated for nine and been with Capital Classics teams for seven. Like some of the other girls, she comes from a family of skaters, including her mom who figure skated at Washington Park’s outdoor rink and a younger sister, Allison, who skates with Team Intensity. Rylie felt synchronized skating progressed her skills.
“It made me grow so much faster than individual skating,” she said. “I didn’t know if I liked it at first, but it grew on me and I love it.”
Many synchro-skaters now start in Team Sensations, a tot formations synchronized skating group. Then, they advance to Capital Classics’ three main competitive synchronized skating teams, tiered by age group and level of skill. Team Vibrant and Team Radiance are a youth formations and youth team, respectively, with Team Intensity comprised of more advanced skaters in eighth through 12th grades.
With the exception of the tots, the other teams travel to compete in six to nine competitions throughout the season. Before entering into a recital or tournament, the teams spend hundreds of hours practicing intricate, originally choreographed routines both on and off the ice.
“We practice the choreography off the ice, and once we have learned the steps, we practice on the ice and see how it works,” Rylie said, noting their coaches Jessica Northrup and Rachel Bruemmer choreograph the routines.
Many of the seniors have enjoyed the costumes, music and themes each season that added to their unique routines, including a song mesh-up with “I Believe I Can Fly” by R. Kelly and “Fly” by Rihanna, peacock-inspired outfits and inspirations from Alice in Wonderland. However, they all feel they’ve grown from their first performances, hooking their interest in synchronized skating.
Skating to success
That passion for synchronized skating is what drove Team Intensity to secure the national championship, despite a challenging 2016-17 season.
All the Capital Classics teams faced adversity when the ice rink flooded on two occasions in the late summer/early fall. Time was lost in preparing for the season’s competitions. The teams traveled to St. Louis for practice while Jefferson City rink was out of service, a challenge for all of the teams whose members are all in school.
“It was stressful, because the rink came back three weeks before our first big competition in Jefferson City,” Brittany said. “We were freaking out about how it was going to happen and how good we would be. But everything just progressively got better from there.”
Despite the rink issues, Team Intensity built their routine as they always have. During competitions, groups like Team Intensity are assessed based upon the difficulty of moves and the uniformity of the skaters in exercising each movement. At their level, the most advanced teen category at ISI competitions, Team Intensity must complete each formation and execute it in unison. As the coaches often tell the girls, they can only go as fast as the slowest skater on their team.
“We have to make sure we are on the same count, going up and coming down at the same time when doing lifts,” Sierra said.
Team Intensity has many challenging moves in their most recent award-winning routine that sealed the national championship, including a rotation block.
“We are in four lines of four people in each line. We hook up, pivoting the entire block to make one move. Then, the front line becomes the back line,” Sierra said. “The back line is more shallow and has a wider edge, and the front line takes a deeper edge, so we all move together.” No matter the move, practice and trust is vital.
“We have one move where three skaters are lifted in the air and the other is kind of doing the splits at the same time. I was one of the people that went up into the air, so getting us all to go up at the same time is challenging,” Brittany said. “It is definitely weird (to be lifted) at first. But I trust all the girls and know them really well, so even if you fall it is OK. … You just do it.”
With seven competitions including nationals this past season, Team Intensity’s routine continually evolved. The coaches changed and added to deliver the best performance possible.
“We added lifts and spirals and a bunch of stuff from December up to nationals,” Sierra said.
In addition to their regular tournaments, Team Intensity also competed in their first two United States Figure Skating (USFS) competitions this past season, placing first in the St. Joseph competition and receiving fourth after a tie-breaking round in Detroit.
“In November and December, we had a short program, and then we switched to a longer program mid-season. When we knew we were done with USFS we added two minutes for our ISI competitions and nationals,” Sierra said.
Team Intensity has secured a high national championship placement in the past, frequently placing third or fourth, and earning second place in 2014. However, receiving their first Boyd Wietecter Trophy became a climatic ending to the team’s season of perseverance.
“It felt good, having it all come together. When you looked at the audience’s faces and our parents, you could tell we were doing well,” said freshman Skylar Gaw. “We had a pretty good season, but it was definitely our best performance.”
Forever a ‘family’
About a month after nationals, the team was still reveling in the win.
“I’m still wearing the nail polish from the competition. I won’t take it off,” Madeleine said. “I will probably keep repainting it and keep living in the moment.”
Other significant moments have taken place for the seniors since the team’s victory. Both graduating from Jefferson City High School, Madeleine plans to study radiology at Metropolitan Community College, and Brittany will study biomedical engineering at Washington University this fall. Recent Helias Catholic High School grads Sierra and Rylie both plan to participate in their college’s synchronized skating teams. Sierra will be at the University of Missouri in Columbia, majoring in biological engineering with an emphasis on biomedical, and Rylie plans to study education and psychology at Lindenwood University.
Stationed in places Team Intensity competes, the four seniors teased Skylar about having eyes throughout the state on her and the team. However, the senior girls were assured the upcoming seniors and underclassmen will keep Team Intensity strong next season.
“It will be really hard because they all have been here for so long,” Skylar said. “They left such a high standard. We got first in the nation, and they are leaving.”
“We are taking a fourth of your team, but you now have to step up and win again. And I’ll be watching you because I’m not that far away,” Sierra said with a smile.
“We are always watching,” Madeleine added, as all the girls laughed.
The senior girls will miss the inside jokes, challenging practices and personal talks they have had with their “sisters” and “second mothers,” but those bonds will never be broken.
“I would take a billion more of the worst practices we have ever had to have be with this group one more time,” Madeleine added. “We are all close, but individually you have people that you will always go to. Eventually we all crossed paths, and that is why we are all best friends.”
For more information about Capital Classics synchronized skating teams, visit Capitalclassics.weebly.com or find them on Facebook. Watch Team Intensity’s winning performance at the 2017 ISI National Championship here.
The two younger teams from Washington Park also had great success at the ISI Nationals in Wisconsin.
Team Radiance won second place in the premier round of the advanced formations teams after claiming second place in the preliminary qualifying round. Team Vibrant also placed second in the premier round of the formations competition and claimed first place in the preliminary qualifying round.
The Capital Classics teams are made up of young people throughout the Mid-Missouri region and are affiliated with Jefferson City Parks and Recreation with the help of local sponsors and the skaters families.