By Caroline Urbanek ‘17
March is a common time to find students traveling all around the globe. Five Merrimack students recently made a trip to China, but their trek was more than just travel. They went to represent the U.S. in the ISU Shanghai Trophy with their synchronized skating team.
Ashley Tomich, River Kynoch, Sharon Neff, Hannah Stodola, and Andi Gottfried recently traveled to Shanghai to compete against other synchronized skating teams for the ISU Shanghai Trophy, where they were proud to place second overall. They are members of the Haydenettes, a twenty-person team based out of Lexington, Massachusetts. According to the website, the team “competes in the highest division of competitive figure skating, the same as Olympic singles, pairs, and dance.”
Synchronized skating is a sport that many have never heard of. For those that don’t understand the sport, Tomich describes it as, “the fastest growing discipline of figure skating in the United States.”
Tomich said that teams of 8-20 athletes incorporate elements like jumps, lifts, turns, and footwork typically seen on televised figure skating.
“It brings a team aspect to the sport of figure skating,” Tomich said, “and in my opinion is an incredibly exciting, athletic, and beautiful sport to take part in and watch. Simply search synchronized skating or the Haydenettes on YouTube, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.”
The team’s website boasts that they are the most successful synchronized skating team in the country, and have represented the U.S. in each World Championship since the International Skating Union (ISU) sanctioned the first World Championship event in 2000. While the history of the team has been strong since its commencement in 1979, this year’s team already has quite the list of accomplishments.
The event in Shanghai was their third international event of the season, following competitions in Spain in December and Sweden in January. Though each event was special, Tomich explains that, “this trip was particularly special because we had just come straight from Kalamazoo, Michigan, where we won our 24th National Championship title the week before.”
Neff describes her favorite moment from the trip as the sold-out crowd she and the team performed both long and short programs for.
“They were incredibly supportive and cheered us on every step of the way,” Neff said. “There’s nothing like hearing a roaring crowd cheering for you.”
How do the girls manage the additional pressure of being a full-time student? Neff explains that although it is challenging at times, most elite athletes are determined and organized by nature, and as a result can keep up with the work as long as they are on top of it.
Tomich agrees with Neff, but attributes her success to her time management skills and understanding professors.
“I am very fortunate to say that I wouldn’t be able to do it all without the support and understanding of faculty members here at Merrimack,” Tomich said. “Thanks to everybody at Merrimack including my roommates, classmates, professors, and faculty members and their support, I can continue my skating career while balancing a full-time student lifestyle.”