Passion and perfection took the ice in one of the most hotly contested U.S. Figure Skating competitions this weekend.
The Broadmoor Skating Club played host to the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships with finals in four divisions Saturday at the World Arena. This was the third time the national championships were at the World Arena (2001, 2007, 2014), which also had the world championships in 2010.
Synchronized skating is a team figure skating sport that involves speed, accuracy and complex formations with 8-20 skaters per team. The three-day competition featured 93 teams and more than 1,800 skaters. The championships in the masters, adult, collegiate and senior divisions were contested Saturday.
In what is considered the elite division, senior category skaters are usually between 14-26 in age and reputedly the most competitive. It's also the only division that allows routines to involve lifts. Senior division teams have the chance to qualify for the world championship if they finished in the top two spots.
The gold medal this year went to defending champion The Haydenettes of Lexington, Mass., which finished with a score of 205.02, while the Crystallettes, from Detroit, took the silver medal with 179.77. Bronze went to the Starlights from Illinois.
The Haydenettes were named Team USA 1 for the World Synchronized Skating Championships this April in Italy. The Crystallettes were named Team USA 2. The Haydenettes have medaled in each of the past four world championships.
"Every world event is different, and we are definitely looking to up our podium position," Haydenettes team captain Jenna Longo, 22, of Famington, Conn., said. "We will be training hard the next coming weeks."
Having never seen Italy, Crystallettes team captain Katilyn Peterson, 22, of Deerborn, Mich., said she's excited to see the cultural differences.
"We're excited to see the other international teams there, see what Italy looks like and taste the food," she said.
In the college division, skaters are required to be full-time students at the institution each represents. Miami University smashed the category with a segment score of 96.80, over 18 points more than second-place Team Excel from Boston.
"It was more of an honor than any added pressure," Miami team captain Alyssa Nowak said. "With everyone knowing who we all are and being able to represent the school that way is an honor. Being respected like that is an awesome feeling."
Nowak, 19, originally from Philadelphia, said the team has been training for its nationals routine for the past six months.
"We all have a passion for this, and to share it with 18 other girls is an experience that is like no other. It makes all the hard work worth it."
Miami finished second last year in the senior division, but the team's routine started to unravel in the finals with two skaters taking a spill and two others colliding. The performance was enough to earn them fourth with a strong finish.
One of the few Colorado-based clubs competing in the event, Denver Synchronicity, earned a bronze medal in the adult division and a pewter medal, fourth place, in the masters. The adult division requires skaters to be over 18 years of age but only allows four to be under 21. The majority of adult-team performers are 21-22. The masters division is the oldest with a minimum age cut-off at 25.
Last year, Denver was seventh at nationals among adult teams. Gabrielle Talbot, 21, originally from Evergreen and a former skater with Miami, said Denver was excited about the improvement at this year's nationals.
"We had a great group of girls who worked very hard to get there," Talbot said. "They brought a lot of passion."
Being back in Colorado for its 30th anniversary, Denver felt this year's U.S. championships were special.
"The event is the same everywhere it goes, but this one is different because it's kind of our home field being in Colorado," Talbot said. "We left everything on the ice. It was an amazing skate. We put our best self out there, and we are thrilled with the outcome."
Allegro!, from Novi, Mich., took the gold medal in the masters division, while Espirit de Corps of Lexington, Mass., finished as silver medalists and DC Edge of Washington, D.C., took bronze.
The Haydenettes won the senior championship short program handily with 71.32 points. The Crystallettes took silver and Miami boasted bronze.