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Miami U. takes fourth straight collegiate title

RedHawks earn season-best 107.46 points

Miami University was the class of the collegiate field in Providence on Saturday.
Miami University was the class of the collegiate field in Providence on Saturday. (Paul Harvath)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(02/23/2008) - Heading into the 2008 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, Miami University's collegiate team was very confident that it could take a gold medal back to their campus in Oxford, Ohio, but it wanted even more.

Rather than simply coming in first place, the RedHawks were also trying to better their season-best score of 106.37, which they posted last month at the Midwestern Synchronized Sectional Championships.

In comfortable taking their fourth U.S. title in a row, they also achieved their secondary goal with a 107.46-point free skate.

The victory was Miami's 10th U.S. collegiate title in 12 years. Silver medalist University of Delaware earned a score of 97.77, while bronze medalist Michigan State University was more than 20 points back (87.11).

"We really enjoy the new system. It gives us an opportunity to push ourselves and build on our score every time. That's always our goal, to keep growing and growing," head coach Heather Paige said. "It's fun to say we won every time, but it's great to know we beat our scores every time as well."

This was Miami's fourth competition of the season, and also its fourth win. It previously took the title at the Dr. Richard Porter Synchronized Skating Classic, the Mid-America Championships and the Midwestern Sectionals.

Dressed in black and purple and skating to a series of hard rock cuts from the Richard Rodriguez movie Planet Terror, the RedHawks exhibited unmatched power and precision. Paige talked about creating a "kaleidoscope effect" on the ice.

"When you watch it, it melds together," she said. "It's all about skating and shapes and what you can do with 20 girls on the ice."

Among this year's team members are just three seniors and a lot of freshman, but the group meshed well from the get-go, and it showed in their cohesive performance.

One of those seniors is captain Alissa Mariage, who said she's been fighting back tears all weekend knowing this would be the last time she skated with this group of girls

"It's so cool to leave a team knowing you put a lot into it, and it's always going to keep growing," Mariage said.

Delaware's silver medal marked just the second time the Blue Hens have finished that high (the other was in 2000). They bested their Eastern Sectional-winning score of score of 96.09.

UD's "Winter" program was alone in its uniqueness. It followed a little girl talking about what winter means to her and contained four distinct parts: loneliness, childhood memories, sport and unity (the Olympic Games), and celebration and tradition.

It was a total club effort in Newark as many of the voice-overs used in the program were done by members of UD's preliminary and adult skaters. Even the man who cuts the team's music pitched in, as he lent his voice to the Olympic section.

The team prides itself on its bold facial expressions and demonstrative arm movements, both of which were out in full force Saturday.

"Every practice, we sit in a circle and have them go through the program just using faces and arms," coach Wendy Deppe said.

Michigan State University took the bronze with its Casino Royale program.

"I've always loved James Bond," head coach Erin Bridge said. "When Casino Royale came out, I loved the music from it, so I instantly took it for them."

The University of Michigan took fourth, edging out its Big Ten rival, the University of Illinois, by 0.34 points.