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Miami University wins collegiate title

University of Illinois-Champaign wins silver

Miami University collegiate team was tops in Portland on Saturday.
Miami University collegiate team was tops in Portland on Saturday. (Paul Harvath)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(03/07/2009) - It comes as no surprise that Miami University won the collegiate title at the 2009 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in Portland, Maine. After all, the RedHawks have finished first in the event 11 of the 13 times it's been held.

What is a surprise is the University of Illinois-Champaign sneaking into second to earn its first-ever U.S. collegiate medal.

Illinois scored 86.79 points, edging bronze medalists Michigan State University (85.79) and fourth-place University of Delaware (85.36).

Wearing bright pink dresses, Miami skated to the joyful music from Mamma Mia. Eleven of its 12 elements received positive Grades of Execution (GOE), including a 1.43 GOE for its circle and a 1.00 for its line.

"It's a fun-loving, exciting, audience -- pleasing program," head coach Vicki Korn said. "It's a personality piece."

"And they definitely have the personality," assistant coach Carla DiGirolamo added.

The team arrived home about a week ago from the World University Games, where it placed fourth. It had to skate a senior program at that competition, with an extra lift and 30 more seconds of music added on.

"The program's been different every single time they've skated it!" DiGirolamo exclaimed.

"We call this 'Version 9.78,'" Korn joked.

The best Illinois had ever finished at the U.S. Synchronized Championships was fifth, that coming last season.

"We were shooting for a medal; that was my goal for the team when I started coaching," head coach Audrey Kamm said. "To get second totally blew us away."

Kamm is a big reason for the improvement. Upon taking over before the 2007-08 season, she added an extra practice day, which has made the team sharper in its skating as well as a more cohesive bunch.

"The girls really own this team. There's a lot of student leadership, a lot of student ownership," Kamm said. "They go above and beyond."

The team performed to an Aerosmith medley, and all its members sported temporary tattoos of the band's famous logo. The program's highlights were the moves in the field (1.29 GOE) and the circle (0.86 GOE).

"It's cool when all your hard work pays off," Kamm said.

The Spartans used music from the 2007 Bollywood hit Om Shanti Om to grab the bronze. Head coach Erin Bridge picked the music after watching Katee Shean and Josh Chambers dance to it on So You Think You Can Dance.

"It has a fun energy from the start," Bridge said. "I decided the team would have a great time doing it."

The slight difference between the silver and the bronze was a fall by a Spartan skater on the team's no-hold block at the very end of the program.

Still, Bridge was happy with the connection the team made with the Cumberland County Civic Center denizens.

"We tried to up the performance level and reach out to the audience and judges," Bridge said.

Delaware's music was unique in that it contained voiceovers done by some of the skaters themselves. The theme was "The Power of Color," and the emotions during the program ran the gamut: from peaceful to mysterious to passionate to fun to triumphant.

We've been having good practices all week, and today they put it all together," head coach Megan O'Donnell said. "The energy they gave each element got bigger and bigger as the program went on."