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'Hairspray' carries Skyliners to juvenile gold

Chicago Jazz takes silver; Mini Mates claim bronze

The Skyliners took home the juvenile title at the U.S. Synchro Championships.
The Skyliners took home the juvenile title at the U.S. Synchro Championships. (Paul Harvath)

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By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(03/03/2011) - The Skyliners were hard to miss, not only because of their vibrant skating dresses of bright yellow and pink, but because of their gold-medal winning performance to Hairspray.

"We had an absolutely fabulous skate," coach Natalie Martello said. "It's very, very exciting to be out here in California and skate our best."

Representing the SC of New York, the Skyliners came into the U.S. Synchronized Championships after winning the 2011 Eastern Sectional title about a month ago.

"We improved so much in the few short weeks since sectionals," Martello said. "I am so pleased with how they have handled this season."

The Skyliners easily had one of the loudest cheering sections in the Citizens Business Bank Arena because their club has one of the largest synchronized skating programs in the country.

Co-captains Alex Arroyo and Olivia Barbulescu, two of only six athletes to return from last year's silver-medal winning team, agreed that having such support from the crowd propelled them to their strongest skate of the season.

"The crowd is incredible," Arroyo said. "People are there for you, and it's so nice to hear all of your top fans rooting for you and helping you."

Silver medalists Chicago Jazz were elated as they exited the ice to greet their coaches and chaperones.

Having already competed four times this season, the 2010 U.S. juvenile bronze medalists readily agreed they saved their best for the U.S. Championships.

"That was their best skate of the season," said veteran coach Kristi Frank. "They did everything we were hoping for and it was so much fun to watch it all come together."

Second-year team member Hailey Contine said she and her teammates knew it was their best performance of the year as the skate wound down.

"It was neat because toward the end everyone knew it was our best skate," she said. "We are excited that we did our very best here."

The Jazz, perennially one of the nation's best, have now medaled at five consecutive U.S. Championships.

Newly crowned bronzed medalists the Mini Mates, of the Hayden Recreation Center, are coached by former Haydenette Kendra Flanagan. For the first four years of her coaching career, Flanagan juggled both coaching and skating. Now she concentrates on coaching, and found herself more nervous than ever this season.

"It is so much more nerve racking as a coach to be on the boards watching and not being to control what is going on on the ice," she said. "It's so stressful!"

The pewter medal went to Phoenix of the Onyx-Suburban Skating Center.