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Team Del Sol burns up ice in intermediate triumph

Fond du Lac Blades settle for silver; Skyliners bring home another medal

Team Del Sol of San Diego FSC accumulated 67.92 points to win the intermediate title.
Team Del Sol of San Diego FSC accumulated 67.92 points to win the intermediate title. (Jay Adeff)

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By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(02/28/2013) - A new plan, a new result.

Team Del Sol changed their approach and, with that, defined their season as they became the intermediate champions Thursday at the 2013 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in Plymouth, Mich.

Backed by a huge, and loud, cheering section, the San Diego FSC representatives put on an energetic spy-themed free skate to find their second gold medal, and first since 2010, at this level. Their total score of 67.92 points was more than seven higher than their mark at the 2013 Pacific Coast Synchronized Sectional Championships.

"It was the most incredible feeling," team captain Katie Luszcz explained. "Right before we went out, we were talking and said we don't even care how we place. We felt really strong and we worked so hard for this point."

Well, maybe they cared a little bit about the outcome after recording the best sectional score of the season.

"OK, yes, we cared," she said with a smile. "But the team bond that we have, it makes up for anything we don't have. It's a really special feeling."

Coach Karen Wiesmeier emphasized throughout the season that her skaters needed to get on the same page technically in order to improve on a sixth-place showing at this event in 2012.

"We realized we needed to pay attention to basic concepts and make sure everyone thoroughly understood what we were doing," she explained. "We were sticklers on getting things right technically and weren't moving on from that piece until they were right as far as technical aspect goes. We paid much more attention to detail this year."

Their technically strong program featured Level 3s on major elements, including the intersection, wheel and circle. Their technical mark was the highest of the competition by over two points.

A silver-medal finish was slightly bittersweet for the Wicked-ly good, two-time reigning silver medalist Fond du Lac Blades. The team capped a successful and medal-filled season with their finish here.

"We got second last year," team member Lauren Ernst said simply. "We were hoping to get first but second is good in the entire nation. I know that most of our team felt we skated our best. I guess our best was almost there, and silver is still good, too."

The team skated a clean program to music from the beloved musical worth 64.66 points. The highlight was the Level 4 intersection worth 5.94 points, which was the highest-scoring element of the competition.

"We've had a very strong season, medaling at all the competitions we've gone to," coach Jennifer McMahon said. "It's been such a fast year; I can't believe we are already at nationals today. The great thing is that the performance was strong."

The Skyliners went two-for-two in the first two events at the 2013 U.S. Synchronized Championships, winning bronze in the intermediate category. They have now won medals in each of their four seasons competing at this level and have won a medal of every color with the exception of gold.

"We've been working really hard this season. At our last competition, we had a great skate but our score wasn't as high as we thought it should be," team co-captain Tara Sarkar said. "This skate was such a great way to finish the season. The biggest thing they have been stressing is taking the ice with confidence and performing."

All the parents in the crowd were singing along as the Jackson 5 medley screamed across the speakers. When asked if these high school-age athletes had even heard of the Jackson 5 prior to learning this program, co-captain Michaela Macdonald said, "I had heard of Jackson 5 but some of the songs in there I didn't know at all. But, it's such fun music I think everyone can relate to it even if you don't know it."

En route to 63.82 points and the second-highest technical mark of the event, the team executed three elements that earned well over five points each, including the circle, line and intersection.

Among coaches, the theme of the day appeared to be the technical mark, and Skyliners coach Natalie Martello was no exception.

"We have been working especially on our technical score. We thought that could use the most work after our sectional," she said. "It paid off.

"We had a great skate today, our best of the season. We hadn't reached the 60s yet this year and we did today, so we are very excited."

The Dazzlers of the DuPage FSC made just their third trip to the U.S. Synchronized Championships and hit their best finish by a landslide to nab the pewter medal. In their last two appearances in 2008 and '10, they finished 10th and eighth, respectively.

The Michael Jackson fans totaled 62.15 points for the day.

"It is the greatest feeling. To be able to accomplish so much in one season is amazing," team member Michelle Dogan said. "Last year, we missed nationals by one-hundredth of a point, and now we're here and we're so excited."