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Pre-novice synchronized skating team wins silver

Back row, from left: Brooklyn Dicks, Natalie Kettle, Ashley Ingram, Jenna Dominie, Leah Leamon, Keegan Strickland, Coach Stacey Dray. Centre row: Ashley Keeping, Anna Keeping, Jenna Gillam, Kelsey Fagan. Front row: Ashleigh Ingram, Mikayla Allen, Gina Carroll. – Courtesy of © Charlene Kettle

By Jaymie L. White

Special to Wreckhouse Press

PORT AUX BASQUES — The Port Aux Basques Pre-Novice synchronized skating team has taken home the silver at the provincial synchronized skating competition held on March 12 in Torbay, NL.

The team, which consists of 13 skaters ranging in age from 13 to 17, skated a program put together by Angela Malorni, a hired choreographer from Montreal. Coach Stacey Dray said the team was dedicated to learning and spent many long hours on the ice perfecting the program.

“We had her (Malorni) come in late October and we did a full four or five days of just choreography. They were on the ice from 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning until 5:00 or 6:00 in the evening just putting together the program. I picked the music and told her what category we are doing, and she comes up with the choreo, with a little bit of input of mine, but she does pretty much the whole program. We did tweak a few little things along the way since then.”

Dray said the team doesn’t usually have a lot of ice time, so they try to use what time they do have as effectively as possible.

“We only have one hour of ice per week, and obviously we were shut down from the middle of December until when everything opened up again, so we did get a few extra practices in the last few weeks before the competition, but normally we only practice one hour a week on the ice.”

When the shutdowns happened in December, Dray said the team wondered if the provincial competition was even going to take place, but they continued working as hard as they could, especially since it was the first year they would be skating in that particular program.

“Knowing that pre-novice was a tougher program for us than we had done before, and not really knowing what to expect in regard to our competition, who we were going to be skating against, and how advanced those skaters were going to be, how we were going to fare out, we really didn’t have any idea because it’s a new category for us. Watching the program before, I knew there was going to be some strong teams, especially from St. John’s, so we didn’t really have any expectations as such, but we wanted to be able to have a clean skate. We had our own personal goals, but we didn’t really have any expectations when it came to placing.”

Dray cites the dedication of the skaters was the main reason they were so successful.

“It helps that we had our program done early. We had our program done in late October. So since then, since we had the program put together, we could spend time working on the elements within the program and making everything better.”

Dray has had many different teams competing in different programs over the years. Sometimes there were two and three teams, and some current skaters have competed on those other teams.

“Our first year at synchro competition was 2015 and we won silver that year in Beginner II category. Some of the skaters on this year’s team were on that team as well. We also won a bronze medal at the Elizabeth Swan Invitational Competition in 2019, in the Elementary category, which is the majority of this year’s team. The following year, we won gold in the same category at Provincials.”

Dray said COVID-19 caused numerous difficulties for the team when it came to training. Given mandated social distancing, it was impossible for the team to practice the holds necessary to construct a complete program.

“It was very difficult because, when you’re not on the ice for weeks and weeks, and you’re doing this program together as a team and you have to all be in sync with each other and you haven’t been on the ice to do that for weeks, it kind of throws you off a lot and takes a bit of time to get it back together.”

Dray hopes that as things start to get back to normal, there will be more interest in the sport.

“It (COVID) kind of took the fun out of it last year. The biggest thing about synchro is you get to do this program to music and it’s fun, upbeat, and energetic. They get to do it together, so last year we were only allowed to practice skating skills, basically, and it took the wind out of their sails a bit. This year, with things being a bit uncertain still, I think we lost a few skaters because of that, but I’m really hoping, because of the success of this competition and things are getting back to normal, that we will have some more interest for next year. I’m hoping.”

Next up for the team will be a virtual competition by Skate Manitoba that they are currently preparing for. The competition will be just like any other competition except skaters will take a video of themselves doing their program and send it in to be judged and scored.

Dray will soon begin try outs for next season so that everyone will be ready in October, but she believes the current team will definitely continue to skate together.

“They have such great drive to want to do well. They have really good work ethic and they work really well together as a team. They build each other up. If someone is doing something wrong they work together to fix it. They don’t point fingers. They’re just a really energetic, positive group of skaters.”

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