A normal day for senior Brynn Dery — a member of the synchronized figure skating team — begins at 5 a.m., when the average student is still hours from waking up. A carpool picks her up and has her at the rink by 5:30 a.m. After an off-ice warmup, she practices skating in perfect unison with the rest of her teammates until about 7:30 a.m. Then comes a full day of classes, and, if it is Thursday, another similar practice in the evening that could last until midnight.
For members of the synchronized skating team, skating is the top priority in life.
“In January, you submit your life to skating,” Dery said.
In the past month, the collegiate team competed twice and traveled both weekends.
Competitions are extremely intense — because all the skaters must move in perfect unison, there is far less room for error than in individual competition. Performances are judged on their difficulty, theme, expression, synchronization and on the required elements of the routine.
Because of the way events are scored, team chemistry is very important in synchronized skating.
“All the skating abilities are blended,” sophomore Sarah Bradbury said. “I love the team atmosphere. It’s nice to know you’re not alone.”
Dery, who is also president of the synchronized skating club, said the teams are getting along very well and are more social than in past years.
According to Dery, synchronized figure skating enjoys its highest level of popularity in the state of Michigan but does not garner the attention it deserves at the university. Though the first synchronized figure skating team was founded in Ann Arbor in 1954, the university did not have a team until 1995.
Since then, the program has usually been one of the top six teams in the nation. In 1999, the team won the National College Championship.
Michigan now fields two synchro teams. The collegiate team competes against other college teams. The senior team competes against both college- and club-based teams, as well as in international competitions. In addition to competitions, the collegiate team occasionally performs during hockey intermissions at Yost Ice Arena.
“More people are aware of us since we started skating during the hockey games,” Dery said.
Last season, the collegiate team won the Midwestern sectional championship. The senior team skated in Prague and placed seventh in the Prague Cup. Both competed at the National Championships in San Diego.
“Neither team was satisfied with (its) performance at nationals last year,” Dery said.
This season, the skaters intend to meet and exceed their own high standards as competition intensifies.
“We’re working on speed and difficulty, getting rid of sloppiness and being creative,” Bradbury said.
On Jan. 24, the collegiate team placed fourth at the Bronco Challenge Cup, an intercollegiate competition held in Kalamazoo. The senior team leaves on Tuesday to compete for the French Cup in Rouen, France. After that, both teams will head to Boston, for the National Championships on Feb. 23, where they will try to improve on last year’s sixth-place finish.