February 1, 2019 at 9:13am

As they prepare to represent Team USA in Milan, Italy, Northbrook Park District’s Teams Elite Junior skaters are filled with gratitude for their community, families and coaches who have supported them along the way.

“We’re so excited about this opportunity,” said Sofia Gisiner, a sophomore at Glenbrook North High School. “Through every competition, our coaches have told us ‘Just keep moving forward. You can do it.’”

Twenty skaters will compete at the Spring Cup February 15-17 where 30 international synchronized skating teams will be performing. A Teams Elite Junior Send-Off Rally is planned for 7pm Thursday, February 7 at Northbrook Sports Center, 1730 Pfingsten Road. The rally will feature the team’s short and long programs and a brief ceremony.

“Going to Italy is a dream come true,” said Ellie Lim, 15, a sophomore at Glenbrook North. “We set this goal from the beginning and we made it. To be competing with Team USA is such a huge honor.”

In addition to the thrill of skating in such a prestigious international event, the athletes hope the Team USA notoriety will bring more attention to the sport. With complicated movements and maneuvers done in unison, synchronized skating requires a unique type of skillset.

“Synchronized skating is all about coordination,” Gisiner said. “With more than a dozen other skaters, it can be hard to be so precise.”

Synchro skating also provides something that can’t be found in freestyle or figure skating—a team experience. For the Teams Elite skaters, the words sewn on their jackets “More than a team…family” mean just that. Many of the skaters on the Junior Team have grown up together, starting out in elementary school taking lessons at Northbrook Sports Center.

“Having my teammates out there skating with me is so nice,” said Caroline Clesen, 17, a senior at Glenbrook North. “We encourage each other and cheer one another on.”

Friendships and team comradery are part of what drew Lizzie Mar, 17, a junior at Christian Heritage Academy in Northfield, to Teams Elite.

“I’ve made so many friends through Teams Elite,” Mar said. “Synchronized skating is unlike any other type of skating. You get to know so many different people and there’s so much collaboration.”
Founded in 1999, the Teams Elite Program includes seven teams, starting with Synchro Skills I and Preliminary up to the newly added Junior-level traveling to Italy. The Teams Elite Junior Team was formed in February after Teams Elite Novice skaters were ready to move to the next level.

“We’re going to give it our all,” said Erica Lee, 15, who competes in track and field for Glenbrook North during the synchro skating off season in the spring. “This is going to be a really great experience for us and bring more attention to the program.”

Although several skaters are from Northbrook and neighboring communities, Teams Elite’s success has drawn skaters from as far as Downers Grove and even Wisconsin for a chance to compete.

“It was really exciting to find out with the rest of the team that we were going to Italy,” said Nikki Nemerson, 15, a sophomore at Glenbrook North. “Our goal from the beginning was to make history.”