Less than a year into its formation, Northbrook Park District’s Teams Elite Junior Team is making synchronized skating history.
The team has achieved one of the sport’s highest honors—representing Team USA at the Spring Cup in Milan, Italy. Twenty skaters will attend the international competition February 15-17, 2019 as the first new Junior-level team selected by US Figure Skating.
“It’s unbelievable and surreal,” said Head Coach Danielle Ostrower. “There’s never been a first-year junior team selected to an international competition and given the opportunity to represent Team USA. We made it our goal at the beginning of the season and knew we would have to work as hard as possible. We’re beyond ecstatic that our hard work has paid off.”
Executive Director Molly Hamer said she is incredibly proud to see Northbrook Park District represent the U.S. internationally. “On behalf of our Board and entire staff, we are extremely honored and excited,” Hamer said. “This is a spectacular opportunity for our skaters and one that celebrates the hometown spirit we embody. It is a testament to the outstanding coaches, staff and programs Northbrook Park District delivers in our community.”
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. Teams Elite Junior Team members and their families will fund the trip.
Skaters first learned they might represent Team USA in November during the Diamond Classic in Mentor, Ohio—the Junior team’s first competition. The team scored high enough to be entered into US Figure Skating’s International Selection Pool—a rare honor considering the team had no past scores. But getting into the pool was only the first step. Teams Elite Juniors had to prove themselves later that month in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where their scores improved even more and again in Anaheim, California.
Athletes are judged on technical and artistic ability and how well their performances tell the story of the music in their routines. Teams Elite Juniors perform a short program featuring a remix of the song Survivor from Tomb Raider and a long program retelling Romeo and Juliet.
“At this level judges are looking for synchronized skaters who can handle a high-pressure environment and skate in front of large crowds,” said Ostrower, who during her eight seasons working with Northbrook’s Teams Elite transformed the program from recreational to competitive. “In Ann Arbor there was not a seat left in the stands. The team had to perform without letting nerves get the best of them.”
Teams Elite Junior skaters range in age from 13 to 18. Several skaters are from Northbrook and neighboring communities, with others coming from as far as Downers Grove and even Wisconsin for a chance to compete in synchronized skating.
“We are proud of this accomplishment, plus the fact that it was the skaters’ first time at this higher level,” said Recreation Division Manager Angus Shields. “They sacrificed a lot to be on this team, set their goal and were able to achieve it. That’s impressive.”
Northbrook Park District is planning to host a send-off rally in February. More details will be available in January. For more information on the District’s skating programs, visit nbparks.org.