Providence, Rhode Island hosts the U.S. Synchronized Skating National Championships this weekend. There are many teams across multiple divisions competing for national titles, but this article is focusing on the Collegiate Free Skate. If you are unfamiliar with synchronized skating, I wrote an article last year that tried to scratch the surface of the complexity of this sport.
The national champion is awarded by U.S. Figure Skating and not the NCAA, despite three of the teams being varsity organizations. Two of the teams competing on Saturday, Mirror Images and Team Excel, are not affiliated with one specific university. This competition is the highest award a collegiate team can earn, unlike the senior division, which can earn a spot at the world competition. Only Adrian and Miami have a senior team and collegiate team.
This season every collegiate team that skated at Sectionals moved on to the national event. Six came from the Midwestern Sectional and six came from the Eastern Sectional. All of the teams competing are:
After pulling as many scores for each team as I could find, I noticed that there was a cluster at the top of the scores. To be clear, I have not watched any team’s program this season. I have done all of my analysis based on the scores reported at competitions. The scores at the most recent competitions suggest the Collegiate Free Skate is a wide-open competition.
Someone is going to have a great skate and win a National Championship
When I sorted the teams by their highest score this season, I noticed a very tight cluster in the top six. Especially focusing on the most recent results for each team. At the Tri-States Championships, four of the teams were within three points of each other. The team that separated themselves was Adrian.
Adrian continued their steady climb in their scores while having their best skate of the season. Every team wants to improve from one competition to the next, but no one else jumped seventeen points.
Miami has scored three of the top four scores this season across all competitions. Those three scores happened in their first three skates. The way that I see it, there’s no real reason to be concerned. There is an abundance of reasons for scores to fluctuate over a season, and they’ve shown that they have the potential to have a triple-digit skate at a big competition. One thing is different than last season, however. Last year, regardless of competition, Miami was a steamroller. This year with the recent results, the door is open for another team to have a great skate and win it all.
The next group of teams hasn’t cracked the nineties with their scores but that doesn’t mean that they can’t. Delaware, Michigan, Michigan State, and Western Michigan have all scored over 79 points this season.
Michigan and Michigan State have both improved from their first competition, then shown consistency. Delaware was the strongest team in the Eastern Sectional and faired well at competitions with the other teams in this group. Western Michigan has been a little inconsistent this year but did exactly what they needed to at the Tri-State Championship and had the best skate of the year. Will they have another jump in their score?
There are teams outside of the group highlighted above that are posting higher scores at every competition but their last competition was the Eastern Sectional. There isn’t the same level of data for Boston University and Team Excel.
Boston University has taken a month off between each competition and jumped their score a minimum of ten points. If they have another big jump in them, they could join the crowded group of teams competing for the podium. Adding 15 points to a program is no small task but Boston has already accomplished that this season.
Team Excel has already scored in the low 70’s this season and shown the ability to improve dramatically late in the season. At the Boston Synchro Classic and at the Cape Cod Classic they scored 58.91 and 54.38 respectively. At Easterns, they took second place with a 71.73. That’s a solid improvement in just over a month, with a holiday messing with routines and schedules. It’s been a little bit more than a month from then until now, this time with momentum coming out of sectionals.
Saturday Evening, what to watch
A large group of teams clustered on the scoreboard down the stretch. The free skate on Saturday evening should be exciting. Some might call it must watch synchronized skating.
Sometimes when there is a heavy favorite or a small group of top teams the championship turns into watching for a mistake. Waiting for an opening. If the favorite only loses if they have a poor skate or if a mistake gives the championship to the other top competitor, it can mask great performances from other teams.
This is not the case Saturday. I know from watching other sports I follow more closely when there are multiple teams in the mix, someone wins a championship as opposed to someone losing one. One team on Saturday will have their best skate of the season and win a championship.