Rollin’ in Oregon: Rebuilt Haydenettes Capture 26th Title, Skyliners Push Ahead to Grab First Worlds Berth

By Barb Reichert

World Team cropped

If there was ever a year to bump off the perennial powerhouse Haydenettes, the 2018 U.S. Synchronized Championships presented the opportunity.

Rebuilding after losing nine veterans from last year’s team, the Haydenettes still dominated, winning their ninth consecutive U.S. title and 26th overall at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum Feb. 23–24 in Portland, Oregon. The Haydenettes (Hayden Recreation Centre FSC) won both segments to finish with 204.05 points, easily outdistancing the rest of the senior field.

“This will probably mean more to me than the past ones, because this is really a young team,” Haydenettes coach Saga Krantz said. “There’s always [talk] about if we can do it, will this be the year that we’re no longer going to be there [on top], and what better time for that talk than having nine new skaters. So, this is really a special year.”

The surprise of the senior event came in the battle for second place, in which the Skyliners (SC of New York) earned their first silver medal after three consecutive bronze-medal finishes. Their 185.86 total score was enough to nip bronze medalist Miami University (Oxford, Ohio), which earned 182.99 points. The Crystallettes (Dearborn FSC) took the pewter with 166.89 points.

“For us, it’s the excitement of getting better,” Skyliners coach Josh Babb said. “Last year, we were so far away from them [Haydenettes]. I think it’s really good for the sport to push each other.”

The Haydenettes were selected as USA 1, marking the 19th time they will compete at the World Synchronized Skating Championships, to be held April 6-7 in Stockholm, Sweden. The Skyliners are USA 2, and will make their first appearance in the 19th edition of the event. Miami University and the Crystallettes are the first and second alternates, respectively.

The Haydenettes put out two dramatically different programs, choreographed by Krantz and assistant coach Adam Blake.

Senior SP- HaydenettesSkating to the staccato beats of “Run Boy Run” from the futuristic movie Divergent, the Haydenettes created a short program that entertained and inspired. The judges agreed, giving the team all positive GOEs and 8.21 points for a beautiful wheel and 8.71 points for a fearless, no-point intersection.

“We actually just redid the beginning of the program, so it was very cool to debut it at the national championships,” returning senior Tessa Hedges said. “The beginning has so much cool choreography that speaks to our individual differences. Our strength is our speed and attack. It really brings out our personality, that we are fighters.”

The Haydenettes’ “Underground Nightlife” free skate — which earned Level 4s for spotless lines, a complicated group lift and a pairs element of death spirals — took a different, somewhat surreal path, transitioning from club music to a soothing piece featuring violins.

“We start off in this mysterious alleyway, then we go into the club, then we go back to the alleyway where everything is dark and serene — almost like this eerie feeling — and then back into the new day,” Blake said. “It’s really a transformative piece.”  

Speaking of transformations, the Skyliners are slowly building a program that is working to one day dethrone the Haydenettes.

The plan came to fruition in 2011, when Babb and Pam May decided to combine their coaching talents. May, who was leading the Team Braemar program in Edina, Minnesota, would fly to the Skyliners’ East Coast practices to coach with Babb. In 2014, she decided to make the move and became a full-time Skyliners coach.

Senior FS- Skyliners“It was a very different situation,” Babb said. “At the time, Pam and I had the two top junior teams that competed against each other. But we felt like we needed to have a second top senior team in the country, so we decided to do it together.”

By all appearances, the plan is working. This year’s team featured two athletes who came up through the program’s developmental pipeline, which bodes well for the future.

The Skyliners fought for every point in both their “Cleopatra” short program (66.08 points) and “Black Swan” free skate (119.78). With a slim 1.54-point lead over Miami going into the free skate, the Skyliners’ group lifts and pairs elements helped push them into second place and onto their first World team.

Babb had a premonition of his team’s success.

“After tryouts, and once we put the programs together, I looked at Pam and remember saying to her, ‘They’re going to go to Worlds this year. I can just feel it.’ In my heart I knew it, this is their year,” Babb said.  “The long program, ‘Cleopatra,’ is music Pam May used for her junior team in 2014. I always loved the music and was so jealous that she had her team skating to it. When we decided to use it this year, I looked at Pam and said, ‘This will be on the World stage.’”

Read all the coverage of the 2018 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in the April issue of SKATING magazine.