Dear Skyliners,

In the history of the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, only one team (Hayden) has ever been able to capture four championship titles in one year...until 2017! And NEVER has one team taken the Junior, Novice, Intermediate and Juvenile National titles in the same year! Go Skyliners!!

Our Juvenile, Intermediate, Novice and Team USA Junior lines ALL won Gold medals with their breathtaking performances in Rockford, Illinois, while our Team USA Senior line captured its second straight National Bronze medal with powerful short program and free skate performances.

Team USA Senior also made Skyliners history in February by earning our team's first Senior international Gold medal at the Zagreb Snowflakes Trophy in Croatia!

And our Team USA Junior line turned in two magnificent performances at the 2017 World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships in Mississauga, Canada...earning them the honor of FOURTH IN THE WORLD!!!

This issue of SkyBlast not only celebrates Skyliners accomplishments this season, but also features clinics and try-outs information; Summer Splice registration; our latest competition photo gallery; team round-ups, including Nationals diaries from all of our qualifying lines; and a Coach Q&A from Skyliners Head Coach & Director of Synchronized Skating, Josh Babb. Enjoy, and Go Skyliners!!!
Skyliners Senior National Bronze 
Skyliners Junior National Champions
Skyliners Novice National Champions
Skyliners Intermediate National Champions
Skyliners Juvie National Champions
SIGN UP NOW FOR
Registration is now open for Summer Splice 2017, an intense two-day camp led by top international coaches. The program includes a variety of training sessions that focus on individual skating skills, synchronized skating technique, conditioning, pair elements and more! Come join the fun and take your synchronized skating to the next level!

Skaters must be at least 10 years of age with Preliminary MIF or higher to attend the main Summer Splice camp. Younger skaters are invited to attend A Slice of Splice, an afternoon of synchronized skating and fun with Top Team USA coaches.

Dates: Saturday & Sunday, June 24 – 25 
Location:  Chelsea Piers CT
Summer Splice Cost:  $395 early-bird pricing*
A Slice of Splice Cost: $90

*Register by May 1st to take advantage of early bird pricing.  Cost of Summer Splice increases to $425 after that date. 

For more information: CLICK FOR FLYER
Have questions?  Contact: summersplice@skylinerssynchro.com
SKYLINERS TRY-OUTS
**Try-outs are free for returning Skyliners**
Register Online now for both
Skyliners & Central Park Skyliners
THIS SATURDAY!

Take a break from skate-taping, bun-making and skills & drills...and CELEBRATE our amazing season at the Skyliners End of Year Party! It's Saturday, March 18th, 6-10pm at the Italian Center in Stamford. Dinner, Dancing, Presentations, Contests and the EOY Video! We look forward to seeing you there!
RSVP BY CLICKING HERE! REGISTRATION CLOSES FRIDAY MIDNIGHT
COMPETITION PHOTOS
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MARCH TEAM ROUND-UP
Central Park Beginner 1
Central Park Beginner 2
Central Park Beginner 1 & Beginner 2

Both Central Park Skyliners Teams had amazing seasons! In their last competition - the SCNY Synchro Invitational - Beginner 1 earned Gold and Beginner 2 earned Silver! They are still practicing strong as their seasons culminate with their last performances at the Wollman Annual Ice Show and Skating Party on  Wednesday, March 15th . The show is always heavily attended and is a great finale to a successful season. Skating under the lights at Wollman with the city in the background is absolutely beautiful! Clinics and tryouts take place in the following weeks and we can't be more excited for next year!
Intro

The Intro girls were pumped for their final competition, the Connecticut Classic! The girls arrived at the hotel ready to get all dolled up for the big event! They had fun doing hair and make up and eating lunch with Beginner! Once they were ready, Beginner and Intro did floor - and then even did each other's programs (and so did the MOMS!) It was so fun! We got on the ice and skated an AWESOME run-through for our final competition. We were rewarded with a BRONZE medal! We were so proud to skate and be Skyliners! We learned so much this season, we can't wait for the End of the Year Party and next season! GO INTRO!
Beginner

Beginner wrapped up an excellent season with a Valentine-themed party. Red and pink frills were everywhere! After the dancing and cupcakes (thanks to the Pre-Juv mom who baked!) there was an on-ice dance party complete with a hilarious backstroke "swim." Said one girl, "Well, the rink is made of water, so why not swim?" On a more serious note, the Beginner line finished the season at the Connecticut Classic with their fourth Gold medal for an all-Gold season. Many thanks to coaches Stacey, Katie, and Sarah!
Pre-Preliminary

Riding the wave of their two "sweet" skates at Easterns, the Pre-Pre girls captured the Bronze for their final competition of the season at the Connecticut Classic. The team celebrated their season end with their Preliminary sisters in Valentine's Day "fashion". The coaches & line moms are super proud of how cohesive the girls were on and off the ice! Go Skyliners!!
Preliminary

The preliminary girls were excited to get ready for the Connecticut Classic as it would be the brides' last "walk down the ice!" We met at the hotel and got ready with our Pre-Pre sisters! A fun bus ride over with lots of cheers and we were ready! We prepared in record time so that we could be out of the locker room to cheer Pre-Pre as they skated - they were AWESOME! We were proud of our last skate in our magical dresses and were rewarded a GOLD medal. It was fun to watch the JWQ short program and cheer for the Junior girls. Our "last practice" was February 13th and we got to dress up in crazy Valentine's outfits! We skated, played games, did the Pre-Pre program and they did ours, and even skated some old Skyliners programs! So much fun! We had an amazing season together! We are so luck to have wonderful teammates and we can't wait to celebrate at the year end party! GO SKYLINERS!
Pre-Juvenile 

Pre-Juvenile wrapped up their tremendous season with a final competition skate at the Connecticut Classic. The line came together to put out a strong skate earning a Bronze medal. They exhibited impressive resilience and determination when facing illnesses and several falls. These skaters have grown into a magnificent synchro family while all working tirelessly as individuals. The joy that they get from this sport is truly inspiring and was shining brightly at their final practice/Valentine celebration where they were joined by the Beginner and Intro lines. It is said that all good things must come to an end…this Pre-Juvenile season has certainly WHIZZED to a fantastic close. The skaters congratulate all of the incredible lines across the organization and are eager to EASE ON DOWN THE ROAD to another great year next season.
Juvenile  Nationals Diary
by Celeste Naughton

Nationals! Yes, NATIONALS WAS FINALLY HERE!! For 12 Juvies this was their first experience at Nationals, and for the other 12, time to defend our National title. Everyone knew after the program run-throughs at unofficial and official practice, everything was going to be amazing!! Exchanging good luck gifts among the teams is fun. Competition day was unforgettable! The breathtaking feeling of the final pose after skating the skate of your life, all the crying, hugging and screaming in excitement in your first national kiss and cry, hearing scores, being in first place, defending your title, and winning national Gold stays with you forever! Hard work pays off! Being captains when you’re standing on the podium, holding the trophy high, representing yourself, your teammates, our parents, Coaches Natalie and Nikki and Skyliners fills you with awe. So much happened! We blasted our favorite music, had a memorable dinner with our amazing Junior team, synchronized swam and cheered for our Skyliners teammates. Eight of us had the incredible opportunity to skate in the opening ceremony parade. Celebrating, we took pictures of our trophy with Coach Natalie. We had a hilarious time with Intermediate roller skating, watching them attempt their program on rollerskates and having brunch. It truly was an unforgettable week!  Go Juvie Angels!

Intermediate Nationals Diary
by Catherine Babcock

Wow! What a way to end the season! On Tuesday, February 21st, Skyliners Intermediate headed to Rockford, Illinois to compete in the 2017 U.S. Synchronized Skating National Championship. Not only would we have the chance to become the first intermediate team to win back to back nationals but we would also get to watch the phenomenal skates of the other lines...and skate our program and warm up dance in roller skates! When we arrived, the team was full of excitement. We started off a little nervous at unofficial practice and came in contact with the ice a little more than we had hoped. Having left our jitters behind, we moved on to Official Practice and had a great skate. By the time competition day finally arrived, we felt excited, confident and ready. We just wanted to get out there and skate! It felt amazing as we hit our ending pose. Some of us were crying because we knew we had just had the best performance we could have asked for. When we heard the announcer say, “For a total segment score of 65.31, placing them currently into first place” we went wild! We had done it. Gold!
Novice Nationals Diary
by Kristin Tse

Wow, what a week! The team was in great a mood as we headed for Rockford, Illinois.  We had a good practice that night which made us and the coaches feel confident and ready for Official Practice the next day. We had hoped and expected that our performance would be strong, so that the judges could see the best of our abilities. But, that was not to be. Official was one of the worst ones we've had. We made mistakes we had never made, and more than anything, we had disappointed our coaches.

We had a hard practice that night. We were all very tired from such a long day but we felt that it was important to fix all of the mistakes we had made. Pam and Natalie stuck with us, believed in us, and pushed us to do what we know we can do.  

The next day was a whirlwind. We had a great early morning practice which restored our confidence. Next came hair, makeup, lunch…and we were off. Ready to compete. We skated last in our division, both a good and a bad thing. Good in that we can prove to the judges, who have seen everyone else compete already, that we are the best. Bad as some great teams had already skated. We decided that, win or lose, our main goal was to skate the best that we could and leave nothing behind. Luckily, our hard work had paid off. We had one of our best skates of of the season, and we were crowned the 2017 National Champions! The first Skyliners Novice team to win Nationals!

TEAM USA DIARY
 JUNIOR LINE
NATIONALS
By Rosie Emerson

On Tuesday afternoon of Nationals week, Skyliners Junior boarded the plane to Chicago, Illinois. After our success at Junior World Qualifier, we were feeling excited to compete against the best Junior teams in the United States. The weekend before we left had been full of practices, so we felt ready to do our best. We checked in to the hotel and went to bed early to conserve energy for the rest of the week.

In our practice on our first day in Rockford, we worked on the short and the long, making sure all the details in the programs were perfect before the next day’s official practice. On Wednesday, we were also able to have a delicious dinner with Juvenile. We bonded over our love for pasta and the nervous energy we all had for the next day and the start of competition washed away while we made new friends.

On Thursday morning, we warmed up at the hotel and again at the rink before we went to Official. Our official practice went well, but we were glad we had more unofficial ice time before we competed. After unofficial, we went back to the hotel and had time to rest before starting hair and makeup. When we all had our eyelashes glued on and our clips sewed in, we were ready to go full gangster. We felt confident and aggressive going into the short and we stepped onto the ice calm, cool, and collected. Although we weren’t in first place after our performance, we still felt like we put out a great show. After the day’s competition we had dinner and our traditional ice cream party before going to bed, ready for the long program.

Our schedule on Friday was similar to Thursday, but while we were doing hair and makeup we also got to watch the senior short program live on icenetwork. After watching Skyliners Senior and cheering for them down the hallway of the hotel, we were prepared to compete the long. When we stepped on the fresh ice, competing first after the ice cut, it felt immediately special. The national title was within grasp and if we wanted it we just had to take it. After skating one of our best long programs of the season, we were content with what we had put on the ice. After we got our scores, all we could do was wait and know that we did the best we could.

We were all very emotional when we learned that we had become the National Champions. We had a moment of bliss before being whisked away to put our skates on for the awards ceremony. Friday was an incredible moment for our team and gave us confidence going into Junior Worlds.

On Saturday, we had plenty of homework time and were able to have lunch at the team favorite, Buffalo Wild Wings, before returning to the competition rink to watch the collegiate division and senior long program. It was great cheering on Skyliners Senior and watching them compete. 

We are so happy for our Senior team who won Bronze in their incredibly competitive division and for all of the other Skyliners teams for skating great programs and winning their respective national titles. Go Skyliners!
TEAM USA DIARY
SENIOR LINE
NATIONALS
By Christine Kao

Coming off of a strong, successful gold-medal skate in Croatia, Senior was so excited to take on Nationals! After arriving on Wednesday night, we had a productive unofficial practice on Thursday that left all of us feeling ready for the competition.

The next morning was our grueling 7am official practice for the short program, but despite it being the early morning, we performed as if the whole arena was full of spectators. This practice left us feeling confident that we would be able to show off the product of this season’s training. Later that night, as we stood at the boards, ready to step onto the ice to compete, we could feel the anticipation of the audience, but we were unfazed by them. We were focused on delivering a strong, emotional skate. As the first notes of our music played, we all knew that we had our job to fulfill for our teammates, and afterwards, standing in the kiss and cry, less than a point behind the team ahead of us, we knew that our goal was in sight.

The following day, we were determined to show the judges and the audience a fun, beautifully choreographed and well-executed program. We had practiced the program countless times, but that night was special; the program felt more alive than it ever had. We knew we had nothing to lose, but everything to gain. As the music started, the audience sat silently at the edge of their seats. Then as the first lift went up, the crowd exploded into cheers. From then to the end of the program, we gave it our all. This final performance was our farewell to the season, and we wouldn’t have changed anything about it. We were all so excited that our hard work paid off in our final placement, and though the end of a successful season means goodbyes to teammates, it also meant that a new season is right around the corner. Congratulations to all of the teams on their well deserved medals! Go Skyliners!

Q&A WITH HEAD COACH JOSH BABB
JOSH BABB is Skyliners Director of Synchronized Skating and Head Coach of the Senior, Junior and Intermediate lines. Since he joined Skyliners in 2003, Babb has led both the Junior and Senior lines to Team USA status and a multitude of national and international championship titles. He is also an internationally renowned choreographer.
Where in Canada did you grow up?
I grew up in a very small town, Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, population about 2,500 people. I started skating at S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium, our local rink which was named after my great-grandfather.

How did the skating arena get named after him? 
He was from England and a merchant; he did a lot of trade with the U.S. He owned a very large portion of a fishery in Newfoundland. The Hr. Grace fish plant had a huge electrical fire – which burned most of the town down. Once the smoke settled, he helped rebuild the town, including the stadium.

Your family has an interesting history in Canada. Can you describe it a bit more? The big fishery in Canada at the time was cod fishery, and my maternal grandfather ran the fish before he decided to enter politics. He became Premier of Newfoundland in the 70’s. Later, he was the Chair of the Progressive Conservative party in Canada and a player in the federal political scene. My father took over the fishing business from him when he married my mother.
Baby Josh and big sister Rebecca...later to become Canadian Junior Pairs champions!
Rebecca, baby sister Sarah and Josh
When did you start skating?
I started skating when I was 3 or 4. I had an older sister, Rebecca, and a younger sister, Sarah. I did play hockey for a brief moment, and then I think it was easier on my mom for the three of us to be in skating. 

Describe your ice dance experience, competing with your sister Rebecca.
When I was about 14, I moved to Waterloo, Ontario and boarded with a family for two years. My sister boarded with another family. The Kitchener Waterloo Skating Club was where we skated. That was a hotbed for ice dance in Canada. Later, my mom relocated to Waterloo. I graduated high school, and went to Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo. 

My sister and I tried everything. We did pairs, we did singles, we did precision...lol...we competed every year starting at age 8. Skating with a sibling is not easy. It had its moments of craziness, let me tell you. She is 14 months older than me. We were typical siblings, we barely got along, we argued quite a bit. We knew exactly how to push each other’s buttons. The one year we made a conscious effort not to argue at all, we actually won the national title.

1998 Junior Canadian Pairs Champions
1999 Senior Championships in Ottawa
That was the Junior Ice Dance Championship in 1998. What happened after that? 
I was 20, still in college. Then we competed internationally. Our very first international was in Zagreb, Croatia, which is why I’m so fond of that part of the world. Our competitiveness got much more serious. After the 1999 Nationals, we relocated to Lake Placid to train with Natalia Dubova, and then to Stamford when she moved there. After the national title, we kept competing for two years.  

What was it like to stop competing? 
Transitioning from being a competitive skater to just being a part of the regular world is one of the hardest things in the world to do. It’s your identity. You identify as an athlete all the time, so then you’re all of a sudden, “Well, I was an athlete and now I don’t know what I’m doing.”  

I stayed in the area. Believe it or not, my first boss was Nina Newby. Nina was the director at New Roc (Ice Skating Center). I was working at Harvey and then also doing a little bit at Twin Rinks. I was living in Stamford and then I moved to Manhattan. Sylvia Muccio from Team Image - they skated at New Roc - she saw me there and said, “Can you come in and do an edge class?” Then I got extremely busy with individual choreography, probably until 2010-11. Sylvia had asked me to choreograph a couple of her programs, and then I got inquiries from other organizations to choreograph for them. I was always extremely artistic on the ice, so choreographer was a very natural fit for me.

How did you start with Skyliners?
Nancy D’Agostino, who sat on the board of Skyliners, asked me to put together a Junior line in 2003. Skyliners was only two years old at the time. It was hard at first. Synchro was not as big as it is now.  I saw the potential of what synchronized skating could be. I always had a vision of where synchro could go. I felt like the creativity of what I was seeing at the time was very basic and very cookie cutter, and I didn’t feel there was any real imagination to the choreography. I thought, “Oh okay, I can see where this can go.”

What are the similarities and differences between ice dance and synchro? 
I draw a lot of parallels between ice dance and synchronized skating all the time. Often, people want more tricks, tricks, tricks. That’s not what synchronized skating is about. It’s about skating, it’s a team being able to move as one unit and skate to tell a story. I love watching a group. Now when I watch skating, I find larger numbers of people on the ice so much more interesting and pleasing to watch than individual. It takes up more space, there’s so much more happening.
Phantom of the Opera Free Skate - Junior 2011 National Champions
Do you have a specific style of choreography? 
I’ve been always known for a very classic style - dramatic, clean lines. I like to be able to use not only the tempo of the music but the melody of the music. I also always try to do something different every year. Everybody likes a program that’s super dramatic, like Phantom (of the Opera) and Swan Lake, but they also like the modern/dance programs. I try different music and styles with the different teams and see what the best fit is.

Where do you get ideas? 
From ballet, modern dance, Broadway, movies, TV shows like “So You Think You Can Dance”… music in general.  This year’s Junior short program, that all derived from one little section of a Michael Jackson piece that they used last year as the warm-up. I thought I would maybe like to do something with a gun number. Well, obviously I can’t do a gun number. Then I thought, well, okay, who uses guns? Gangsters. I’ve used “Untouchables” before for singles programs. I loved that music. Then Hugo Chouinard came up with the last piece of music.

Do you have a favorite Broadway composer? 
I love a good Andrew Lloyd Webber. I wish there were more composers like that who were able to create that kind of atmosphere with music because it’s so good for skating. Sometimes I’ll pick music and someone will say it’s been used too much. I’ll say, “It’s been used too much because it’s so good.” Good music is good music! I have a file of music on my iPhone. Every year, I revisit the same pieces that I’ve never used before. Sometimes I end up using them and sometimes I don’t.   

Do you plan your programs out before you introduce them to the skaters? 
I don’t do that. Some people, they sit down, they plan everything out, 8 bars this and 8 bars that. I get on the ice and I let it skate. I really don’t plan everything. I have an idea of where the elements will possibly go. I never come down and say, “It will be this, this, this.” I also see how the kids react. In order for something to be successful, the people who are doing it have to own it. I have to see how the kids feel it. I spend a lot of time in my car and I play the music over and over and over again. I sort of see how I’m going to be able to get a standing ovation. How’s it going to build so everybody’s going to be on their feet at the end? This year, when I watched Intermediate, Novice, Junior and Senior, I would want to stand up at the end.

Coaching at Summer Splice
Traveling with 2012-13 Junior line at French Cup

How do you balance the fast sections and slow sections, the athletic moments and the graceful moments? 

It depends on what the music tells me to do. I do have a recipe for programs, how I build the music. Usually it starts off slow, then it picks up, then it goes in a little bit of a lull before the grand ending. The biggest compliment you can get is, “Oh I didn’t want it to end.” I try to keep my hand on the pulse of where the sport is going. It has to be a sport. It’s really important to not become theatre. The sport part of it is the athletic part, but there’s an artistic side of our sport that I think is crucial. 

What do you find challenging about coaching? What is most fulfilling for you? 

It’s gotten much easier over the years. I think the commitment of the skaters and families has really improved; it makes everything so much easier. I’ve always been a little bit of a perfectionist. I always wanted things to be trained, almost overly trained, to a fault actually, I think. I’m very passionate about my job. I really believe in ownership for them. “Listen I’ve given you the tools to the best of my ability. Now it’s up to you.” And I really think that’s an important thing for them to bring into their lives after skating. In a society where kids are often coddled and always told they’ve done nothing wrong, they have to realize what true responsibility is. It shows that you can achieve excellence with a group. And I also think in today’s day and age, it’s so nice to see people work together.  

Is there anything you always tell your skaters? 

They should feel totally comfortable telling me what’s on their mind. I don’t judge anybody telling me anything. And I always tell every team this because I truly believe it: “Trust your training, do what you do every day, and you’ll be fine.” I’m a big believer in being prepared, and I think our teams are super prepared. This year, our Junior line always had a fall in the short program. I’ve told them, “If you hold it back and you don’t have a fall, then I will not be happy. If you don’t hold back and you have a fall, I’m going to be happy you went for it!”

Do you get nervous before a competition? 
I get unbelievably nervous when they’re skating, oh my lord. Intermediate was the first team to compete at Nationals and my heart, it was pounding. I wouldn’t get nervous if I didn’t think they could do great things.
When I watch kids give up as much as they do, I don’t care about placement, I just care about the skate. If they got all pewter medals and they skated the way they did, I’d be fine with that too. I want them to feel good at the end. You can’t control the judging, you never can. I get nervous because they’ve given up so much and they’ve done so much, and I just want it to feel good for them.  

How do you choose and design the dresses? 
We work with Hazel Matthis in Minnesota, and basically I tell (Coach) Pam what I have in mind and she works with Hazel. I can’t even sign my name, let alone draw a dress. I get ideas from magazines and stuff. Pam is really talented with what colors are going to read on the ice. I have the overall idea, the big picture.   

What do you do in your spare time? 

I enjoy spending time with my friends. I enjoy spending time with my nephew in Brooklyn. He is two. I love to travel. I’ll be going to California for three days just after Worlds. I try to always go somewhere different. I love the coast of Croatia, I really enjoyed Malta, I love Australia. I love France for the food, same with Italy. I’ve been to southern Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco. I love to cook, I’m actually a really good cook! I enjoy Broadway. I’m a sucker for a good musical. I went to London with a couple of friends and we saw eight Broadway shows in six days. I’m really looking forward to “Come From Away,” a story about 9/11 when all the planes were diverted to Newfoundland.

What are some things that people might be surprised to learn about you? 
I think I’m a pretty open book. I’m addicted to Candy Crush, all the skaters know that because I play that all the time. I play tennis occasionally when I’m in Lake Placid. I work out when I can…which is not often, lol. 

Is there anything else you would like to add? 
I’m super proud of our organization. It’s still fairly young and the organization has really just built itself into a model for the country. I think synchronized skating is going to be really much bigger than it is now. Synchro skill is much harder than people think. It amazes me how they can go at that speed. One person makes a little mistake and it can be catastrophic. There’s so much chance for error. But they learn how to put trust in other people, and you also learn how to take responsibility for you.  
16 YEARS OF SKYLINERS
Skyliners was established in 2001 by a group of parents who wanted to create the most competitive synchronized skating club in the tri-state area. In that first year, the team had three lines - Preliminary, Juvenile and Intermediate. Sixteen years later, Skyliners has grown into one of the top synchronized skating teams in the country, now 12 lines and 200+ skaters strong. While the majority of the skaters reside in the tri-state area, we also have skaters from Minnesota, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin. Our resume of achievements includes 21 Eastern championships, 10 National championships, 6 International gold medals...and 10 years designated TEAM USA. 
SKYLINERS!
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