Re-Introducing Rachel Teets

2019-20 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Crystallettes Senior Synchronized Skating Team Member, Rachel Teets

Hi everyone! My name is Rachel Teets, and I’m from Livonia, Michigan. I am truly honored to return to the DREAM program for my third year. Being the daughter and niece of Crystallette coaches/directors, Holly Teets-Malewski and Shannon Peterson, I was destined to be a figure skater. At 17 months old, my mom had me walking around the house in figure skates, and soon after I was taking my first steps on the ice. I’ve been a member of the Dearborn Figure Skating Club since birth and a Crystallette since I was 5 years old.

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My love for skating carries over to every discipline. I was on Harmony Theatre Company’s senior team for four years, a past participant in the solo dance series and still take freestyle and dance lessons. I have a few international dances left to test and hope to finish my freestyle tests too! I truly love all disciplines of skating, but my heart belongs to synchro. I patiently worked my way up through the Crystallettes organization, following natural progression of team advancement. I began on synchro skills 1 and skated in every division all the way through senior. This will be my 14th year of synchronized skating and fourth year competing in the senior division!

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I cross-skated (skating for two levels during the same season) for the Crystallettes from juvenile through senior, but sadly this year I was too old for novice. It may sound crazy, but I truly love double teaming! Our discipline has evolved so much since I first began in 2005. We seem to be getting closer and closer to our Olympic dream and regardless of that outcome, I am humbled by our accomplishments so far.

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In addition to skating, I’m a freshman at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan, in their Honors Program. Through Schoolcraft College and the Michigan Transfer Agreement, I will attend Wayne State University in fall of 2021. At WSU I plan continue my studies to become a physician assistant. Many Crystallettes on the senior and adult teams attend WSU and other universities across lower Michigan, including Michigan State University, Adrian College and Oakland University to name a few! Being centrally located to all of these schools is a blessing to be able to pursue collegiate careers while continuing to skate for Team USA.

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Outside of school and skating, I am a nanny for an 8-year-old boy named Henry. I practice every morning from 5:30-6:30 a.m. and then take care of Henry before school, drive him to school and then head off to school myself. After school and studying, I head back to the rink, where I teach Learn to Skate USA classes and private lessons. Sharing my love of the sport with others is so fulfilling. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing the smile and sense of accomplishment on the faces of these athletes after they master something new.

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As we prepare for this competitive season and our two international events, I reflect on the privilege bestowed upon me and my teammates, both DREAM and Crystallettes. The ultimate goal for me was to make the senior team and represent my country. Though it’s already my fourth year in the senior division, the excitement and honor still bring chills up my spine. We will represent the United States of America. Our colors are the same, red, white and blue. The roar of the crowd chanting “USA! USA! USA!” is still the most thrilling thing an athlete can experience.

I hope the best for you and your team this upcoming season and hope to see you wearing red, white and blue one day too!

-Rachel Teets

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Finding Positivity

Written by: 2019-20 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Skyliners Junior Team Member, Alex Popescu 

In the past two months, there has been one question that just doesn’t escape my mind: what am I supposed to do? I don’t have a rink to go to where I can pour out my energy. I don’t have teammates I can physically turn to. I don’t have practices to look forward to. Do I have a season ahead of me? It’s a question I don’t even want to ask myself, and honestly, I’ve been afraid to.

What am I supposed to do?

We are living in an unprecedented time. It seems as if the whole world has just been put on pause, from skating and school to work and sports and pretty much everything else. All of a sudden, there’s time. Time to do anything I please, time for things I’d only wished I could do before, time for family.

Time to breathe.

At the very least, I realized pretty quickly that focusing on what I don’t have requires a lot of energy and emotion that I’d rather put elsewhere. With all this newfound time, I have thought a lot about what I do have. And even though I can’t be on the ice right now and I feel like a huge part of me is missing, I still have a lot to be grateful for.

So, here is one answer I found to my question: find where your gratitude lies.

A simple enough task, but a valuable one. Every night before I go to sleep, I sit down at my desk and I write down one thing I am grateful for, and I find that I am never at a loss of what to write. I am grateful for the good health my family has and continues to enjoy, for the stack of books on my nightstand that continues to grow shorter from my reading and taller from recent additions, for my brother’s relentless convincing in getting me to watch the Marvel movies with him, for the path behind my house that a neighbor recently told me about that I swear takes you to the enchanted forest and so much more. I have so much to be grateful for.

As I’ve thought about these things, both the small and the large, I’ve come to a sort of peace. That does not mean I don’t still get upset, because I do and I will, but it does mean that I have more hope and happiness.

I’ve looked back at old competition videos and pictures of the last few seasons. At first it made me sad, as I reminisced about all that I am currently without. But those memories are not made to look back at and make you miss it; they’re reminders of intrinsically good moments, some of the best of my life. And that’s yet another thing that I have to be grateful for.

Since we all have the time, I think it’s a good idea to start thinking about what we have that makes us happy. Whether you write it down, or say it at the dinner table, or think it to yourself before going to sleep at night, hold on to those things. Let them guide you through this time. Before we know it, we’ll be back on the ice with a whole lot more gratitude for the sport we love most.

Please feel free to leave one thing that YOU are grateful for in the comments and encourage someone else to do the same. We can start our own gratitude journal right here.

Wishing you all the best,

-Alex

DREAM Even When The Future is Uncertain

Written by 2019-20 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Miami University Varsity Synchronized Skating Team Member, Brittney Rivelli 

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To the ones eager to get back on the ice, the ones wishing to be surrounded by teammates, the ones who would do anything if it meant the season will go on as planned…

I wish I could tell you that I knew we are going to be able to experience the synchro season just as we have any other. Right now, the amount of uncertainty in the world, and in our sport, is undeniable. But that doesn’t mean we stop dreaming.

We have been encouraged from the first time we stepped on the ice, and throughout each competition season to follow, to dream—no matter how crazy the goal may seem at the time. It’s important now more than ever to hold onto that practice, even if it means pivoting its purpose.

While the future may be uncertain, we must continue to dream.

Dream of what your first steps back on the ice with your team will feel like.

May we never complain about how tired our feet are after a long practice and appreciate every second we get to be on the ice together.

Dream of dance parties with your team.

Each song will be sung a little louder, and the party will last a little longer.

Dream of reuniting with friends from across the country at competitions.

Love and sportsmanship will undoubtedly take over the arena.

Dream of how the sun will rise during a Saturday morning practice.

The feeling of accomplishment that stems from putting in hard work before the day even begins will be stronger than ever.

Dream of the feeling of hitting your ending pose after a season’s best performance.

The emotion you and your teammates feel will be something you remember forever.

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Whatever you do, no matter how unpredictable things may seem, hold onto your ability to dream. As synchronized skaters and the powerful and determined humans we are, we can take any situation and use it as an opportunity to evolve and grow. This is one of those opportunities. When we dream together, we grow stronger as a community and push our sport further.

If we use this time to share our passion for our sport and connect with others, imagine how powerful our community will be when it is finally time to step back into the competition arena. Imagine the dream of a full arena, packed with unconditional support, coming true.

Until we see each other again, until our future is a bit more certain, dream of everything you love about synchro, and dream big.

Love,

Brittney

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Embracing Imperfection

Written by 2019-20 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Miami University Senior Varsity Synchronized Skating Team Member, Sarah Moss

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In a sport based on precision and synchronization, it’s easy to get stuck on the idea of perfection. Whether it’s the perfect skate, score or season, we aim to achieve, we can all relate to chasing after the uncontrollable. Oftentimes this leads to wishing we could be a “perfect” athlete, whatever this might mean to each of us. Something I have learned over the past few seasons is that there is a significant difference between perfection and excellence. If we expect ourselves to be perfect, we will never be excellent, and this is why:

  • Our biggest motivations come from our biggest disappointments.

Whether we didn’t make the team we wanted to or didn’t get the score we were hoping for at a competition, these setbacks will become our greatest motivation throughout our skating experience and will make us better athletes in the long run. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t know how to handle these moments of adversity that eventually encourage us to become better versions of ourselves.

  • Being relatable is one of the most important qualities of an excellent teammate.

One of the greatest strengths of an excellent teammate is being able to relate to the team and lift others up when needed. If we were flawless skaters, we wouldn’t have the life experiences that allow us to truly be there for our teammates. A good example of this is being put in a swing or alternate position. At first, this might be a major disappointment, but at some point in your skating career, having been in that challenging position will allow you to support your teammates in similar situations.

  • We must experience the lows to be able to recognize the highs.

If we were always “on top” and never struggled to reach our goals, we wouldn’t be able to recognize the actual importance of moments when we are successful. Without truly feeling the disappointment and defeat that we experience throughout our skating, the reward when we finally reach what we have been striving for wouldn’t be as meaningful, and we would not be able to realize how far we have come.

  • When we expect perfection from ourselves, it creates unrealistic expectations.

Sometimes when we set unrealistic standards for ourselves it is not only unproductive for us personally, but it becomes easy to start holding those expectations for our teammates as well. While encouraging our teammates to be the best they can be is great, we must also understand we are all human and we all approach the high-pressure scenarios we face in skating in different ways. By understanding this, we can let go of our unrealistic expectations and move forward towards success as a team.

  • When we expect perfection, we are terrified to fail.

What develops us into excellent athletes is constantly trying to achieve new skills, especially in a sport like synchronized skating, where it is all about mastering different elements for our programs each season. If we are aiming for perfection, we wouldn’t be willing to put ourselves out there to acquire new skills that may not come naturally. To become the best we can be, we need to be okay with failing before accomplishing our goals.

I hope in this time away from the ice we can all focus on what is in our control and find different ways to become better versions of ourselves for next season. Meanwhile, remembering that being excellent does not mean that we need to be perfect. In fact, reaching our full potential requires us to embrace our own unique imperfections.

~Sarah Moss

Looking at the Bright Side

Written by 2019-20 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Skyliners Junior Synchronized Skating Team Member, Alexandra Popescu

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In light of these scary and uncertain times, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the strength that I’ve surprised myself with and what I’ve witnessed in those around me these past few days.

When my team heard the news that we had to withdraw from the ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships 2020 in Nottingham, Great Britain, last week, it was one of the saddest moments of my life. It was unimaginably difficult to hear that an 11-month season wouldn’t culminate in two final performances on the world stage; it’s heartbreaking.

However, I couldn’t imagine a better and stronger group of girls to go through that experience with. Between my 19 sisters, there was always someone I could go to for support, be it for a shoulder to cry on, people to laugh with or just for a hug. For the new members on the team, they were more upset knowing weekends spent with their best friends were over for the time being.

As a team, I could see us trying to take this as positively as possible. It was honestly inspiring to hear all the seniors — some who missed their last skates ever — get so excited for next year, for the team to be even better and skate in their honor. If anything, this experience is fueling our motivation for the season to come.

By the time we were home, we all decided on a reunion immediately; we had to get that last defining moment in. Even with the bittersweet experience of watching the World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships livestream, the team group chat was entirely supportive of the teams that were competing and so happy for the beautiful new Junior World champions.

In this sport, it is expected that you will face adversity: on the ice, off the ice, between teammates and coaches. Overall, it’s how you handle it that can either make you or break you.

In no way, shape or form did this experience break us; we grew from it so much, as a team and as human beings.

Looking back at this last week, I am grateful to have been with the people I was with and I continue to be grateful that I get some time to spend with my family now, as we’re all together so rarely.

I hope everyone takes some time to do that as well and ultimately appreciate the love and the strength within themselves and those around them. Stay healthy!

Wishing you all the best,

Alex ❤️

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Molly’s Memorable Travel Moments

2019-20 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Skyliners Senior Team Member, Molly McMahon

Traveling to different places for competitions during the season is something that I always look forward to. Some of my most memorable moments I have made with my teammates have been while we were traveling. No matter what competition we attended or where it was located, there are a countless number of memories to look back on.

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Over the years, I have had the opportunity to travel to many different places around not only the country, but the world because of synchronized skating. My very first international competition was the 2016 Neuchâtel Trophy in Switzerland. Hearing the words “representing the United States of America” for the first time was such a special moment, especially because it was the first time Fond du Lac Blades Junior competed at an international since 2006. Earning the bronze medal and bringing home a cowbell as the trophy was such a unique experience that I will never forget.

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Although many of my fondest memories are from being on the ice, I also have so many great moments that were made with my teammates off the ice. Some of my favorites are making chocolate bars in Switzerland, going on the Sound of Music tour in Austria, buying my prom dress in Croatia, and having a blast at Disneyland with my teammates in California.

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Kicking off the start of competition season in California has been so much fun over the past couple of years because of the sunny environment. I love warming up for this competition because of the great change of scenery. I always look forward to soaking up the sun while being surrounded by the gigantic palm trees before skating. It is such a great treat for many teams, especially because it was the last bit of warm weather many of us skaters will get until summer.

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This year the event took place at the new Five Point Arena where California Cup, the very first Synchronized Skating Challenger Series, was hosted. This was a very special way to kick off the season and it was incredible to be able to participate in this competition with Skyliners Senior. Having so many teams from the US, supporting and chanting “USA, USA, USA,” while we took the ice gave me goosebumps and that’s a moment I will never forget. For me, it wasn’t just taking the ice alongside my teammates that will make that moment so memorable, but it was the united support from the crowd that created such a special feeling while we were out on the ice. I look forward to seeing how our sport continues to develop in the future and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of a sport where so many athletes are able to support one another, no matter what team they skate for.

~Molly

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Favorite International Competition

Written by 2019-20 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Skyliners Junior Team Member, Alexandra Popescu 

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Hey guys,

It’s Alex again. Today, my team and I are leaving for France. I am so excited for this week because French Cup is my favorite competition by far, and we are so lucky to be representing the U.S. there for the sixth year in a row.

The city of Rouen is beautiful. The little area that we usually walk around in is filled with cobblestone streets, Gothic churches, old medieval houses, the Gros Horloge clock tower, and many amazing chocolate shops. Some of our favorite places to go eat are JM’s Cafe and the “crepe dungeon.” That, and of course the breakfast at our hotel. It’s a recurrent topic of conversation on our team throughout the entire season.

While just being in France is part of the magic of this competition, the skating itself is the other part. French Cup is one of the biggest internationals of the season, and often a prelude to both Junior and Senior Worlds. We usually see our biggest competition here.

The most memorable part from my experience last year was the energy in the rink on long day. After we competed our long and went into the stands, the rink was completely packed in anticipation for the senior division. I remember during the ice cut the big screens would have videos of dances and the speakers would blare music that the entire crowd would dance too. Even the parents would join in. And they like to play sing-along music too, so the entire rink is filled with everyone screaming at the top of their lungs and their phone flashlight waving back and forth, much like a concert. This energy then translates to cheering on the teams. The last group is filled with the world’s best and it’s an incredible experience to see them live. French Cup last year was the first time that I saw Paradise skate and it literally took my breath away.

I am so excited to return to France, for the food, the skating, and of course, making new memories with my teammates. Below, I’ve attached a short video that I have from last year that is probably one of my favorite videos ever to exist. I think it accurately captures the energy of the rink and the people, the craziness of my teammates and best friends, and the pure joy that I will forever cherish from that moment.

To see how exciting the crowd and environment was at the 2019 French Cup, click here.

Love, Alex

 

How to Handle the Stress of School and Skating

Written By: 2019-20 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Skyliners Senior Team Member, Kelsey Bialo

It’s that time of year again! International competition season is upon us, which usually coincides with high school students’ midterm exams and college students’ first few weeks getting settled back into the semester. Although I am a 6-year veteran of the “balancing plates act” student-athlete life, I find it important to always reflect on how I approach the school calendar and the skating calendar, because each semester and competition season presents varying schedules, workloads, and expectations of the people you are working with, like your teachers/professors. To prepare myself for and manage myself throughout what can be an incredibly overwhelming and stressful period, I generally stick to three main principles: planning, professionalism, and personal time!

  1. On Planning

Planning might be the single most effective and necessary way to manage the stress of school and skating. I use a daily planner that also has monthly calendar pages, so I can keep track of my daily assignments and due dates – especially when I’m traveling – while also seeing how my classwork and competition schedule together create a larger picture. As soon as I get my class syllabi and know what our international travels have in store, those dates go into my monthly calendar, making it easy for me to visualize where there is overlap and sometimes where there is down time! This also helps me on a weekly basis figuring out what days I will skate versus go to the gym versus go to yoga and so forth.

  1. On Professionalism.

Professionalism is a skill that I have been refining over my last six seasons competing with Skyliners Junior and Senior while simultaneously transitioning from high school to college academics. Although we all will have that one professor (or perhaps a few) that has trouble wrapping their brain around the number of absences you will accumulate for training or competitions, what educators, advisors, etc. appreciate the most is when you approach your absences with professionalism in the way you carry yourself. Recognizing that your absences and scheduling issues can sometimes create inconveniences for your techers and acknowledging that will likely be very refreshing to them. A few years ago I created an email template for myself that I send to professors at the start of every semester in which I outline my absences, attach any official team absence documentation, and also express my dedication to both school and skating and my readiness to work hard to make up missed work. I find that this gives my professors comfort in knowing that I am prepared and confident in my ability to balance both schedules, and they generally respond with a willingness to assist me in whatever capacity they can during the competition season. I have helped a few teammates with similar email communication templates as well – feel free to reach out if you would like help creating one or want to use one of my own!

  1. On Personal time!

Lastly, something that I have discovered but am still working on consistently practicing is personal time. As busy-bodies and people accustomed to having a lot to do in a limited amount of time, skaters generally forget to stop for a moment, find some time to yourself, and be okay with sometimes doing absolutely nothing! While there are many concrete steps you can take to help yourself handle the stress of school and skating, sometimes the most helpful tactic is giving yourself a few minutes to breath, read a book, watch TV, or dive into something else that helps you to relax. Often times, it will end up making you more productive and put you in a better mindset for when you return to studying or practicing.

I hope I’ve outlined some helpful tips for balancing school and skating this season, and don’t forget that it’s beneficial to ask for help during this stressful part of the year when you need it!

– Kelsey

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Synchronized Skating Athlete Support Fund

Written By: 2019-20 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program Members

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To the U.S. Synchronized Skating Community,

We are extremely excited about the announcement of the Synchronized Skating Athlete Support Fund. This fund is the first of its kind since it is specific to the synchronized discipline and will support training costs for the two junior and the two senior ISU World Championship eligible teams starting this 2020 season. When the World Teams are announced at the U.S. National Championships, these funds will go towards their extra training, ice time and additional resources to make the U.S. teams as competitive as possible on the world stage. In addition to the athlete support fund, U.S. Figure Skating has initiated the DREAM Scholarship which will also begin its first application process in 2020. This scholarship will allow developmental skaters, selected by us through an application process, to be supported each season as they continue to develop their passion and talent within synchronized skating!

The inauguration of these funding methods is very special to all of us. Being members of Team USA, the development of synchronized skating is one of our top priorities as the sport continues to push towards inclusion in the Olympic Games. The outcome of these funds will enable many skaters to continue their training at both the developmental and international level and will elevate the discipline of synchronized skating in the United States. We believe the development of our sport worldwide is a chain reaction and each step will bring us closer to our goal of 16 skaters stepping on the ice representing the United States at the Olympic Games.

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We are so honored to be a part of this announcement and beyond proud of the momentum of our sport. As ambassadors of our discipline’s development, we encourage everyone involved to continue acting on the core values of DREAM; Determination, Responsibility, Education, Achievement, and Motivation, both on and off the ice. By embodying  these values as athletes and supporters, we will be able to continue our progress moving forward. We also encourage all of you to be ambassadors of growth by sharing why you #SupportSynchro online and help spread the word about why we as individuals support the development of synchronized skating.

We can not wait to see the growth that comes from the addition of The Synchronized Skating Athlete Support Fund and the DREAM Scholarship in 2020 and beyond. We thank you all for your continued support and hope to see you at both the U.S. National Championships in Providence, RI and the ISU World Championships in Lake Placid, NY.

Sincerely,

Your 2020 DREAM Skaters –

Katey Nyquist, Sarah Moss, Brittney Rivelli, Stephen Murray, Molly McMahon, Kelsey Bialo, Maddi DeBlasi, Nikki Czuhajewski, Rachel Teets, Hayley Cyrocki, Alex Popescu, and Nina Sebastian

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An Inside Scoop into Miami Senior Team’s Winter Practices

Written By: 2019-20 U.S. Figure Skating DREAM Program and Miami Senior Synchronized Skating Team Member, Brittney Rivelli

At this point in the season, many teams have found practice plans and training techniques that work best for them. Throughout the school year, Miami Senior practices, both on and off of the ice, every day of the week. Currently, we are in “J-term” which is our school’s 3-week winter term. During this time, we’ve shared the campus mainly with other athletes, which makes for an empowering atmosphere. While a few members of our team are taking classes, January has been spent completely focused on our training.

The past few weeks of intense training have allowed us to get into an efficient routine in terms of how we are running our practices. At this point in the season, we begin each practice with a full run-through, alternating between the short and free skate. We follow the run-through with a brief video review that allows us to analyze our shapes and elements, as well as determine which sections we need to spend more time on throughout the rest of practice. In terms of strategy, I believe that the use of video review on the ice is extremely beneficial for our team; The ability to visually address any discrepancy within a section or full program allows us to fully understand what needs to be done differently the next time to ensure success.

Throughout this month specifically, we have spent a lot of time refining the smallest of details in both of our programs. In order to do this, we isolated specific sections of programs, and clarified each body movement. While this process was tedious, it has been an extremely important part of our training. As a way to recognize our progress, we recently watched run-throughs from the past few weeks in comparison to our competition skates at the Dr. Porter Classic. By acknowledging the improvement made, we gained even more motivation to continue pushing ourselves further.

To break up the great amount of program work we have been doing, we dedicate our Wednesday practices to developing our skating skills; We have the opportunity to work with Kelley Morris-Adair each week, and improve our crossovers, body alignment, and twizzles. Whether we are working on our knee-bend in one of our crossover “party circles” or strengthen the quality of our twizzle sequence, we are extremely fortunate to have such elite instruction each week. Oftentimes, throughout these sessions, we will also skate sections of each program in order to apply the technique we are working on at that time.

Whether your team has solidified a productive practice plan or is still working to find a strategy that best fits, it is important to remember why you are skating. With tedious repetition, long practices, and any frustration that can commonly occur at this point of the season, channeling your passion will only strengthen your skating, as well as enhance the connection between each team member.

Congratulations to all who competed at Sectionals, and best of luck to those competing at Nationals; Continue to work hard!

Love,

Brittney

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