Suburban synchronized skaters must put careers temporarily on ice

Suburban synchronized skaters must put careers temporarily on ice

  • Samantha Pearsall of Roselle, pictured at the lead of this formation, skated on six straight national champions for the Haydenettes.

    Samantha Pearsall of Roselle, pictured at the lead of this formation, skated on six straight national champions for the Haydenettes. Courtesy Marissa Olarte

 
 
Posted4/24/2020 6:00 AM

Samantha Pearsall's mother simply wanted to teach her daughter a lesson.

Happily, it backfired.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Pearsall, of Roselle, along with Rolling Meadows native Eri Lee and Elyse Wiese of Crystal Lake, competed for the Massachusetts-based Hayden Recreation Centre Figure Skating Club -- known as the Haydenettes -- that won its 11th consecutive U.S. Synchronized Skating Championship Feb. 29 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Pearsall skated for six straight championship squads, but with law school looming this fall this was her last hurrah.

It all began when at age 5 she made the first synchronized team she tried out for, the Chicago Jazz, at a rink in Rolling Meadows.

"My mom (Sheilah) didn't think I would make it, so she thought I was going to have a good lesson in failure," Pearsall said. "She was going to teach me what it would be like to not get something that I wanted. I ended up making the team, and here I am 18 years later."

The reigning and undefeated national champ.

Elyse Wiese of Crystal Lake represents her country during the Haydenettes' performance at the inaugural Britannia Cup in Nottingham, Great Britain.
Elyse Wiese of Crystal Lake represents her country during the Haydenettes' performance at the inaugural Britannia Cup in Nottingham, Great Britain. - Courtesy Elyse Wiese
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Ranked fifth in the world, the Haydenettes have won a New York Yankees-like 28 national championships in the sport ruled by teams from Russia, Canada and Finland, homeland of Haydenettes head coach Saga Krantz.

They were hoping for at least a sixth bronze medal at the International Skating Union World Synchronized Skating Championships in Lake Placid, New York, in early April, but it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lee, a sophomore at Northeastern University in Boston, heard the news on the way to practice.

"I think that was one of the hardest moments for us, and obviously Lake Placid is a pretty historic location," she said.

"A lot of us were pretty devastated that it had to be canceled, but we reflected on this past season in a really positive way. It was one of the best seasons I've been a part of."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A team consists of 16 athletes during senior-level competition. It's a female-dominated sport, but men are allowed and some teams have more than one male, said Lee, who moved to Boston to join the Haydenettes while still a senior at Beacon Academy in Evanston, studying remotely.

Technical and component scores are earned by a team's performance in 2-minute short programs and a creative, 4-minute free skate. The closer a team performs in unison as skaters execute their lifts, spins and twizzles, the better the score.

"If you can do something perfectly and the 15 people around you do it the same, that's the difference between third and fourth," said Wiese, a former National Honor Society student at Crystal Lake South. A Boston College freshman, this was her first season with the Haydenettes.

"It was intense moving from Chicago to Boston, starting school and the stress of skating at this high level," Wiese said.

"I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to skate at every competition, which is something that a lot of skaters dream about."

The Massachusetts-based Haydenettes won their 11th straight U.S. Synchronized Skating Championship Feb. 29 in Providence, Rhode Island. Several suburban women are part of the team.
The Massachusetts-based Haydenettes won their 11th straight U.S. Synchronized Skating Championship Feb. 29 in Providence, Rhode Island. Several suburban women are part of the team. - Courtesy Marissa Olarte

Lee and Wiese are now back home continuing their studies remotely, hoping to return to the rink soon. Practices tentatively are set to resume in May.

Pearsall, who attended Conant and graduated from Brandeis University in 2018, remains out East, a legal assistant for a law firm specializing in intellectual property in the Boston suburbs.

Though she felt it was "the best decision I ever made" to join the Haydenettes, and intends to remain in the sport in some capacity, there are not enough hours in the day to train at that level and attend law school.

She went out on top.

"It's definitely bittersweet," Pearsall said. "It wasn't an easy decision to make by any means but, for me personally, it just felt like the right time. I felt like I've experienced a lot on the Haydenettes, and I've given a lot, I hope, to the team."

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