in focus

A student at Mt. Lebanon High School, Rose Krzemien woke up at 5 every weekday morning to lace up her ice skates. Morning practice was followed by school and then an afternoon practice. Three to four times a week, she packed up her skating gear for Cleveland, where she practiced with the Cleveland Edges. By her senior year, Krzemien had spent seven years competing in synchronized skating with the Steel City Blades and Cleveland Edges.

Now a junior at Saint Mary’s College of Notre Dame, Krzemien is the vice president of the Notre Dame synchronized skating team, a nationally recognized group that took the gold at the 2012 Midwestern Synchronized Skating Championships for the second year in a row.

Synchronized skating, a discipline of figure skating, is often described as “Rockettes on ice”—but don’t underestimate the athleticism involved. Eight to 20 skaters perform routines set to music, skating the difficult turns and tricks seen in figure skating,but in unison. The sport is dominated by women, though there are opportunities for men to participate at some levels of competition. “The sport is extremely difficult,” Krzemien says. “You have to learn different ways to move within the shapes, how to grip onto your teammates, maintain spacing, learn the different requirements and also keep up with your skills.”

Rose Krzemien is vice president of the University of Notre Dame synchronized skating team.

Synchro, as many performers call it, is a relative newcomer to winter sports  but has become popular in recent years among young female figure skaters looking for a challenge.

Krzemien, who learned to skate as a 4-year-old at the Mt. Lebanon Recreation Center’s Learn to Skate program under instructor Gwen Rosen, first learned about synchronized skating in middle school through a friend. “I went to one of [her] practices and I instantly fell in love,” she says.
Although synchro is not an official NCAA sport, Krzemien, who graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 2010, has noticed that teams are on the upswing. “Skating is such a growing sport,” she says, “There are colleges that offer scholarships.” Penn State, Miami (Ohio), West Virginia, Bryn Mawr, Robert Morris and Mercyhurst all have synchronized teams and clubs.

Krzemien recently received the McMahon Award from her Notre Dame teammates for displaying passion and dedication for the team. “I am so close with my teammates,” Krzemien says. “We call ourselves a family, as clichéd as it is.”

—jasmine turner
Synchronized skaters often have a background in figure skating, a program offered at Mt. Lebanon’s Ice Center. Learn to Skate is for children as young as 3, while older children and teens can take the center’s figure skating program. Skaters interested in synchro should look into Robert Morris University’s Steel City Blades.