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sports

Greenwich Skaters Are In Synch for U.S. Title Bid

GREENWICH, Conn. – Three Greenwich girls are looking to lead their synchronized skating team to its second straight national championship this weekend in Worcester, Mass. Later in March, the stakes will be raised even higher.

Greenwich High school students Brooke Abbott, Mairead Brock and Alexandra Scarpulla skate for the Junior line on the Skyliners , which represents the Skating Club of New York and the Springdale Figure Skating Club in Stamford. Abbott and Brock are in their second year with the Junior line, one of the top teams for the Skyliners. Scarpulla, who moved from New Jersey last year, is in her first year with the Junior team.

The Junior line won the national championship last year and will defend its title this weekend at the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships in Worcester. The team then heads to the Junior World Challenge Cup in Goteborg, Sweden, as Team USA 1 for a competition beginning March 15. The Skyliners finished fifth at the event last year, as Team Braemer of Minnesota, snuck into third. The Skyliners beat the Minnesota team by 12 points in the 2011 U.S. championships.

“There’s a little pressure, but it’s just trying to go in and do your best,’’ Abbott said. “All the hard work has been done. It’s nice to go in and see if we can keep the level that we had last year.”

Abbott, a junior at Greenwich, and Brock, a senior, have been skating with the Skyliners for nearly seven years. Scarpulla, a junior, skated with a team in New Jersey before joining the Skyliners. She has quickly become immersed in the team.

“It’s a totally new experience,’’ Scarpulla said. “I would have never thought it could be anything like this. I felt welcome right away, but it’s definitely hard to measure up. Making the team was my major focus last year. Now that I made it, everything else just kind of settled down.”

Synchronized skating is a relatively new sport, and the girls frequently have to explain it to their friends. “But they’re all really supportive,’’ Brock said. “They love watching it. They think it’s amazing what we’re able to do.”

“When I tell people I do synchronized skating, they say, ‘Is that like the Rockettes?’’’ Abbott said. “I tell them yes it is. It’s getting popular with a lot of people. I like that it’s up-and-coming, and I’m helping it become popular for younger generations.”

The girls are on a 20-member team that begins practicing in September. They practice several nights a week at rinks in New York and Connecticut. “What stands out about all of them is their commitment and hard work,’’ coach Josh Babb said. “They all bring something different to the team. But we wouldn’t be where we are without their dedication to the sport.”

The team finished fourth earlier this winter in a competition in France, behind three teams from Finland. Finland is only permitted two teams at the Junior World Challenge, so the Skyliners believe they have a chance to reach the top three.

Brock is considering staying nearby for college to compete for one more year with the Junior line, and Abbott and Scarpulla will try out for the team immediately after the competition in Sweden. Regardless of what happens in the next few weeks, however, the journey from trying to stand on skates to becoming national champions has been a memorable ride.

“When I came into this sport, I didn’t even know they had a national champion,’’ Abbott said. “I didn’t know that they had this high of a level. It’s great to see how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.”

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