Senior ices out competition to win silver medal



Smiling with her Skyliners synchronized skating team, senior Samantha Handrigan poses for a picture after winning the silver medal at the Junior Synchronized Skating World Championships

By Caitlin Murphy, Copy Editor

While most high school athletes can be found throwing a football down the field for a touchdown or sliding into home plate, senior Samantha Handrigan can be found gliding across the ice with her synchronized skating team.

Handrigan began ice skating at just four years old, and started skating competitively at eight when she saw that a local skating team, DC Edge, was holding tryouts. Ever since, skating has been her life.

“For me skating is what makes me happy,” Handrigan said. “It is what Starbucks describes as ‘that first sip feeling.’”

While most people are familiar with the more “traditional” branches of skating, individual and pairs, synchronized skating is a unique form of the sport that is quickly becoming more popular as the fastest-growing skating discipline in the United States. Synchronized skating is a team sport in which eight to 20 skaters perform on the ice in unison. While synchronized skating uses the same judging and competition system as other forms of skating, “synchro” is characterized by complicated footwork and precise formations. 

“I skated freestyle, which is an individual sport, for a long time, but I love synchro because it’s a team sport,” Handrigan said. “You really have to rely on each other to be able to do well.”

Ice skating is typically known for being a time consuming and dominant sport, much like gymnastics and swimming, in which athletes are forced to sacrifice other aspects of their lives such as school and their social lives in order to succeed. However, Handrigan has managed to find a balance between her schoolwork and training schedule. 

Skating has certainly taught me some important skills in time management,” Handrigan said. “Skating itself has actually been easy, but what was difficult was giving up the other things that most kids do while they’re growing up like going to parties and hanging out with friends.”

From March 17 to March 19, Handrigan competed with her team, Skyliners, at the ISU World Junior Synchronized Skating Championships in Innsbruck, Austria. In total, 23 teams from around the world competed with two teams representing the United States, Team Elite from Chicago, Illinois and Handrigan’s team, Skyliners.

“Competing at this level and representing the United States in an international competition adds another layer of complexity such as a whole set of rules of etiquette for representing the United States, random drug testing, and media and press guidance,” Handrigan said. “We even had a list of hygiene items that we were restricted from using to prevent false positive tests for doping.”

At the World Championships, Handrigan’s team received second place for their overall performance, taking home the silver for the United States. This result marked the first time that two United States teams ended up on the podium at the Junior World Championships, as Team Elite placed third. Skyliners was also only 0.75 points away from beating Finland, who took home the gold. 

“When we finished the short program on day one we were in third place,” Handrigan said. “When we finished the long program the next day we had done really well and were feeling pretty good, but we skated earlier in the competition than the other top ranking teams so we did not know if it was good enough to place in the top three. When the final results came in and we took second place it was amazing.”

Currently, the Olympic committee is considering entering synchronized figure skating as an official Olympic sport. If and when that happens, Handrigan’s team has a solid chance to be selected as the future Olympic team. In the meantime, after graduating from WCHS Handrigan will continue her skating career with Skyliners, and is looking to return to the World Championships again next year.

“Skating has become so much of life that I can not imagine not skating,” Handrigan said. “For this coming season I will be skating on the Senior team at Skyliners. If everything goes well we will again be representing the U.S. at the World Championships in Lake Placid, New York in March of next year.”