11/5/2010 8:36:00 AM Tannah continues her love for skating in second season at Western Mich. Lakeland grad talks about her passion which still evolves
Lakeland graduate Maria Tannah might as well had skates on from birth. And the fact of the matter is she's nearly done so – skating from the age of two she enters her second season of competitive synchronized skating at Western Michigan University in Kalamzoo, Mich. Contributed photo.
When Maria Tannah was 2 years old, she had her mother lace her very first pair of ice skates and send her on her way.
Little did Maria's mother know that nearly two decades later, her daughter would still have the same love and passion for the sport as she does now as a senior team member of the synchronized skate team at Western Michigan University located in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Tannah, who enters into her second full season on skates at Western, made the jump this year from the collegiate team to the senior level which ups the ante and expectations for both Tannah and her team.
As a junior, her two toughest years are now ahead of her academically, but still Tannah finds time to make it to early morning practices, weekend festivities and events that include exhibitions at Western men's and women's hockey games and other events throughout the Midwest.
Tannah sat down this week and talked about her time at Western, and what she feels keeps her continuing on in something that she's loved for so many years now.
LT - So how many years is this now for you at Western?
Tannah - "This is only my second year, but academically I'm a junior already."
LT - So what's it feel like moving into your second year skating there?
Tannah - "It's really exciting. Last year I was on the Collegiate team, and this year moved up to the Senior level which requires double the practice and two programs - a short and long. It's a lot of work, but we have a good team chemistry, and are ready to work hard to become one of the six teams to represent team USA in synchronized skating next year."
LT - So for those who might not know, what all goes into team synchronized skating? I mean, it's more than just being out there and dancing on skates to music obviously. What makes it unique and difficult?
Tannah - "The short program is roughly two minutes and 30 seconds long, and has to cover different elements including circles, wheels, intersections, block no-holds, moves in the field and difficult footwork step sequences.
"The long program is about five minutes and covers all the same elements and more - including lifts. A synchronized program will not work unless all the members are willing to work hard to make connections and push for each step.
"It is such a team sport where everyone has to work together and help each other. This year we have a very strong team that is constantly working off the ice together as well."
LT - So how has the skill level, technique-wise, changed from last year to this year at senior level? Are the sets and tools you are using just that much more difficult?
Tannah - "This year is a lot different, but I'm already loving the Senior team and the new challenges it brings. Senior is the highest level you can reach in skating so it's a real honor to be a part of a team like this. The footwork steps are a lot more difficult, and leave no room for error. We have edge class each week to practice making our turns and extensions perfect, and do interval training twice a week to build our endurance.
"U.S. Figure Skating changes the rules for requirements each year which makes things harder sometimes."
LT - So what are your expectations for something like skating? Obviously you're a little bit of both, entertainment, but then get into the competitive end of things when you start competing. Do you use a lot of these home exhibitions like at the hockey games as training tools almost?
Tannah - "Yes, that's exactly what we use them for. We skate in about four or five hockey games a year, and other ice shows around Kalamazoo to get used to skating in front of a large crowd.
"This really helps when it comes to competitions. Once we are comfortable with the steps and technique, that's when it is easier to interpret the music and feel the program."
LT - So when do the competitive skates begin? And what is the big show you're working toward?
Tannah - "We have our first competition Nov. 20, right here in Kalamazoo. Then two more around Michigan - one in December and the other in January. The Midwestern Championships are in Rochester, Minn., the first weekend in February followed by the National Championships in Ontario, Calif. in March.
"We have been working a lot with our goals for the season lately, and our main goal is to improve our technical and program component scores with each competition. Our biggest goal is to finish top six at Nationals which would give us a bid to be a member of Team USA for synchronized skating, and then represent the United States at an international competition next season.
LT - So to say the least, you're excited about the season. What has kept you so passionate about skating from when you first started until now?
Tannah - "Yes, I'm extremely excited! I started skating at age two, and have been in love with it ever since. I always enjoyed the competition and performance part of skating, along with the hard work it takes to get to the next level.
"Over the years, I've made some of my best friends and been given many opportunities because of skating. After coming to college and starting synchronized skating, I fell in love with the sport even more."
LT - So with a long season ahead of you yet, and moving up to Senior level, is it harder to balance things with school and skating?
Tannah - "Yes, we practice at 5:45 a.m. most mornings, so time management is really important. That and getting homework done ahead of time is needed in order to get enough sleep. We are required to do weekly study tables which help us stay on top of everything. Balancing everything is easier this year though since I've had a year of practice and now realize how much work it all is."
LT - So you're excited, it's not getting old or anything (laughing)?
Tannah - "Not at all (laughing)! I can't imagine not being around the rink. I'm dreading the day when skating someday comes to an end."
LT - So keep the people up-to-date on what you're doing. Are you coming home anytime through the break, and will you be skating at the rink here in Minocqua at all?
Tannah - "Yes, I am coming home for the weekend over Thanksgiving and for a week or so during Christmas. And I'll be at the Lakeland rink a lot during both."
Doug Etten may be reached via email at email@example.com.