When Maria Tannah graduated from Lakeland Union High School she knew she wanted to keep doing one thing - ice skating.
An ice dancer and singles skater for the Lakeland Figure Skating Club, Tannah was used to competing alone but in order to stay on the ice, she turned to the fastest growing team sport on the rink.
That sport is synchronized skating and like its pool-bound cousin, it is just as it sounds.
A group of eight to 20 skaters perform precise moves on the ice in a coordinated program.
"I didn't really know what I was getting myself into," Tannah said. "I had never done synchro before. My main goal was just to not be done skating competitively after high school."
Tannah said it did not take long for her to take to the sport.
"At first it was a little hard to get used to because it was completely new," she said. "But over my freshman year I learned so much and now feel like I have been skating synchro my whole life."
While all of her prior ice experience was as a solo performer, Tannah said it is the team aspect that she likes best about the sport.
"My favorite part is definitely the team," she said. "Having over 30 girls that you are so close with is such a great thing to have in college. It really made the transition easier."
Tannah, a junior, shows her appreciation for the team by giving back as the leader of the group.
Western Michigan's synchonized skating team is a club sport, meaning the competitors are required to raise the funds necessary and run the team.
This year, Tannah is serving as president of the club.
"At the end of each season we hold elections for the executive board for the following year," Tannah said. "You have to be nominated for the position and then the team votes."
Tannah said being president is time consuming but she is happy to deal with the pressures it brings.
"So far, being president has been an incredible rewarding experience," she said. "At times it is stressful but I am really enjoying the opportunity and everything I am learning along the way."
As president, Tannah coordinates fundraising events and also sets up recruiting events.
"We have an open house in November and then another recruitment weekend in April where we talk to girls from across the country," she said.
While being in charge of the team has been a beneficial experience, it is still the performances on the ice that are what draws Tannah in.
Synchronized skating has been around since the 1970s but has grown internationally recently.
The first world championships were held in 2000 in Minneapolis and the sport is already being considered for addition to the Olympics.
Tannah said watching a synchronized skating routine is a wonderful experience.
"A team is made up of 16-20 skaters all skating in unison doing different elements and creating different formations and step squences," she said. "It is really neat to watch."
For Tannah, competing in the sport is even better.
"Competition weekends are beyond busy but they are totally worth it," she said. "Competitions are usually 3-5 days long and are packed full of practice ice time, official practices with judges and the actual competition itself."
As a junior, Tannah relishes every moment she has left with the team, knowing the graduation will mean the end of her competing.
"After graduating my competitive skating career will most likely be over," she said. "I am OK with that."
Just because she won't be competing, doesn't mean she will not be involved in synchronized skating or skating all together.
An organizational communications major with a minor in marketing and event management, Tannah hopes to work in an arena some day.
"My dream job would be to be in charge of marketing and promotions for a professional sports team or coordinate events at a large ice arena," she said. "So we will see where that takes me."
Bryan Rose may be reached via email at email@example.com.