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These girls have an ‘Inner Edge’
Icearium-based synchronized skating girls a true ‘team’

How do you motivate a young bunch of synchronized skaters?

“Some of the kids were having trouble remembering our routine, so I said, ‘let’s make a deal:’ If you kids learn all your steps and can perform them perfectly for me, you can have whatever reward you want,” said Margaux Akright, professional figure skating coach at the Icearium and coach of Inner Edge synchronized skating team.

“They could have had a pizza party, I would have given them anything — but all they wanted to do is silly-string the coach.”

Such is the off-the-ice fun that plays a huge role in Inner Edge’s success during its first full season as a competitive team.

Inner Edge is “pre-juvenile” level, or beginner level competitive synchronized skating, for girls ages 8-11. But of the nine girls on the 2007-08 team, all have sound basic skating skills — a must if you try-out and hope to make the team.

Six of the nine girls are from Farragut: Keely Biladeau, Fifi Mahfouz, Maddie Luchsinger, Rachael Kyker and Sophia Henderson. Amelia Adkins lives in Farragut area west of Pellissippi Parkway. Sisters Emma and Olivia Milloway are from Oak Ridge.

“They form a bond off the ice and that translates on the ice,” she said. “Once you’ve formed that bond, you don’t want to break it.

“That’s what I noticed with the team, they started out as nine different skaters ... but by the end of the season it was like they were one, they were the definition of a team,” added Akright, who also teaches ice dancing and freestyle individually.

“They’ve all come a long way individually and as a team.”

Maddie, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Christian Academy of Knoxville, said about the biggest joys of Inner Edge, “Just all the friends and all the friendships we’ve made. It’s a lot of excitement to be on the ice with so many people doing the same, exact things.”

As for why she tried out, “My coach [Akright] really wanted me to do it ’cause she had a fun time when she did it when she was younger. She thought it would be great for me.”

Fifi, an 11-year-old fourth-grader at The Episcopal School of Knoxville, teamed up with her 9-year-old brother, Rasheed, to place fourth during a two-week ice dancing competition/training endeavor in Lake Placid, N.Y., last summer.

Akright said, “It’s actually the largest ice dancing competition in the world.”

Fifi, Inner Edge team captain whose personal coach also is Akright, described why she joined the team: “It’s a lot of fun just skating with the team because I am a single skater —and it’s a lot of fun skating single skater — but it’s a lot funner staking as a team.”

Going to Nashville for the team’s first and only competition, held in late January, Fifi said, “I had a lot of fun competing and watching the other teams. ... I was a little nervous and excited the same moment ... because I’ve never been to a very big competition for synchronized skating before.”

Akright said the goal of competing in Nashville “was to get the kids there to see what’s out there and what they can work up to being.

“They handled it good. ... I couldn’t have been happier. I think it’ll make them better for next year.”

Akright said all of her Inner Edge skaters excel at individual skating to some degree. Amelia, also coached individually by Akright, is a freestyle skater and ice dancer. “Some of them are more competitive than others.”

Akright said Fifi and Amelia have the “most competitive experience” of the nine girls.

“Synchronized skating definitely helps with their individual skating,” Akright added. “It’s good that they can push each other to work harder and get the moves than maybe they don’t have down yet.”

The team routine, lasting about two minutes, involves required moves set to music such as “a circle with footwork, a block with footwork, a pinwheel and the line, intersection,” Akright said. “You have to have choreography, like arms. And their heads have to be the same, and they have to be on the same beat doing the same stuff at the same time.”

Affiliated with United States Figure Skating Association, Inner Edge’s season runs May to mid-February. Practices are from 6 to 7 p.m. each Friday evening year round at the Icearium plus one hour of off-ice practice a week.

Including personal skating, “the more competitive skaters usually put in 10 hours a week.”

Akright, a national championship skater at Western Michigan University in 2001, has been in the Farragut area since 2005. She also was a member of Team USA in 2003 as one of its synchronized skaters who competed internationally, and is a “gold-level” ice dancer.

Though synchronized skating had existed at the Icearium “for a few years,” Akright said she formed a competitive team last year.

“Because I wanted the kids to have the same experience I had,” Akright said. “It’s just an amazing sport. It’s such an adrenaline rush. ... doing jumps and lifts and spins, and just all this speed that you can generate with [up to] 20 people on the ice at the same time.

“I’m hoping to get these kids interested in it at such a young age,” Akright added. “Hopefully by [the time they’re old enough] it’ll be an Olympic sport. “

For the 2008-09 season, Inner Edge has up to 12 openings for skaters, “and I think up to four alternates,” Akright said. “We hope to do a competition by October.”

As for basic tryout qualifications, “Our requirement is you have to be working on Freestyle One [level],” Akright said. “You have to be a strong enough individual skater. ... It may look easy, but it’s a hard sport.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Akright added, emphasizing the girls will learn more about themselves as they learn teamwork, “Which is important when you get in the real world.”

As for expenses, Akright warned team membership in 2007-08 was “expensive, between $600 and $700” per child last season.

However, “Basically you can get your fees paid off if you take to time to do fund-raising,” she added.

The coach said Inner Edge is in need of sponsors so all team practice time can be “on ice” and other talented skaters can afford to be Inner Edge members. “We definitely have the interest,” she said.

As for support, “We have an amazing team manager,” Akright said about Carmia Milloway.

Among “a ton of support” she cited was the late Larry Adkins, father of Amelia who recently died.

“He was always dedicated to the team and would do anything for the girls or the parents. ... He was the skating dad who always brought Amelia to the rink,” Akright said.

For more info on Inner Edge team, call 865-218-4500.


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