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Quaker Valley alums look to future of synchronized skating

| Monday, July 10, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Twin sisters Annie and Sarah Volk stand for a photo at Robert Morris University Island Sports Center on Thursday, May 25, 2017. Annie and Sarah will be continuing their figure skating careers this fall at University of Delaware and Ohio University, respectively.

Incoming freshmen Annie Volk and Sarah Volk expect to skate through college.

But that doesn't mean they think their classes will be easy.

Annie Volk will be a member of the University of Delaware synchronized skating team. Sarah Volk plans to try out for the Ohio University synchronized skating team.

Annie Volk said she has a passion for synchronized skating and is excited about making her college team and being able to continue her participation in the sport.

“It's just such a great community to be around,” she said.

Synchronized skating involves a group of skaters who are connected and do different elements, she said. They do choreographed routines on ice as synchronized swimmers do in water.

The 18-year-old twins graduated from Quaker Valley High School in June and have been on the Steel City Blades synchronized skating team, based at Robert Morris University's Island Sports Center in Neville, for many years. They are the daughters of David and Steel City Blades coach Karen Volk of Leet.

Both sisters were Steel City Blades skaters when the team won the U.S. Figure Skating Eastern Sectional championship in 2014.

Last August, each earned a U.S. Figure Skating gold medal in the category of moves in the field, which involves different types of footwork. Earning a gold medal on a U.S. Figure Skating test is similar to earning a black belt in karate, according to the organization's website.

Annie Volk said footwork — a series of steps and turns choreographed to music — is her favorite part of skating.

She said that while a lot of colleges have synchronized skating teams, “sometimes you get lucky,” and the college a skater wants to attend has a strong one, such as Delaware.

The requirements for synchronized skating at the college level are more advanced than what she has done in the past, she said.

“I think it's going to be a lot more physically demanding and time consuming,” said Annie Volk, who is undecided on a major but is leaning toward business or marketing. “You definitely have to have a passion for it.”

Wendy Deppe, one of the Delaware team's coaches, said the team has an hour of conditioning, an hour of practicing moves on the floor and two hours of skating on Mondays, an hour and 20 minutes of skating Tuesdays, and an hour of ballet and two hours of skating Thursdays to prepare for competitions.

Megan O'Donnell, the team's other coach, said Delaware has won the Eastern Sectional 18 times and has placed second, third or fourth at nationals several times in the past 10 years.

O'Donnell, 46, of Newark, Del., where the university is located, said Volk takes correction well, which is really important in synchronized skating.

Deppe, 50, also of Newark, said Volk appears to be willing to work hard.

“She also seems to have both attitude and eagerness and wants to improve, as well,” Deppe said.

While Delaware's team was founded in 1979 and has professional coaches, Ohio's team is newer and student run.

Coach Anne McBride is a senior at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and a member of the team, which she said formed in the early 2000s. She said the team frequently medals at competitions when it can go but can't always afford to go to major competitions, such as sectionals, if they are far away.

The team practices four or five hours a week, and she hopes to have a full 16-member squad this year, she said.

McBride, 21, of North Olmsted, Ohio, said Sarah Volk came to a practice and had a chance to see how the team works. Several team members know her from skating with her in the past, McBride said.

“I'm very excited for her to come and try out,” she said.

Sarah Volk will be in the Ohio University's College of Arts and Sciences but has not decided on a major.

She said she enjoys being part of the community of synchronized skating and thinks the prospect of being on a student-organized team is great.

“I just love all the close friends that I've made, and I love the feeling I get when I perfect a jump or a spin,” she said.

Sarah Volk said her favorite skating moves are jumps, particularly the triple Lutz, and camel spins. In a camel skin, one of the skater's legs is extended backward with the knee above hip level.

While their mother got them started in ice skating, she and her sister decided for themselves to pursue it with the fervor they have, she said.

“Solely having a mom who's a figure skater doesn't make someone love it,” she said.

Madelyn Dinnerstein is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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