The Troy United figure skating team poses before a competition earlier this year. From left to right are coach Christina Polychronou, Kristina Chen, Deena Aboul-Hassan, Lauren Ferguson, Chloe Cafferty, Rachel Burke, Joy Liao and Emily Rosinski.

The Troy United figure skating team poses before a competition earlier this year. From left to right are coach Christina Polychronou, Kristina Chen, Deena Aboul-Hassan, Lauren Ferguson, Chloe Cafferty, Rachel Burke, Joy Liao and Emily Rosinski.

Photo provided by Jennifer Burke

Troy United figure skaters riding hot streak on the ice

By: Timothy Pontzer | Troy Times | Published February 28, 2018


TROY — Every four years, figure skating gets the country’s full attention.

In Troy, it took nearly a decade for the Olympic staple to be remembered at the prep level.

The Troy United figure skating team fielded a squad this season, comprised of three Troy High students, three Troy Athens students and one from the International Academy. It marked the first time the team hit the ice in nine years.

Under the leadership of Christina Polychronou, the group immediately found its way to the top of the podium. United went undefeated through district play, placing first in three competitions to earn a berth at the Michigan High School Skating state finals March 4 in Bay City.

“I’m a Troy girl through and through, so this is full circle for me,” Polychronou said after a Feb. 19 practice at the Troy Sports Center. “I heard they were bringing this team back, and I definitely wanted to coach or at least help out. To have a Troy team accomplish this is amazing.”

Born and raised in the area, Polychronou graduated from Troy High in 1996. An accomplished skater who trained with the likes of Olympic medalists Tara Lipinski and Michelle Kwan, Polychronou still competes in and has captured four national championships in synchronized skating. She teaches a host of local individual skaters across the area, but was thrilled with an opportunity to lend a hand with her alma mater.

“I’d never done high school coaching before, but I remembered leaving school early to skate until late at night,” Polychronou said. “That was basically my whole teen years. I know how these kids feel when they win after putting all that work in. When you’re not expecting it, it’s even better.”

Under the prep guidelines, teams are classified with an A, B or C based on which tricks and maneuvers they can successfully accomplish on the ice. In its relative infancy, United fields a B squad and a C squad. In the final standings, the B team finished first and the C team was one spot out of a state finals bid, placing third. The club’s district featured other combined squads from Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Rochester and several private schools. The standings are based on all three competitions combined.

“What stands out is that the girls did exactly what they were supposed to do, really without fear,” Polychronou remarked. “They did their elements very well. Some of the girls on the C team were completely new to skating. They showed so much growth in a short amount of time, and everyone is really proud of that.”

Polychronou recalled at the start of the season having her pupils watch YouTube videos of past high school competitions to learn what elements were required. She said taking them to that first competition was surreal, and consistently winning was a remarkable experience.

“We walked into that first competition, and I was sweating and really nervous because we didn’t know what to do,” Polychronou said. “I thought there would be no way we could win because we were the new kids on the block. You have to pay your dues because this sport is very subjective. When we won, we almost all dropped dead. For the second one we wanted to prove it wasn’t a fluke, and by the third we were determined to keep it up.”

In competition, each skater does not complete an entire routine. Instead, specific elements are required to be checked off by the team as a whole. Polychronou picks which girls will compete various spins, jumps and step sequences, which include tricks like rolls and turns.

“A good thing about having such a small team is that every single girl contributes; we can’t replace anyone,” Polychronou explained. “Some of the other teams have 20 to 30 girls, and it’s tough to pick and rotate everybody. With our girls, I can pick them based on what they can do. One girl many not be able to jump but she can spin, and another may not spin but she can do moves in the field.”

Rachel Burke is a freshman at Troy High who is responsible for completing several of the jump elements. She boasts an arsenal of a double salchow, double toe, single axel and a switch-up.

“I like being on a team because you’re with other people as opposed to being by yourself, which is usually what figure skating is,” explained Burke, who has been skating since she was 7. “It’s pretty cool to be on the first team after nine years and already having so much success. (Polychronou) brings us together and has helped us become a winner.”

Joy Liao is a freshman at Athens. She’s one of the chief spinners for United. In her bag of tricks, Liao can pull off a spiral leg lift, Biellmann and back camel.

“Since skating is a largely individual sport, the team aspect makes it a lot of fun,” said Liao, who started skating at 8. “We’re really excited to have already done so much in our first year. I like how this has brought skaters from all over together. I’m confident in our ability to do well at states.”

Polychronou said she will be proud of whatever result comes from states. She said the success the group has already built up has led to interest for next year. United will look to add more skaters, hopefully enough to add an A team as well as its first male competitors. 

“Because we were a new team, a lot of kids were sitting in the background to see how it would work,” Polychronou said. “After doing well, we have a lot of kids that are looking to join. We’re waiting for students to also come up from eighth grade. But it all started with this group, and I’m extremely proud of them.”