New Trier girls skate at international competition

USA synchronized skating team earns top 3 finish in Switzerland


tissot_neuchateltrophy2022 instagram

Team Starlights Juniors, including juniors Kiana Eickbush, Mia Jackson, and freshman Mia Eickbush, compete at the Tissot Neuchâtel Trophy

Juniors Kiana Eickbush, Mia Jackson, and freshmen Mia Eickbush left the country on Feb. 7 for an international synchronized skating competition, earning third place with a total component score of 158.83. The Tissot Neuchâtel Trophy took place on Feb 10-12 in Switzerland, but the students were gone for 7 days. 

Their team, Starlight Juniors, represented the United States as a Team USA Synchro team. The girls had to go through many challenges in order to obtain that title. 

We’ve learned how to attack our programs. This is our ice, this is our program, this is our hard work, and we are going to kill it out there

— Mia Jackson

“But I’m so scared of coming back.”

“This year there were three domestic in-country competitions that every junior team had to attend. You had to get at least 134.1 as a total component score in at least one of them in order to qualify as team USA,” said Jackson. 

Once the team qualified, they were expected to represent the country internationally. Starlight Juniors were originally set to compete at Zagreb Snowflake Trophy competition in Croatia on Feb. 5, but the competition was canceled due to Omicron complications.

“We got reassigned to Sweden, but we got reassigned again for the same reason,” said Mia Eickbush.

However, COVID did not completely deter the Starlights from competing. 

“Sometimes when internationals get canceled, your team doesn’t get moved to another competition, but USA figure skating decides whether or not a team is valuable enough to be reassigned,” said Kiana Eickbush. 

COVID not only affected the competitions, but the sport environment entirely. 

“It was very difficult in the beginning of the season, because we’re a connected sport and we were not allowed to connect for that entire time, so we had to find different ways to connect,” said Kiana. 

According to Jackson, the team had to get creative with finding ways to perform simple tasks on the ice.  

“We weren’t allowed to hold on to each other which is essential for synchro. We had to use pool noodles.”

The Starlights have experienced complications on a smaller level as well. 

“During the entire 2021 pandemic year, we had a big senior leave. So everyone on our team, essentially, is new to the level and the difficulty of the junior level. But I think we’ve really improved a lot, and the [United States Figure Skating Association] sees that and is sending us to an international competition,” said Kiana. 

The competitive nature of Synchronized Skating leads the team to work upwards of 14 hours a week on their programs. 

“During the entire 2020-2021 quarantine, we have been working on the short program. So we’ve been working on the short program for 2 years,” said Kiana. 

The team has been working together since then, and has managed to climb from eighth place to second place domestically since the beginning of their season. 

“Our team has gotten so sharp and so confident these past couple of months. We have learned how to not skate scared. Skate with confidence and know what we’re going to do is going to work,” said Jackson. 

The team describes the experience of competing abroad as very difficult, especially with seven days of absences from school. Jackson says there is little to no time for school work to be done. 

“A lot of teachers think we’re sightseeing, but we’re not really going [to Switzerland] to tour at all. We’re there to compete as Team USA,” said Jackson. “It’s really just eating, skating, sleeping. That’s it.”

Mia also felt that teachers don’t understand that skaters don’t have free time while away. 

“ We have to focus on skating because if we’re not set on winning then it’s not gonna happen.” 

The girls are excited to compete for their country, if not worried for the school work waiting for them when they arrive back home. 

“We’ve learned how to attack our programs. This is our ice, this is our program, this is our hard work, and we are going to kill it out there,” said Jackson. “But I’m so scared of coming back.”