Juanita Bettendorf rubbed her hands together to warm them, carefully adjusting the focus on her video camera. She reset the tripod to get a panoramic view of the ice rink, then picked up her program. Her daughter, senior Brittany Bettendorf, founded the Northwestern University Synchronized Skating Team three years ago but has been skating for much longer.
“She’s been skating since she was two,” Juanita said. “They gave me the smallest pair of skates, and we put a couple pairs of socks underneath and pushed her off.”
The exhibition opened with a group performance to an Aretha Franklin medley, as team members dashed around the ice rink. The skaters wove in and out between each other and held hands in a game of crack-the-whip.
None of these skills come easily, said Peter Parcell, director of the NU Club Sports program.
“I expect to see a showcase of their talents, some playful acts, [but] I don’t think anybody just picked up this kind of thing,” Parcell said.
This year the team competed at the Midwestern Sectional Championships and the Mid-America Synchronized Skating Competition, placing first at both events.
Current president Corey Merrill, a junior in Weinberg, said the competitions were a great opportunity for the team to bond because winning both events gave them the bragging rights as the best synchronized skating team in the Midwest.
“It was a great chance to show your stuff,” she said. “It’s been the most fun I’ve had at Northwestern.”
Twice a week, The Purple Line has hour-long practices, which costs $150 each, Parcell said. He also said the team gave students who skated as children an opportunity to pursue that interest.
“[It's great that they do] not have to totally give it up,” Parcell said.
At the exhibition, Bettendorf skated a solo performance to a lively Cuban number, executing single jumps and a difficult Bielmann spin. Her mother said both of Brittany’s older siblings skated as well, but Brittany “kept up with it longer than the others.”
Medill junior Katie Holland said she previously thought about trying out when she heard about the team, because she skated for six years.
“I used to do synchronized skating myself,” she said. “That’s what I really enjoyed.”