Rinkside Chat with the Northernettes

As the Northernettes continue to gain momentum, we sat down with head coach Alana Bianchi as well as two team members, Elsie Gilder and Olivia Romo, to talk about the team’s season so far, creating a strong team culture and their programs this year.

In their seventh year, the Northernettes junior synchronized skating team is on the rise.

At their first international event of the season, 2024 Mozart Cup, the team from Minneapolis, Minnesota, won its second-ever international medal with bronze. Then last weekend, the Northernettes competed in their first-ever Challenger Series event.

As the team continues to gain momentum, we sat down with head coach Alana Bianchi as well as two team members, Elsie Gilder and Olivia Romo, to talk about the team’s season so far, creating a strong team culture and their programs this year.

If you could describe this team in one word, what would it be and why?
Bianchi: Resilient. This team has been unwilling to settle since day one. They really just showed up in May and had big goals, and every single time they come to practice, they want to be pushed harder than the time before. Every competition, they want more. They’ve been really resilient in that way.
Gilder: I agree with that, but also community. I feel like we’ve all really grown and we’re all super close. We’re such a great family.

Going into the season, this is a team on the rise. What are your goals this season?
Romo: We just want to put out our best skates at our competitions and be as competitive as we can.
Gilder: Like Liv said, we want to put out confident, good skates; hit all our levels; and show good overall skating – everything we’ve been working for this season.

You got off to a great start this season at Mozart Cup with the bronze. Talk to me about the team’s experience there.
Gilder: It was a super cool experience to be there with a group of girls that we all love each other. It was so fun. We traveled with everyone and getting to podium and stand there with the crowd was a super cool experience.
Bianchi: The goal was to go and medal. That’s always the goal. They did that by putting out two really strong programs, and that’s all you can ask for is to go out and put out your best skates. When the results end up in a medal and a podium, that’s an incredible experience. These two got to stand on the podium, and as someone who has stood on podiums before, that’s something they’ll never forget. Wearing Team USA on your back is an incredible opportunity and honor.

This is a team only in its seventh year and I know you’re creating traditions. What are some of those traditions?
: On junior, every skater who makes the team gets a numbered shirt, and so we want to make that number as high as possible as we keep adding to the organization and the junior team.
Bianchi: So the first Northernettes junior [member] was No. 1 and then every year that you make the team you get a number that is unique to you. So [Romo and Gilder are] 42 and 43 and we’re up to 73, so it’s a fun way to look at the growth. For skaters coming up through the pipeline – we have novice, juvenile, preliminary – looking to earn their number is something that pushes those skaters to continue to work hard and one day make the junior team.
Gilder: We have some other little traditions like certain songs we have to listen to before we compete, and before each competition, we put a little gold star in our skate as good luck. We also get little Dove chocolates, and we call it our confidence and we read the quotes to each other, so I think those are really fun, little traditions that have been passed up through the team through the years.

Let’s talk about each of your programs and what mindset you take into each one?
Bianchi: They’re both so different that the contrast is really easy to switch in and out. The short is very hard-hitting. We wanted to give them something that they could just go out – right out of the gate. A short program can be difficult to get your feet underneath you because it’s short and it’s quick and it’s the first time you’re going out there. So, it’s something that’s really strong right out of the gate, and then the long you can ease into that and let the emotion take over a little bit more. I think their hair and makeup is drastically different too and I think that helps them get into character quickly.

What’s one thing people should know about synchronized skating that might surprise them?
Bianchi: I could go on and on about this. I think that it’s an incredibly rewarding sport and never to underestimate how incredible it is to have teammates and to have a team. As someone who started as an individual skater, and they started as individual skaters, I think I can speak for all of us that being able to compete and work and train with a team is so rewarding and so incredible to have that community behind you. I wish more skaters would tap into that and go for that because once skaters start synchro and find a place with a team, I think they wish they would’ve started sooner.
Gilder: Coming from being an individual skater, having a team and a support system around you the whole time, it’s so much more rewarding and so much more fun than going out there and skating alone. In individual skating, I would’ve never imagined traveling across the world and competing for my country, so it’s a super rewarding experience.
Romo: It really just opened up a new love for skating I didn’t know I had before.

The Northernettes will look to continue their great season next week at the 2024 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships. To purchase tickets, visit ussynchrochampionships.com.