Teams Elite's incredible season: "Mentally, our girls are extremely tough"


Teams Elite winning the gold at the French Cup 2022. (Credits: Ville Vairinen - 2022)

The U.S. Junior Teams Elite has proven itself this 2021-2022 season! Only created in 2018, this team finished 3rd in their first-ever Junior World Championships. Look back with the coaches on a... special season!

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For this season (2021/2022), Teams Elite organization wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, as their teams hadn’t competed in person since US Championships 2020. "We focussed on working hard and doing everything we can with every level. We’re very happy to have been able to win the majority of events at each level this year, including almost a clean-sweep at US Championships," said Jamie Whyte, one of the coaches. 

In the qualifying levels, the Juvenile, Intermediate and Novice Teams Elite finished 1st at US Championships. The Junior team won gold in Free Skate, and finished 2nd overall at US Championships this season. What an achievement for this club located in Northbrook, Illinois, who also has 4 non-qualifying teams (Snowplow, Preliminary, Pre-Juvenile, Open-Juvenile, and Aspire Pre-Preliminary).

The Teams Elite program has been around for 22 years. However, initially in 1999, it was ab ISI recreational program. "In 2013 the program was a hybrid ISI/SUFS program and in 2014 it turned into a full USFS competitive program. The Teams Elite of today is going into its 12th season with a projected number of 10/11 teams," explained Danielle Ostrower, Teams Elite Director and Head Coach.

"The Junior team started in 2018 because it was the next natural step to take in creating a competitive pipeline," said Danielle Ostrower. Teams Elite Junior now trains about 8 hours on ice per week and about 3 hours off ice per week, depending on the time of the season.

The Austrian experience
The Teams Elite can count on a highly qualified coaching staff. Danielle Ostrower, the director and head coach, has a lot of medals and titles in skating and as a skater, Danielle skated on behalf of Chicago Jazz from 1998-2006 and most notably part of Team USA from 2002-2006, earning a World Junior Challenge Cup Bronze Medal in 2006.

Jamie WhyteLauren Roman and Joshua Fischel also bring a lot of experience to the teams and each has their own expertise.

The whole team. (Credits: Teams Elite - 2022)

You just represented the USA at Junior Worlds for the first time this season. Tell us about your incredible rise!

Jamie - The program has been part of the US qualifying levels since 2014, and our teams started medalling at US Championships in 2016.

Lauren - Since 2017/2018 season every one of our teams has medaled at US Championships, along with our Junior Team becoming Team USA in its in augural season, 2018/2019. The success of the junior team has been a team effort including the skaters, coaching staff and parents. We taken in feedback from all areas, yet staying true to what has helped us grow and succeed over the past few years has kept us pushing toward and reaching the goals that we set each season

Jamie - We now find ourselves with a well-established and strong organization; domestically - with all 4 qualifying level teams on the national podium, 3 National Champion teams; and internationally - with the French Cup Champions, a World Junior Medal Team, and ranked 2nd in the ISU World Standings.

Teams Elite junior - Short program. (Credits: Ville Vairinen - 2022)

How was your experience in Austria at the Junior Worlds?

Jamie - Having traveled to many countries around the world for skating, this was my first time in Austria. It felt familiar, having been to Germany (especially compared to Oberstdorf) and Switzerland. Aside from not sleeping much most nights, which has become somewhat of a normality for me at European competitions, I had a great time surrounded by our skaters and coaches. 

As for the skating, the event was everything we’d set our goals for, we came with the goal of getting a world medal, and we left with 3: silver in short, bronze in free, and bronze overall. We’re delighted with our World debut. It was also great to see our competitors all put up great skates and make this such a high-level event; certainly the highlight we’ve been waiting for since evacuating the 2020 World Junior Championships at the start of the pandemic!

Lauren - The experience in Austria ranks at the top of my international skating experiences. The organization of the event was clear as everything ran smoothly, including COVID testing which is no one's favorite! There was such great hospitality in Austria from the hotel, to the rink to all the local shops and restaurants. For our first World Junior competition, I could not have asked for a better location!

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Josh - This was my first time in Austria and Innsbruck was such a warm and welcoming community. The hotel was very intimate and we found so many good restaurants in close proximity. We really enjoyed walking around and exploring the town.

Dealing with rigorous Covid protocols has become normal for us, so the team wasn’t really thrown off by the rounds of daily Covid testing we had to endure. Mentally, our girls are extremely tough. So while testing positive was always in the back of their mind, they were able to compartmentalize everything very well and focus on the goals they had set out to accomplish. To have been on the same ice where history had been made at two Olympics, we got to write our own history having two American teams on the podium at Junior Worlds for the first time.

Teams Elite's Missy Elliott free program. (Credits: Teams Elite - 2022)

Are you satisfied with your performances?

Jamie - Yes! Our girls went out on to the ice and gave everything. One of our main goals for this event was to do what’s in our control and have 2 strong, clean performances.

Lauren - To put together 2 great skates on the world stage was everything we could have asked of the team! We knew they were well trained and prepared, but anything can happen. We are so proud of and happy for them to be able to accomplish their season goals!

Josh - As coaches, it's hard to look at a skate and say we couldn’t have done better. This is a coaching team that never settles. But satisfied? Extremely! Many of the skaters on this team were in England for the last Junior Worlds before we had to withdraw abruptly. This has been a long journey for those ladies who stuck around. It was a goal early on in the season to put ourselves in podium contention. You can only control how you skate so to put out our two highest totals of the year in each segment, we are thrilled!

- What are you planning for next season?

Jamie - There are a lot of plans for next season! Adding new teams is a big part of that.

- Is a Senior or Elite 12 team in the pipeline?

Jamie - We will be adding a senior team starting with the 2022/2023 season. We’re very excited to break in to the senior division, and as always...we have high goals!