Kicking Some Ice

Synchronized skating team includes Saco residents and John Niles Merrill

By Garrick Hoffman, Staff Writer

Maine’s only adult synchronized skating team, The DownEasters. From left to right is Clelia Sigaud (Saco), Lynne Cote (Saco), Nina Sylvia (West Bath), MinAh Kim (South Korea/Bates College), Sue Gagne- Rousseau (Lewiston), Sarah Holmes (Cumberland), John Niles Merrill, coach and skater (Augusta), Chelsea Ferk (Saco), Sarah Lawsure (Scarborough), Heidi Coffin, team manager and skater (Brunswick), Suzanne Gagne (Harpswell) and Maureen Matatall (Naples). Not pictured is Elaine Letourneau (Saco). (Courtesy Heidi Coffin) SACO – After just one competitive season, Maine’s only adult synchronized skating team, the DownEasters, has returned home with two gold medals and a bronze medal.

Composed of 11 skaters – including four from Saco – and led by Coach John Niles Merrill, the DownEasters performed in four competitions and traveled as far as Hershey, Pennsylvania – where the U.S. Figure Skating Eastern Synchronized Skating Championships took place – to compete. Merrill said the 11 skaters range from ages 19 to 63, with a median age of 43.

Clelia Sigaud, 27, of Saco is a skater for the DownEasters and has been skating since she was 13. Sigaud said she’d like to see the DownEasters expand by splitting into more competitive divisions and recruiting more skaters, saying it would be “a winwin for everyone.” (Garrick Hoffman photo) The skaters from Saco include Clelia Sigaud, Chelsea Ferk, Lynne Cote and Elaine Letourneau.

The DownEasters practice one day a week at Norway Savings Bank Arena in Auburn because of the skaters’ tight schedules and diverse, spread-out living locations, Merrill said.

“This goes against even my better judgment,” Merrill said with a laugh, “but it has worked. To look at it on paper, or when they said it to me last year, I said we can’t do this. You’ve got to skate twice a week.”

DownEasters skaters come from towns such as Naples, Brunswick and Augusta, where Merrill lives. One skater comes from New Hampshire.

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