People who meet Kristen Crandle might be surprised to find out she is not an ice skater.
A board member of the Greater Kalamazoo Skating Association, Crandle is co-chairing, with Amy Wood, the committee organizing the U.S. Figure Skating 2019 Midwestern & Pacific Coast Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships, which will be held at Wings Event Center from Jan. 31–Feb. 3.
This event, hosted by the GKSA, will bring at least 155 teams to Kalamazoo to battle it out before the national competition, to be held in Plymouth, Michigan, less than a month later. A total of 7,000 attendees — including the 15- to 16-member teams, plus coaches, judges and spectators — are expected to come to Kalamazoo.
Crandle, 50, is no neophyte at competitions of this type: She is also the organizer of the annual Kick-off Classic competition, which brings regional synchronized skating competitors of all levels to Kalamazoo each November.
When did you first get involved with synchronized skating?
My kids all started learning to skate when they were about 4 or 5 years old. I have a 21-year-old daughter (Madeline) who does synchronized skating at Adrian College now; she started (synchronized skating) when she was 8 or 10 years old. So it has been at least a dozen years that we’ve been involved with synchronized skating here in Kalamazoo.
Why did they start skating?
My son (Austin) thought about playing hockey, so he got into GKSA’s Learn to Skate program. So then the sister right behind him (Madeline) got dragged along. And then the one who is now a freshman at Portage Northern (Mallory) just kind of got dragged along to all her sister’s stuff. I don’t know if she really had a choice, but she does love it. We’re just a hockey and skating family and have spent most of our time at one of the rinks in town.
What makes synchronized skating interesting to you?
It’s so exciting. You’ve got these teams that are so advanced they’re doing lifts at high speed on the ice and they’re intersecting and they’re flying around the ice with 16 skaters criss-crossing. It’s just really exciting in a different way than individual skating. It’s pretty impressive, and once people see it, they’re like, “Wow, why isn’t this in the Olympics?”
How did you end up getting involved with GKSA?
Once Madeline was old enough to join the club and be on a team, her coach nominated me to be on the Kalamazoo Figure Skating Club’s board of directors. I was elected the first year, and pretty much ever since, I was on the KFSC board of directors. After we merged with another skating club, the Greater Kalamazoo Skating Association, I stayed on the board.
I enjoy organizing things and logistics, so when Cory Thompson, who was the chairperson for the Kickoff Classic for about eight years, needed to turn it over to somebody, he asked me if I would consider doing it. So for the last four years I’ve been the Kickoff Classic chairperson.
Why did you accept the nomination to be on GKSA’s board?
I really didn’t know enough to say no, and I like to get involved in whatever my kids are involved in. But the families that you work with and get to know are just a really great group of people. Because I’ve been around for a long time, with both my older daughter and my younger daughter, I have developed these friendships with lots of other parents that have spanned many years, and one of the things that’s neat is that on our committee for the Kalamazoo Classic are parents whose kids have quit skating and are graduated, gone, and they’re still on the committee because we all enjoy being around each other.
How did Kalamazoo get to host the sectionals this year?
We decided to bid for the 2013 sectional and got it for the first time. It’s an event with a large number of participants, because it’s Pacific Coast and Midwest teams both coming to one location. In 2016 we got the bid to host the national championships, which was exciting, and then we bid to host sectionals again (for 2019) and got it.
Why is this event important to you?
This year it’s really exciting because sectionals is here in Kalamazoo, and nationals is about three or four weeks later over in Plymouth, so it’s really a neat opportunity. And my daughter is a senior in college, so it’s her last year and she’ll be skating at sectionals here in Kalamazoo and then at nationals. It’s exciting to follow her team when I get the chance.
Are you a skater?
No, I grew up in Coldwater and only got to ice skate whenever a nearby lake would freeze during the winter.
– Interview by Adam Rayes