Gaff Skates to a National Championship

March 31, 2011

-By Cary Shuman

Kyleigh Gaff has in her possession what college athletes pursue at the start of every season: a national championship.

Gaff and her teammates on the Miami (Ohio) University synchronized skating collegiate team outpointed 11 other collegiate teams and one independent team to win the national title in Ontario, California.

It’s the ultimate achievement in the athletic career of Gaff, a Lynnfield High School Class of 2009 graduate who learned how to skate when she was three years old.

The 19-year-old daughter of John Gaff, Delta Airlines department manager at Logan International Airport, and Deborah Gaff,  Kylie began taking private lessons under the direction of instructor Roberta Bailey at O’Brien Rink in Woburn. Gaff took her noteworthy talents on the ice to the Winchester Figure Skating Club at the Ice Palace in Burlington and continued to work under Bailey’s tutelage.

She began skating in major competitions in the junior division and in 2001 moved on to the The Skating Club of Boston where she trained with coaches Peter Johansson and Mark Mitchell.

In her sophomore year in high school, Gaff reached a gold-medalist level in her U.S. figure Skating tests for moves and freestyle skating but opted to pursue synchronized skating, a team sport, thus forgoing her individual aspirations for the Olympics.

Gaff joined the Lexettes skating team at the Hayden Recreation Centre in Lexington and eventually helped lead the team to a fifth-place finish in an international competition in Rouen, France.

Gaff displayed her versatility when she earned a spot on the Lynnfield varsity softball team as an outfielder.

But the 5-foot-5-inch athlete never left her skates far behind. She stayed active with the Lexettes and upon her arrival at Miami University, she earned a spot on the synchronized skating team and it has been a rewarding experience.

“I knew I was going to miss skating and I feel I’ve made the right choice to continue my skating career in college because I have the best of both worlds: I’m getting a great education and planning for my future and I’m doing what I love and my best friends are my teammates on the skating team,” said Gaff.

Gaff, a sophomore communications major, said the team’s national championship is a memory she’ll cherish long after her graduation.

“It’s a hard feeling to explain because when you’re growing up skating, you always want to be a national champion or an Olympic champion,” said Gaff. “It was a bittersweet feeling because I’ve always dreamed of becoming a national champion and now I actually got one and it was for my college so it meant a lot.”

Carla DeGirolamo, head coach of the Miami University synchronized skating team and Class of 2003 graduate of the school, said Gaff was a major contributor to the team’s success this season, excelling as a full-line skater, meaning she skates in all of the events at every competition.

DeGirolamo recognized Gaff’s leadership abilities and work ethic and the respect she has earned from her teammates and named her a captain of the Miami junior team.

“Kyleigh has an infectious enthusiasm and energy that we were really looking for in a leader, someone who can rally the troops and motivate them and keep them energized through a long season,” said DeGirolamo, “Her teammates admire her.”

DeGirolamo said Gaff is a highly skilled athlete whose self-confidence and grace under pressure pay big to the team during its four-minute skating performances.

“Kyleigh is a very strong athlete,” said DeGirolamo. “She has great power and great attack on the ice. In our sport, performance is an important part of what we do and she’s definitely not a shy girl which comes in handy as she’s very well able to engage the audience in her performance.”

Gaff praised DeGirolamo for leading the team to the national championship, the school’s record-setting seventh in a row.

“We have an awesome coach,” said Gaff. “She has an amazing knowledge of the sport and really helps us excel in what we have to do to improve and what we have to do to win.”

The synchronized skating team performs during intermission at Miami University hockey games  twice a semester. “We’ve got a great crowd that loves hockey and loves to see the skating and it’s one of the few times that they actually get to see our girls perform because we don’t have any home events,” said DeGirolamo.

Reflecting on her many successes in her skating career, Kyleigh Gaff said she couldn’t have attained the  level of excellence she has in the sport without the support and encouragement of her parents.

“I have completely enjoyed figure skating from my youth until now,” said Gaff, who has a younger brother, T.J., a Lynnfield High athlete. “My parents have been so supportive and I really appreciate everything they have done for me. They came to every one of my competitions. It’s so much fun to see them in the stands and see them cheering us on and interacting with the skating team.”

  • Patty Neff

    Thats my niece SO PROUD GO KYLEIGH LOVE YA