Winning a national championship does not happen every year, and the road to victory is not always easy. Over the past four years, the Cornell figure skating club has been making a name for itself within the collegiate skating community. On March 28-30, the club traveled to Denver, Col. to compete in the National Collegiate Figure Skating Championship.
Cornell entered the competition as the clear underdog. Was it possible for a coachless club to compete against varsity teams from across the country?
The club answered its skeptics with a resounding yes by bringing home a national championship trophy.
Senior co-captain Robin Abraham first saw the potential for a competitive figure skating at Cornell as a freshman when she entered a competition at Boston University. Abraham was the lone competitor representing Cornell. When she arrived, she was surprised to see 20-member teams hailing from up and down the East coast.
Until this point, Cornell’s figure skating club had only been recreational. However, this changed when Abraham met co-captain Kendra Floods. Since then, the two skaters have guided the fledging club to its first national title.
This year, Cornell has had an outstanding season, placing third at Delaware in November, third at BU, and first in the Cornell Invitational. By the end of the season, Cornell had finished third in the Eastern region, which qualified the club for nationals.
As the club prepared for nationals, it maintained an optimistic attitude.
“We knew we had the talent on the team, we knew we could do it,” said Abraham. “I think we are very lucky; our skaters are very good.”
The national championship is comprised of nine schools from the Pacific Coast, Midwestern, and Eastern regions. Cornell called on its 14 skaters to compete in four different events: solo dance, team compulsory maneuvers, freestyle programs, and technical programs.
When the first day of competition ended, Cornell was in first place. With an 11 point lead, the club headed into its final event, team maneuvers. Divided into three levels, Cornell competed and lost at the lowest level, but came back to win the intermediate level and place second in the senior level. Cornell finished the competition with 87.5 points. Delaware, last year’s national title holder, placed second with 80 points, while Miami came in third with a team total of 75.5.
The strength of Cornell’s figure skating comes from skilled athletes at all levels. At nationals, the club entered skaters in the novice, intermediate, and senior levels, which allowed the team to capture the greatest number of points possible in each event.
In the short program, Cornell garnered first and second place wins in both the novice and intermediate levels. Sweeping these two spots in the short program contributed greatly to Cornell’s first-place finish.
“To win a championship, you need athletes not just at the top of the sport; you need strong people at every level. We have that at Cornell because we have so many people,” said Abraham.
Abraham and Floods have each played the role of coach and competitor throughout the season.
“We drive the vans to the meets and we help put the girls on the ice,” said Abraham.
Serving in both capacities is not an easy job for these two seniors, but their love of the sport and a desire to see future Cornell students compete at the collegiate level has carried them through the season.
“This opportunity to continue skating in college is very unique and it’s very new,” said Flood. “We are all skating because we love to skate. I think our team has a very strong sense of camaraderie. We are all very supportive of each other, and I think it might be because we don’t have a coach.”
“This is not something one person can do alone,” Abraham agreed.
Both captains agree that a national championship title should help Cornell gain the recognition it deserves within the college skating community. They hope that their title will broaden the interest level of potential club members, and encourage skaters to keep the trophy on Cornell’s campus.
“I hope that the team keeps going this direction. I think they can have skaters go again to nationals next year,” noted Flood.
To generate publicity and interest in the sport, the club holds open skate nights for Cornell students and the surrounding community.
The road to success this year has included overcoming adversities ranging from practicing and competing without a coach to making use of limited ice time at Lynah Rink. However, by working hard and dedicating themselves to a sport that is both physically and mentally demanding, the skaters have accomplished the unexpected by bringing a national title home to the East Hill.
Archived article by Adrienne Dunbar