Fifteen years since their last qualification, the Cornell Figure Skating Club’s competition team placed eighth at the 2023 National Intercollegiate Final, accumulating eight medals and taking home gold in one category.
The Cornell Figure Skating Club sent its 25-member competition team to the University of California, Los Angeles from Friday, April 14 to Sunday, April 16 to compete at the national competition. The final is the highest-ranking collegiate figure skating competition and is hosted annually by the United States Figure Skating Association.
The competition team won gold at the NIF during their first visit in 2003. Their most recent qualification occurred in 2008 when they placed fifth overall. This year, they placed eighth out of sixteen teams total.
The nation’s undergraduate figure skating clubs are divided into the four regional conferences of Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and Pacific Coast. Cornell’s team is located in the Northeast division, where some of the highest-ranking figure skating programs in the nation compete — including Boston University, New York University and Dartmouth College.
Qualifying for the NIF involved the CUFSC participating in three regional competitions at New York University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Skating Club of Utica, respectively. The competition team fulfilled the Figure Skating Association’s requirement of placing in the top four teams at each event, securing them a spot in the NIF along with fifteen other teams.
The competition was divided into forty-three events under seven categories — free skate, free dance, pattern dance, short program and high, intermediate and low team maneuvers. These categories were divided by gender and then into different subclassifications that represented various dance styles and skill levels, such as the quickstep, starlight waltz and silver samba.
The competitors spanned all class years and skill levels, but the Cornell team largely consisted of freshmen and sophomores skaters due to an influx of membership following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everyone on the team is completely new and [had not] gone to Nationals before,” Victoria Whittle ’25 said. “We knew we were in a [competitive] region, but we weren’t exactly sure what to expect.”
“It was my first time traveling far for a competition,” said Ciara Flaherty ’26. “The competition was a lot more unpredictable because we couldn’t gauge how people from other schools [would perform].”
Preparation for the championship required hours of dedication from participants. Their practices even overlapped with school breaks, according to Whittle.
“I skated over [spring] break, at practices three times a week, public skate and while working as a teacher’s assistant for a P.E. class,” Whittle said. “It ranged from five to eight hours per week on the ice.”
The team is led by head coach Robyn Bentley, who is also a figure skating physical education instructor at Cornell. Bentley coached the skaters in preparation for the competition and provided skaters with access to outside coaching due to Lynah Rink’s limited hours.
The team’s commitment paid off, winning them numerous medals across multiple categories. The team accumulated one gold medal in the senior men’s championship free skate to Nick Hsieh ’25, three silver medals and four bronze medals.
The competition team went to the NIF collectively with the goal of scoring in the top ten, and they were ecstatic to learn they had placed eighth.
“It was such a core memory [to hear] our final result be announced and realize we were in the top half,” Whittle said.
The team hopes to compete in the NIF again in the future and encourages prospective skaters to consider joining the CUFSC, either generally or competitively.
“We want to welcome [new skaters] and help them get to competitions,” Bentley said. “When people love and enjoy skating, the [competitive] environment is different and more enjoyable for those involved.”