With only six skaters, figure skating team debuts with seventh-place finish at BU

Despite a slew of paperwork and faulty hotel directions that left it touring Boston’s northern suburbs, the first ever Williams College figure skating team made its mark in its inaugural competition at Boston University (BU) on Feb. 23. Placing seventh out of 12 teams with only six skaters competing, team members were pleased to have made a strong entry into the world of collegiate figure skating.

“We’re ecstatic, especially when teams like Delaware have twenty skaters and thirty-five starts,” Margaret Ross ’05 said. A start refers to each event a skater is entered in, as most collegiate skating competitions allow skaters to compete in multiple events; Williams skaters managed to garner a total of 13 team points with only seven starts.

As any skater can tell you, a skating competition makes for a long, cold, nerve-wracking day and the BU collegiate competition was no exception.

Skaters in the collegiate level compete on seven different levels, with division in the lower levels determined by skill guidelines and in the upper levels by United States Figure Skating Association tests. Within those levels, there are a variety of categories. These categories are moves in the field, a string of technical maneuvers; dance, a set pattern of strokes performed by every skater to the same music; and free programs, the individually choreographed routines that are most familiar to skating fans.

All of the Williams skaters chose to skate free programs to music that varied from “Last of the Mohicans” to “My Fair Lady.” Team captain Kari Lock ’04 was ambitious enough to tackle both a short and long program, winning her fourth place in the top category of senior ladies.

In addition to Lock’s performance, the Ephs took highest honors on the medals podium thanks to a first place finish from Jacqueline Hom ’04 in the Pre-Intermediate C category. Rounding off the Williams victories of the day were the second place finish by Kate Rutledge ’05 in Pre-Intermediate B and the fourth place finish managed by D’Arcy Robb’s ’03 in Pre-Intermediate A.

The six members of the 2002 team come from a wide range of skating backgrounds. Ross, a senior-level skater, started group lessons at age seven and showed enough talent and enthusiasm for the sport that she entered her first small competition later that same year, skating to the music from Beauty and the Beast.

Bethany Cobb ’02, the team’s only graduating member, grew up occasionally attending public skating sessions, But, she says, “I could skate around in circles. That was it.” That all changed when she began attending Lock’s physical education figure skating class regularly over Winter Study and rapidly learned back crossovers, spirals, spins and single jumps.

Breaking down the terminology, back crossovers are how skaters most frequently move across the ice, with their hips facing backwards and the outside foot crossing over the inside. Spirals, the ballet-esque element favored by Michele Kwan, require the skater to extend one leg high in the air while gliding across the ice. While spins and jumps may seem self-explanatory, there are several different kinds of both elements to be mastered in a skater’s career. Spins are differentiated by the skater’s leg and body position, and jumps by the takeoff position. With the exception of the waltz and axel jumps, skaters take off from a backwards position, with the specific jump determined by which entry rotation and edge of the blade a skater uses to depart the ice. Single, double, triple and quad refer to the number of rotations a skater completes in the air.

Overall, team members see the team’s first year together not only as a positive experience within itself, but a process of building that will enable the Ephs to make an even stronger showing next year.

Rutledge cites the value of competitive experience as a team and learning from more experienced collegiate competitors. “It was good to see what the other teams were doing,” Rutledge said.

Hom has hopes of the Ephs’ qualifying for national figure skating championships as early as next year. Ross speculated that having current team members compete in multiple events and recruiting a few new skaters would significantly raise Williams’ competitive rank.

Cobb emphasizes that last point: “Kari taught me everything; no one should overlook skating because they’re afraid they don’t have the experience.”

While Lock’s figure skating classes will end as soon as Lansing Chapman Rink is converted into tennis courts for the spring season, members of the team plan to begin teaching PE classes as soon as ice is made next fall, and all are welcome to attend.

The members of the team would like to thank Harry Sheehy, director of athletics, and their awesome ‘rink guys’ for their consideration and support. Anyone interested in learning more about figure skating at Williams is encouraged to contact a current team member.