When the academic buildings at Ithaca College dim for the night, just seven miles away The Rink in Lansing, New York, is illuminated with both bright light and excitement, as Ithaca College figure skating club members lace up their skates and step on the ice with blades 4 millimeters thick and perform cutting moves with power and beauty.
The club gets together from 9:15 to 10:30 p.m. on Monday nights throughout the academic year to practice their twists, leaps and twirls at The Rink, which is rented out by the team during that time. When the participants enter the ice, they spread around the arena, sometimes using the boards for balance, and stretch their muscles before they begin their practice.
Unlike other club sports at the college, the figure skating program does not run drills or other formal practice session activities. Instead, members can skate at their own pace without any enforcement from a coach. This allows the club to attract beginners who are just learning how to skate, as well as members who have skated their whole lives.
This range of talent allows for a spectacle of experienced skaters to leap in the air and land flawlessly while others are just getting used to being on the ice.
Senior club president Noelle Sullivan, who has been with the club for four years, said the figure skating club provided her with the opportunity to reinvigorate her passion for skating.
“When I was really young, I used to figure skate all the time, but it got too expensive, so I had to stop,” Sullivan said. “When I got to college, the figure skating team was a cheap, affordable way to skate again.”
The club currently costs $100 per semester for each member, which includes free skate rentals. The dues also go toward renting out the ice. By comparison, competitive figure skating at the youth level can have costs as high as $10,000 dollars per year, a price which combines the need for coaching, travel, costumes and more demands for the typically high-intensity sport.
For others, the figure skating club was a main factor in choosing the college. Sophomore vice president Victoria Garritt, who had skated for years prior, said the club played a role in her decision to attend the college. Garritt said she started competing at the age of seven in multiple competitions, as well as season shows, every year until ninth grade. She has skated recreationally ever since.
“Even though I have skated at a high level for so long, the team is really fun to be a part of and is such a part of my college life,” Garritt said.
Since the club’s creation in 2012, it has grown from 10 to 20 consistent club members and even includes more people who show up occasionally to enjoy the free skate.
“Our team is welcoming of all skaters,” Sullivan said. “We consider the team to be a fun, laid-back environment for all skaters. You do not need to be a high-level figure skater to enjoy the team.”
Sullivan runs the team practices because there is no official coach for the figure skating club. Although the team does not offer specific lessons, many of the members have taught before and have experience working with beginners. Sullivan said the experienced members are more than inclined to help out inexperienced skaters.
“Many of the girls have taught before, and we let new skaters know that they would be happy to take the time to teach people new things,” said Sullivan. “We do not want anyone to be discouraged from joining because they think they can’t skate.”
The biggest night for the team is the Open Skate Night, an event held once a semester where people who are not members can walk on and skate at a discounted price of $8. The event for Spring 2019 will take place from 9:15 to 10:30 p.m., Feb. 25 at The Rink.
“This [Open Skate Night] is probably our biggest event of the semester for us since it’s normally our largest number of people who show up,” Garritt said. “It allows for people who don’t feel like paying the full semester price to come and enjoy free skate at a discount.”
Sophomore fundraising chair Ashley Hull said she tried to establish an entertaining, tight-knit community during practices.
“The team is a really good way to relieve stress,” said Hull. “Since the team is small, we really try to create a fun atmosphere for all the members of the team.”
At practice, the members often skate in large groups in a line formation, circling around the rink while talking to one another and listening to pop music over the speakers.
The team has tried to incorporate fun activities and games like races during practice. Sullivan also said that the team wants to set up a pickup hockey game in the future.
“Some people come every week and keep to their small group of friends,” said Sullivan. “We try to allocate some of our budget towards fun games we can play on the ice to get people more involved with one another.”
Hull said that joining the club opened her up to a community that was open and friendly, one she was not aware existed at the college until she joined the team.
“Joining the club really helped me meet new people, and some of my closest friends are from the team,” said Hull. “I see this team as a really nice way to meet people with common interests.”
Sullivan said the club provides a refreshing start to every week and helps relieve the stress from schoolwork. She said it helps her get excited for Mondays, even though she has a long week of school work ahead.
“The team serves as a nice break to all the stress of being a college student,” said Sullivan. “It is a really nice way to start off the week by meeting and talking to new people.”
Although the club does not officially compete as a unit, Sullivan said she tries to let people know where there are local competitions taking place. If there are enough team members participating, the editorial board will fund the trip and show support for people competing, Sullivan said.
There are no official competitions currently scheduled for this upcoming semester, but Sullivan mentioned that four of the current members have competed in competitions in Rochester, New York, during their time at the college.
The club is largely female–dominated and only has one consistent male member. Junior member Robert Melikyan said he was initially nervous joining the club of all women.
“When I first joined the team, it was somewhat uncomfortable being the only male,” Melikyan said. “I felt like it would stop the girls from opening up.”
However, Melikyan said he was proven wrong.
“It was unexpected how they accepted me almost immediately,” said Melikyan. “The team really feels like a family.”
The team’s main focus for the future is to build membership and make the club more accessible.
“The club has become much more organized financially and has become a more team-friendly environment,” said Sullivan. “We have had rollover in the budget which allows for cheaper team dues and hopefully will allow more people to join in the future.”