By attending college in the icy tundra that is Ithaca during the winter, student-athletes are often confined to indoor sports. But that doesn’t mean their opportunities are limited.
With basketball, wrestling and gymnastics offered at the varsity level, athletes typically have numerous opportunities to compete. However, one of winter’s most popular indoor sports, figure skating, was not an option for student-athletes.
That changed when Michelle Denison ’15, Jenny Greenland ’15, Paige Bethmann ’15 and Jackie Campbell ’13 established the Ithaca College Figure Skating Team, a recognized club sport, in November 2012.
Senior Taylor Rescignano, the current team president, said the team’s growth in just a few years has been astounding.
Rescignano, like many other members, has a long history with the sport, as she has been skating since she was 6 years old and competing on and off for 10 years.
Rescignano said she specialized in synchronized skating and ice dance, and has also coached basic skills at Tennity Ice Pavilion at Syracuse University. She no longer competes due to multiple overuse injuries in her knees, hips and feet.
“I was on the team from the beginning, when we barely had enough people to fill a roster,” Rescignano said. “At first, we had a small group of high-level skaters, and dues were sky-high — and close to the normal price for ice time at our home clubs — but this year, we had the chance to be more inclusive and bring people of all levels to the rink.”
Since the club’s inception four years ago, the number of skaters has risen from 10 to 30.
The team is composed of athletes with diverse skating backgrounds. Some members have no experience in the sport, while others have several years of skating under their belts.
Now the team is looking to enter regional competitions in the coming year.
Funding and scheduling conflicts have kept the team from formal competitions in the past. In March, however, the team will be sending sophomores Laura Bretscher and Samantha Brown, the team’s vice president, to SUNY Geneseo for the team’s first formal competition, the 2016 Geneseo Intercollegiate Competition. Brown will be competing in the preliminary free skate, while Bretscher will compete at the novice level in long and short programs.
Despite only being in her second year at the college, Brown said she is impressed by how much the team has evolved over the past year.
“We have seen tremendous growth even just from last year in regards to the number of skaters we have on the ice,” Brown said. “We have also gained a lot of first-time skaters that are learning to skate from some of our veteran skaters, which is a really cool opportunity for us as an instructive club as well as a competitive one.”
While not all members are experienced figure skaters, the team offers the opportunity for all athletes and nonathletes to learn the sport. Without a formal coach, the members are reliant on each other to establish base skills and meet set standards.
“The team is entirely self-coached,” Rescignano said. “Many of us are certified coaches under the U.S. Figure Skating Association, so we can give private or group lessons.”
In order to grow the team, sophomore Courtney Gavurnik, social media manager and event coordinator for the team, said the members have relied on the use of social media and word of mouth to gain exposure around campus while also participating in things like the Relay for Life and holding an annual April skate show.
One of the bigger draws for the team is the skate rental program, in which the team offers skate rentals to those who are interested in skating, allowing inexperienced skaters to try out the sport without fully committing.
Along with expanding reach around the campus community, the team will perform at the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, located at The Rink in Lansing, New York.
Brown said the continued relationship with the CRCFL could help the team grow even more in the coming years, as community support can be a crucial aspect of maintaining a club sport.
In her last year at the college, Rescignano said she functions as a team “mom.” She coordinates rides, organizes team meetings and delegates other team roles.
Going forward, with an established group of members, the team will likely start competing more frequently as fundraising and its exposure expand. Gavurnik said there is a competition in Rochester, New York, this March that a few team members are interested in attending.
For now, though, the team is focused on continuing its growth.
“We hope to be a more well-known team on campus by doing more community service and fundraisers and really be a part of the campus community,” Brown said.