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First-ever HBCU figure skating team set to make history at competition this weekend

Seven members of Howard University's newly formed figure skating team are heading to an intercollegiate tournament, marking a milestone for HBCUs.
Howard University's figure skating team
Posted at 8:44 AM, Feb 22, 2024

This weekend, teams from across the country will gather at the University of Delaware for their chance at a trophy in an intercollegiate figure skating tournament. One of them, however, will be making history no matter how they score.

In 2024, Howard University is fielding the first-ever figure skating team from a historically Black college or university. You can see the team above with Diversify Ice founder Joel Savary.

The team is led by co-founders Maya James and Cheyenne Walker, shown below, who recently spoke with U.S. Figure Skating about the formation and ambitions of the team.

U.S. Figure Skating

“I think what really was my driving passion to get this club up and running was the fact that figure skating is such an amazing sport, but not everybody has access to it,” Walker said. “Especially being on an HBCU campus, I thought it was so important for us to bring not only the sport to the campus but [make] sure it’s accessible and for everyone.”

Putting a team or club together might be easier than many colleges might think. Member Ariel Clarke only found out there were other figure skaters at Howard when she joined the team, telling U.S. Figure Skating that she thought she was the only one and later learned that teammate Gabrielle Francis thought the same. It turns out Howard had quite a few figure skaters — they just weren’t readily visible to each other.

“So, if there is another HBCU that feels like they should create a figure skating team or is inspired by our story, I think that would bring a lot of the current skaters on those campuses together to create a powerhouse of HBCU skaters,” Clarke said.

U.S. Figure Skating

James and Walker formed the team with the help of Diversify Ice, a nonprofit that mentors skaters from minority communities. They say it took some convincing on their part to convince Howard University to take them on as an official team, especially since the college does not have an ice rink of its own. They made it happen, though — a post about the team on Howard’s official Facebook account in November shared that the team is now “officially recognized and funded by Howard University.” The team currently holds practices at a rink in College Park, 10 miles away from the campus.

Seven of the 14-member team will compete in Delaware this weekend, just in time to add another milestone to Black History Month.

“There’s not that many of us out there on the ice making a difference,” Francis told U.S. Figure Skating. “I just want people to know no matter what you look like, the ice is for you.”

This story originally appeared on Simplemost.