Figure skating team embodies grace and determination

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(Photo courtesy of Marquette Club Figure Skating.)

Ballet, dance, strength, poise and ice are words don’t sound like they belong together, but when those elements are added together, it’s the very definition of figure skating. Raw strength combined with the beauty of ballet and dance can mesmerize anyone watching the performance of a figure skater. 

Many of the members on the club figure skating team found their way to ice skating at a young age and were inspired by others just like Kelly Littau, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences DPT program. 

“I started figure skating when I was six years old. Since my brother played hockey  I always wanted to go to the rink with him. I saw the skating team practicing and I liked the pretty dresses and the beauty of their dancing ice,” Littau said. 

Figure skating doesn’t have to end when college begins. Marquette’s figure skating club has a wide range of members with many who have been ice skating for a long time.

Kristina Chen, a first-year in the College of Nursing, said she has been skating since she was eight years old and wanted to continue in college.

“I was actually looking at Marquette for an extracurricular activity. I saw they had a figure skating club. I wanted to join it and continue my skating and competing but also have new experiences and meet new people,” Chen said.

The club offers skaters the option to continue training and to grow in their skating.

“We all learn from each other and have our own coaches back home so we all bring something different to the ice which helps improve our skills,” Chen said.

Vice President Michaela Brooke, a junior in the College of Health Sciences, said the camaraderie of the team is special.

“I didn’t have the dresses for competitions, but the older members were happy to share theirs with me so I could compete,” Brooke said.

Chen said while it is important to practice and spend time preparing for a competition, it is also important to make time for fun while learning new moves.

“Anyone can join, we went to the outdoor rink and we had fun goofing around and we took videos trying new tricks. It was just so fun and we like to teach other people new moves even if they are not part of the team,” Chen said.

While the team has fun, the end goal is to help its members grow their skill sets and encourage them to compete in other university competitions, Brooke mentioned.

“There’s different ways you can progress through the sport. Typical jumps and spins you see on TV are called moves, which is more like skating skills, so like edges and turns and other sort of footwork elements,” Brooke said.

Group practices are held at Milwaukee School of Engineering Mondays and Pettit National Ice Center Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Marquette’s club team is different from other figure skating clubs, as the team has many seasoned competitors.

Additionally, the club has a National U.S. Figure Skating Ambassador. Amanda Rensch, a second-year graduate student in the College of Health Sciences and the former president and captain of the intercollegiate skating team at the University of Notre Dame.

Rensch is representing Maquette University as the Midwest section ambassador for U.S Collegiate Skating which is a subset in the U.S Figure Skating Association.

Rensch said there are differences in some skating routines that she performs, when she skates with the team and when she is not acting as an ambassador.

“I do freestyle where I go out there and do a program and do jumps and spins and we have some skaters that do ice dance where it’s really focused on edge quality and turns and presentation and choreography,” Rensch said.

Marquette competes at a national level in the Midwest division, and its biggest achievement to date was in the 2019-2020 season.

“We’re in the Midwest division with about 25 schools where three different schools host every year. We placed fourth at a competition and we had enough points that we were alternates to go to nationals in the 2019-2020 season,” Littau said. 

This past weekend, Marquette headed to the University of Miami Ohio for a competition. Brooke said members, including herself, tried out new areas of the sport.

“I’m doing my first ice dance pattern at this competition, which is very scary and exciting because I’ve never done it before,” Brooke said.

Littau said figure skating allows one to express yourself in a way other sports don’t.

“It’s really expressive, you show your emotions and bring that aspect into the sport where a lot of other sports don’t provide that. There’s also the element of artistry and it brings you back to why you started skating,” Littau said. 

This article was written by Catherine Fink. She can be reached at catherine.fink@marquette.edu.