Freshman excels at skating
While most Dartmouth students will be spending the majority of December at home relaxing after a stressful term, freshman Amy Stetson will remain in Hanover to skate with some of the world's finest figure skaters in Dartmouth's annual ice show.
Stetson, who is considered one of the finest young figure skaters in the region will be skating on Dec. 15 with World Champion skaters Lloyd Eisler and Isabelle Brasseur, two-time Latvian National Champion Konstantin Kostin and professional U.S. dance couple Ron Kravette and Amy Webster.
While the idea of performing along with the world's greatest would intimidate almost anyone, Stetson feels at ease when she is on the ice. The freshman phenom has skated with U.S. Olympic Silver Medalist Nancy Kerrigan and other well-known figure skaters. Stetson attributes her success to being able to watch and learn from her coaches and professional and Olympic skaters.
"Unlike in many sports where there are many fine facilities to play, " she said, "figure skating only has five good training centers in the entire country. It is quite normal to be on the ice with skaters like Kerrigan because there are only so many places to skate. This is a great opportunity for me and other young skaters, though, as we get to learn from our idols."
Stetson began her illustrious skating career at the age of four. "Growing up in Clinton, New York, everyone takes skating lessons," she said. "No one plays soccer or lacrosse. We all skate." When she was eight years old, Amy began competing in regional competitions and was skating five times a week by the time she was ten.
When Stetson turned 13, she was offered an opportunity to spend the summer in Cape Cod training with U.S. Olympic Trainers Evy and Mary Scotuold, a duo that trains Kerrigan and former U.S. great Paul Wiley.
"Training with Evy and Mary was the opportunity of a lifetime," Stetson said. "I learned to compete yet have fun while doing it. When you have a wonderful set of coaches, the workouts can be very fun and creative."
Stetson's figure skating career became jeopardized when her family moved to Oneonta, N.Y. when Stetson was in eighth grade. Since the closest rink was an hour and one half away from her home, Stetson was forced to wake up five times a week at four in the morning.
"The commuting was extremely grueling," Stetson said. "It showed me how much work is required to be a competitive figure skater. That was what I thought I wanted."
The next year, Stetson left home to train full-time in her hometown of Clinton. In order to practice, Stetson finished all of her core courses in the morning so she could devote her afternoons to training. Although she was one of the top-ranked regional skaters at the time, Stetson soon grew tired of her rigorous schedule and wanted to move back with her family.
"I was only seeing my family once a month," she said. "It was horrible. Although I loved skating, I realized that if I wanted to go to college, I would have to devote more time to my school work."
Stetson returned to Oneonta for her junior and senior years of high school and dropped her competition total to two or three events per year.
"To be a top junior," Stetson said, "you really need to spend all of your time practicing. I was skating against girls who were taught at home or high-school drop outs. I realized that I did not want to be solely a skater all of my life."
In her first year at Dartmouth, Stetson is teaching figure skating for physical education and is practicing about an hour or so a day. When asked if she ever thought about pursuing a career in skating, Stetson laughed.
"When I was younger, everyone used to ask me about the Olympics," she said. "Honestly, I don't know if I could ever be an Olympian. The athletes seem to get younger every year so perhaps my time is up. I made a conscious decision, though, to focus on academics and not go the figure skating route. Perhaps I will teach skating on the side."
Stetson's true goal, though, is to develop an NCAA skating program to encourage young skaters to stick with their education.
"Since colleges don't sponsor skating clubs or varsity teams, there is not much of an incentive for many young skaters to strive for college," she said. "Right now, college skating is nonexistent. If they knew that they could skate four more years if they hit the books, it would benefit them in the long run."
Based on the publicity of the Winter Olympics Figure Skating events in 1994, college figure skating could arguably be quite popular.
"Skating is great to watch because it is very beautiful," Stetson said. "It is more like art than a sport."
If skating ever becomes a sport at Dartmouth, most likely the mind of Amy Stetson will be behind its creation.