This article is featured in the 2024 Winter Carnival special issue.
A six-time national championship-winning team, Dartmouth Figure Skating is one of the most decorated club sports teams at Dartmouth. Last year, the Big Green skaters finished fifth at the 2023 National Intercollegiate Final, following their fourth-place finish the year before. They won the championship five consecutive times from 2004 to 2008 and were most recently national champions in 2012. With only a few Dartmouth club sports teams qualifying to travel to national competitions every year, figure skating is a true standout.
At the end of the fall term, the team traveled to New York University in Monsey, New York to compete in the Violet Ice Classic 2023 — their first competition of the season, according to team member Rowan Martey ’26. They received second place.
“I think we went in with a strong start to our season,” Martey said. “We had the whole [fall] term to get our team together, and we had our new [members], which we were really excited about. We went out there, and every single person did really great with their starts. We ended up in second place, which was super exciting and set us on track to qualify for nationals.”
Co-captain Grace Chen ’24 said she always looks forward to annual Nationals competitions because she gets a chance to see her friendly competitors and indulge in the thrill of a shared passion.
“The atmosphere of competitions in general is just great,” Chen said. “At Nationals, it’s amazing because there are 16 teams in total. We often know a couple of other skaters at other teams … just competing with them and seeing them all the time. So, we’re buddies with other colleges. We always cheer for other schools, too.”
Even though the team had a great time at Nationals last season, they nearly didn’t qualify, according to team member Elena Luria ’25.
“We were sitting in fifth place going into our last national qualifier,” Luria said. “There are three [competitions] each season and then nationals. We very barely edged out the fifth place team after that competition to make nationals.”
Chen credited the achievements of the team to coach Jacki Smith.
“Our coach is great,” Chen said. “We sign up for lessons with her every week. She’s a great support, as she is not only helping us improve technically but also artistically. Also, she’s just a great person to be around, to talk to.”
Even though figure skating is an Olympic sport, the National Collegiate Athletic Association does not recognize figure skaters as NCAA athletes. However, there is a possibility that this might change, according to figure skating team members.
“I think there’s a lot of potential for it,” Luria said. “Just look at gymnastics, I think that’s the most similar sport. I think it could bring a lot of revenue for them, too.”
Martey said that many skaters would benefit from figure skating being recognized by the NCAA because that would mean that universities could recruit skaters to their teams.
“It would give a lot of opportunities to people,” Martey said. “One of the things that a lot of teams struggle with is getting enough funding and getting the support from the school, and [figure skating teams] have to do a lot of that on their own. Being varsity and D1 would provide that opportunity to dozens and dozens of people, especially with recruitment. I think that’s another big thing that could be a possibility. I’m very hopeful that in the future, figure skating can become varsity.”
Various skaters reflected on their own experiences joining the team. While some knew that they were destined to figure skate at Dartmouth even before coming to campus, others rediscovered their passion after the fact. Ultimately, the team’s camaraderie brought everyone together.
Martey said she knew about the team in high school because she met the team on a campus visit.
“When I first came to campus, I was supposed to meet with just the president [of figure skating], and then the entire team ended up coming and just saying hi to me,” Martey said. “That was definitely one of the deciding factors for me because the fact that the entire team came for a prospective student they didn’t even know was super huge. That made me realize I want to be here.”
For other team members, the team has helped rekindle their love for the sport.
“I didn’t really know if I wanted to keep skating after high school,” Luria said. “Skating in high school really burns you out because there’s a lot of focus on high achievement at a young age. By the end of senior year of high school, I was really burnt out with the sport, and I wasn’t sure if I could have fun with it again. Now, I love the sport again, and I want to enjoy it again, which I never would have had if I had just been [at] another college.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges.Chen joined figure skating when she was a freshman and experienced an unusual season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We didn’t have competitions for that year, and the team felt a little dispersed because we weren’t allowed to hang out with each other,” Chen said. “There was a limited amount of practice life and all that.”
Still, the pandemic did not stop the team from growing. According to Luria, the team receives greater interest from prospective members and retention now that things are back to normal. .
“We’ve definitely got a lot more people. It’s really great that we’ve gotten more participation and a lot more people who are willing to show up and just put in the work every day and compete for the school,” Luria said. “We also have more and more people who are juniors and seniors in high school reaching out to us saying they’re applying or they’re thinking of applying — that means that people know about our team, and they’re really excited about joining.”
Whether the zeal for the sport is a rediscovery or continuation of past passions, for this team, it is often fueled by every member contributing to an empowering environment. Chen described how the team always encourages one another and collaborates during practice.
“We’re very supportive, we push each other,” Chen said. “After we do run-throughs, which is our full-out routine on the ice, we often chase each other around the rink for two laps to train our stamina. Also, we often cheer during practice. We would cheer when one of us does something great.”
While they await to be an NCAA sport, the Dartmouth Figure Skating Team keeps working, practicing, competing and winning. However, whether club or varsity, the team will always be proud to wear green on the ice.
“It’s just so cool to be able to represent Dartmouth on a larger scale,” Martey said. “It’s cool to be able to put our presence and put our name out there on the national stage and showcase what we’ve got. We’ve gone to nationals every year since the collegiate competition was created in the late 90s. That’s just really special.”