The figure skating club looks to build off early success for 2021

While team practice is on hold, members train solo for a potential competition next year

After its first year competing as an official U.S. Figure Skating team, ASU's figure skating club set its goals on qualifying for the Collegiate Championships.

The team placed seventh in the Pacific Coast section out of 23 teams last season. They also finished in the nation's top third in its first year competing in U.S. Figure Skating

Head coach Karen Gesell, who has over 43 years of competitive coaching experience in figure skating, acknowledges her team is still working toward that goal.

"We're just in a yellow light right now," Gesell said. "Just trying to figure out where and when our step forward is going to be." 

Gesell said all competitions for the team are on pause until the new year due to COVID-19, and the figure skating team has yet to reap the full benefits from its successful first year. But because the club practices outside of ASU property, skaters have the opportunity to go and skate alone to keep in shape. 

"We as a club have a really good constitution that outlines what we expect from our team members. We want to do well," Gesell said. "We've got a great team of girls this year, a lot of new girls, it is a really good team. But because we cannot perform as a club right now, we cannot mandate what our constitution says." 

As far as training goes, Gesell said "everybody is pretty much on their own."

"As a coach, what I do is every week (is ask), 'Are you getting out there to practice? Are you doing off ice conditioning?' We encourage everyone to stay fit."

Tessie Bracken, the primary advisor of the figure skating team, is working to connect new teammates with skaters from the prior year. 

"We have been holding regular Zoom meetings and working on some of the student organization basics, such as enhancing the club constitution, creating an incentive system to keep team members engaged and preparing for the potential of future competitions," Bracken said. 

Freshman Sophie Chez has been skating for 10 years. She said she joined the figure skating club because she wanted to work on her skills in a more relaxed setting.

"I wanted to continue to skate throughout college in more of a fun but competitive environment," Chez said. "So far I love it because I'm surrounded by like-minded people who are in the same situation of balancing school and a sport." 

Similar to swimming and race car driving, figure skating is one of the few sports where you can succeed both individually and in a team format. And Chez has both individual and team-centered goals.

"My individual goal is to compete at the highest level at the competitions," Chez said. "And for the team? To get as many points we can to qualify for Nationals (the National Intercollegiate Final)." 

In Collegiate Figure Skating, points are earned by how each team and individual performs.

Whether it's a freestyle routine or dance program, each skater competes in an individual event within the team competition. Teams also perform their own maneuvers where clubs are split up into three different groups based on their skills and skating experience.

Each of the three groups have seven maneuvers, which include jumps, spins, step and spiral maneuvers and more. The groups then earn points based on how they performed, culminating in overall points for the team.

"It takes about an hour to get through one team's maneuvers," Gesell said. "It's crazy, there's so many people on the ice. Everybody's cheering, it's so much fun."

Before the pandemic, the club would practice regularly and have competitions in November, February and March. If the team accumulated enough points to qualify for Nationals, they would attend in April. But until then, Gesell said the hope is to resume competition on the first day of the new year, which is contingent upon the University's approval.

Whenever the team finally gets the "green light" to resume activity and competition, Gesell said her and her team will look to make big strides in their second year. 

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