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Howard University has become the first HBCU to establish an intercollegiate figure skating team.  

Howard students Maya James and Cheyenne Walker are responsible for the historic feat. During an interview with U.S. Figure Skating on Oct. 25, James, a junior psychology major, and Walker, a senior studying political science and Afro-American studies, said they were inspired to form the team after they noticed a lack of skating opportunities at the Washington, D.C.-based HBCU. 

Both students began skating at the tender age of 7. 

“I just missed the sport, honestly,” said James, the president of Howard’s historic figure skating team. “I didn’t really skate that much during the pandemic; I stopped skating for like two years. As I was coming to college, I also saw a lot of the U.S. collegiate Instagram pages and how they went to competitions and how the competitions look so fun and welcoming.”

James thought of the big idea in 2022 after she read a school article that highlighted Walker’s passion for ice skating. The brave student contacted Walker via Instagram and asked if she wanted to help form a skating club. 

Walker happily obliged.  

“When Maya reached out to me, I was so excited because I was speaking to other girls from Figure Skating in Harlem [Inc.] who go to Howard, and we would always speak about how we wish there was skating, but we didn’t know how to go about it,” Walker, who is the team’s vice president, told U.S. Figure Skating.

“So, when Maya was like, ‘Yeah, I want to start this,’ I was on board for sure because it’s definitely something that I wanted to see on our campus community.”

It took a little over a year for Walker and James to form the team due to a few unprecedented setbacks. The duo fought hard to receive funding from the school, which required them to devise the correct budget and schedule for the team. After a few months of hard work and determination, the girls were beaming over the moon when Howard finally gave them the green light to register and start recruiting for the team over the summer. 

Excited to get the ball rolling, the girls leaped into action, recruiting for the team on social media and Howard’s student association fair. Some team members did not know how to skate before joining the group, but James and Walker made sure to help all beginners perfect their glide out on the ice with practice. 

On Oct. 7, the Howard University Figure Skating Team held their first practice. A video shared to the team’s TikTok account on Oct. 10 captured the happy group rising at 5 a.m. to sharpen and practice their skills out on the ice. The group traveled to an ice rink in Maryland as the only available rink in Washington, D.C., is currently under construction.

Big things are on the way for the historic group. The Howard University Figure Skating Team will attend its first competition in February at the University of Delaware.

According to an announcement posted to the team’s Instagram page July 30, Howard’s ice skating team was established in part to “shed light on the lack of diversity within the world of figure skating.”

“It’s rare to see Black and brown skaters on the ice, and we would like to change that by introducing the sport of figure skating to the broader Howard University community,” the message added. 

The team works in partnership with the Diversify Ice Foundation, a non-profit that provides mentorship and support to minorities in figure skating.

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