Howard University is preparing to show out on the ice! The historically Black university revealed it has implemented the first figure skating team from an HBCU in the country. The Howard team is preparing to compete in its first ice skating season.
Howard students Maya James and Cheyenne Walker started the team together but had no connection before doing so. However, they both have ice skating in common. They’ve been involved in the sport since at least seven years old, per US Figure Skating.
How The Ice Skating At Howard Idea Was Born
Despite wanting to continue their skating careers, Maya and Cheyenne opted to attend Howard. Maya is now a junior studying psychology, while Cheyenne is a senior studying political science. As their undergraduate years passed, they reportedly contemplated starting a skating team at HU.
Maya told US Figure Skating she “missed the sport,” especially after admiring skating collegiate competitions online.
Last winter, Maya reached out to Cheyenne after reading an article highlighting her history with ice skating. An Instagram DM led to their collaboration on the team. Cheyenne told US Figure Skating that she was “on board” because she wanted it for the “campus community,” and there was already bubbling interest from other students.
“When Maya reached out to me, I was so excited because I was speaking to other girls from Figure Skating in Harlem 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,” Cheyenne said.
How These Howard Students Made HBCU History
The Howard University Figure Skating Team became official at the end of summer 2023. Ultimately, starting a new athletic team took an entire semester. It is registered through the university and US Figure Skating — making it eligible to compete with other universities.
The college senior, Cheyenne, says she’s “excited” to leave her “impact on the campus community.” She’s serving as the VP of the team, while Maya serves as the president. Cheyenne told US Figure Skating that it was “important” to bring the sport to an HBCU campus to “make sure it’s accessible and for everyone.”
The students used social media to recruit seasoned and first-time figure skaters. Their first team practice went down on Oct. 7 but faced transportation and venue locations. They arranged a 5 a.m. bus to drive the team 30 minutes from Washington, DC, to Maryland to the only available skating rink. US Figure Skating reported that everyone was excited about the next steps within an hour of practice.
The team collaborates with Diversify Ice, an organization dedicated to underrepresented figure skaters. Its founder, Joel Savary, said this is a “historical opportunity” to take a school with no background in skating and polish its new team and structure.
As for the founders, Maya says they understand that it’s a “big responsibility” when you’re setting the precedent. However, she encourages other HBCU students to do the same at their schools if inspired.
“There’s not that many of us out there on the ice making a difference. I just want people to know no matter what you look like, the ice is for you,” one of HU’s figure skaters said.
The Howard University Figure Skating Team will attend its first ice competition in February 2024.
Keep up with the team here.