Cold ice, warm hearts

For some students, the new club figure skating team makes Quinnipiac feel like home

Emily DiSalvo, News Editor

When senior Judy Chicoine came to Quinnipiac as a freshman in 2016, she planned to transfer to Boston University (BU) by the end of the year.

Now, the English and Spanish double major is hoping to continue her education at Quinnipiac Law School after her graduation in May and has no regrets about staying at the school she was so eager to leave.

“You shouldn’t let your first impression be your only impression because if that were the case, I would be somewhere else right now,” Chicoine said.

Chicoine’s persistence and passion filled the void she felt at Quinnipiac. She spearheaded the effort to create a club figure skating team at Quinnipiac, and now she serves as the young team’s first president.

Chicoine, who has been skating for 15 years, put her love for the sport on the back burner for the first few years she was at Quinnipiac. She would occasionally go to open skate at the People’s United Center. Her sophomore year, she was part of Ice Cats but realized ice dancing at hockey games wasn’t her passion. Figure skating was.

Mike Medina
Senior Judy Chicoine (second from the left) is the first president of the club figure skating team.

“What we do is figure skating and competition as opposed to dancing and being at the hockey games,” Chicoine said.

During her junior year, Chicoine worked to form a “figure skating club” through the Student Government Association (SGA). She was just about to hand in her completed club constitution when she heard about the new club sports program that would take her idea of a club to the next level.

Chicoine immediately started gauging interest on campus and filling out paperwork in hopes of getting her team approved. She was driving when she got the email of approval from Michael Medina, director of campus life for recreation. She quickly pulled over out of excitement to read the email that completely changed her college experience.

“I think it was the best way for me to end my senior year because it wasn’t like I went and joined someone else’s team,” Chicoine said. “I made my own and was able to create a team that would hopefully continue on and would be a place for other people who maybe are in a similar position to me where they really just want to skate in college.”

Chicoine’s desire to go to Boston University as a freshman had a lot to do with the fact that BU had a club figure skating team, and Quinnipiac did not.

“It’s something we’ve spent so much of our lives doing — it’s hard to leave behind,” Chicoine said. “It’s not like I couldn’t go skate in my free time if I wanted to at any other school, but I would miss being on a team and having people to share that experience with.”

Throughout her long skating career, Chicoine has competed individually but never on a team. As the first semester of the 2019-20 school year is coming to a close, Chicoine has already competed at a regional skating competition with five of her teammates at New York University. She said being on a team makes the sport even more rewarding.

“Everyone supports one another,” Chicoine said. “During practices, people will either stop and watch or they will continue skating, but they always cheer people on as they are running their programs. Even if they fall, you hear people saying, ‘Keep going!’”

The club team, which she refers to as her “child,” is one major factor Chicoine will weigh as she selects a law school. Club sport policies would allow her to continue skating as a graduate student.

“I looked at law schools for (each school’s) programs, too, but there was definitely advantages to being able to stay here and still skate as part of a team just because skating is kind of how I take a break from things,” Chicoine said.

Mike Medina
Sophomore Kiara Tanta-Quidgeon skates during the team’s practice.

Medina said Chicoine’s passion for the sport has made her a leader not only on the team, but also within the club sports community in her role as co-president of the Club Sports Advisory Board.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better person to step in at year one and lead this new group,” Medina said.

The team practices at Northford Ice Pavilion once or twice a week depending on ice time. They compete at regional competitions in the Northeast with teams like Dartmouth, Harvard and Sacred Heart. The team’s 15 members all have previous skating experience but are at different levels and have different specialties.

“I’m really surprised and very pleasantly happy at the number of students who we have in year one,” Medina said. “It has been a great opportunity for us to include a new set of students who maybe wouldn’t participate in other recreation programs, we may not see them in our recreation center all that often. It’s going to be interesting to see in the spring if there are students who choose Quinnipiac because we have a club figure skating team.”

While Chicoine got the team at the tail end of her undergraduate experience, sophomore Elizabeth Pratt is excited to have the team be a part of her routine for the next two and a half years. Pratt retired from skating when she started high school, but continued coaching younger skaters. Last year, Pratt and a friend considered starting a club at Quinnipiac but they were directed to Chicoine who had already spearheaded the initiative.

“(Chicoine is) such a great leader,” said Pratt, a criminal justice and psychology double major. “We call her ‘Mom.’ She’s so nice, and she’s so supportive. She’s one of the really strong skaters on the team, so we all really look up to her.”

Pratt tried out for Ice Cats previously but didn’t make it. Now though, she realizes that this team is the one she belonged on because her teammates share her same passion for the sport.

“We’ve all been skating since we were really young,” Pratt said. “We know how the sport works because it’s very different than a lot of other sports than you do growing up.”

Elizabeth Pratt
Sophomore Elizabeth Pratt will be a member of the club figure skating for the next two and a half years.

Lydia Mason, a junior physical therapy major, is the vice president of the team. Like Chicoine and Pratt, Mason has been skating independently for several years but has never participated in figure skating with the camaraderie of a team.

“It’s a lot easier to feel supported when you’re not doing your best because there are other people who you can lean on who have the same goals as you,” Mason said. “It’s more rewarding. When you do well, you know you’re benefiting people beside just yourself and you’re all working together toward one goal.”

Victoria Fater, junior marketing major, said her 17-year skating career was supposed to end when she left high school.

“I originally left skating when I started high school and just kind of decided I wasn’t going to skate in high school competitively,” said Fater, the team’s treasurer. “(The club team) was unexpected but also really cool.”

Prior to the foundation of the team, Fater and Mason would skate together every week at a rink, a 30-minute drive away.

“I think I was doing it just to keep up with it, to keep myself sane,” Fater said.

Mason said skating on the team, rather than just doing it for fun with Fater, has changed her college experience at Quinnipiac.

“It gives purpose to what I was already doing for passion reasons,” Mason said. “I have always been passionate about skating, and it is the thing that gives me something besides school to do, something to look forward to, goals to work toward for myself, but it’s not the same as when you’re working toward a goal other people can see.”

Like Pratt, Mason and Fater attribute the success of the team and their improved college experiences to Chicoine’s hard work.

“Everything kind of fell into place, and Judy was the person who was collecting all of it and putting it into place,” Mason said.

Fater agreed, emphasizing Chicoine’s love for the sport and the organization she helped to create.

“I feel like this team is one of Judy’s biggest passions and it really shows genuinely how much she cares about this team and the people on it,” Fater said.

Mason said that for prospective students who grew up skating, Quinnipiac can now be a place like BU was supposed to be for Chicoine. It’s a place where they can feel at home.

“There are people looking at the school who are interested in figure skating, so we want to show them, not only do we have it, but we are passionate about it and it’s a place that you can excel and it is a place you can connect what you are passionate about with the university,” Mason said. “It helps you feel at home and comfortable and happy in the place that you are.”