April 15, 2024

Howard University is making history as the first HBCU to take part in a figure skating competition – CBS News

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Maya James was determined to achieve her goal of starting a figure skating team at Howard University in Washington, D.C., a historically Black college and university.
So James, a junior, turned to Google to find other skaters. She ended up sliding into the direct messages of senior Cheyenne Walker in an effort to break the ice. 
Despite setbacks that included not having an ice rink on campus and a lack of figure skaters, the duo found others who shared their love of the sport, and they eventually formed a team. On Saturday, their hard work will pay off when the team takes the ice for the first time at a tournament in Delaware. Howard will make history as the first HBCU to participate in a figure skating program.
“I think we definitely could be a contender in the future,” James said.
Both James and Walker had been skating since the age of 7. Walker grew up training with a group called Figure Skating in Harlem. 
But with no figure skating program at any HBCU, Walker thought she would have to give up the sport she loved to attend the college she desired to go to.
“I loved Howard, but I also wanted to continue to skate, so it was like, which one do I choose?” Walker said.
Walker said once she and James began their quest to start a figure skating team, questions abounded.
“How do we get ice time? How do we get coaching? How do we do outreach to members on our campus?” Walker said.
So the two got creative, even recruiting ice hockey players like sophomore Toni Smith.
“There’s not a lot of Black, like, figure skaters don’t come here,” Smith said. “They don’t know it’s an option.”
Smith, who has been skating since she was 2, admitted that hockey skating and figure skating were different experiences.
“I’m actually having a difficult time,” Smith said.
The team also had issues finding a full-sized rink where they could practice after they discovered the only indoor public ice rink in the nation’s capital is waiting to be rebuilt. So each week, the team pays rent to a rink near the University of Maryland. Between practices, Howard students help others find their footing on skates.
“To come and see them just get on the ice and be happy, fall, but laugh, I love that,” Walker said.
Now, as Walker graduates, she is leaving James at the helm of the team.
“Having this opportunity to lead the club will definitely help her figure out that she has all the potential and that she’s able to do everything, so I’m excited,” Walker said. 
Michelle Miller is a co-host of “CBS Saturday Morning.” Her work regularly appears on “CBS Mornings,” “CBS Sunday Morning” and the “CBS Evening News.” She also files reports for “48 Hours” and anchors Discovery’s “48 Hours on ID” and “Hard Evidence.”
First published on February 23, 2024 / 11:37 AM EST
© 2024 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright ©2024 CBS Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.

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