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Gliding to greatness: CSU figure skating fosters family on ice

CSUs+club+figure+skating+team+gathers+around+for+a+group+photo+during+their+club+session+at+the+Edora+Pool+Ice+Center+Feb.+10.
Collegian | Ava Puglisi
CSU’s club figure skating team gathers around for a group photo during their club session at the Edora Pool Ice Center Feb. 10.

Coaching a former teammate might be a challenge, but those strong ties create a foundation for the club figure skating team at Colorado State.

Selene Guilfoyle, the team’s coach, was a skater on the 2021-22 team, which ranked fourth of the 19 teams in the Pacific Coast Conference. This standing advanced them to the national intercollegiate final, where they placed 15th alongside some of the best teams in the nation.

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“This is my second season with them as a coach,” Guilfoyle said. “I was a figure skater on the team for four years, and I graduated in 2022. So I know most of the girls really well because we were skating with each other, but now I’m in that coaching role.”

This peer-to-coach pipeline is challenging to say the least, but Guilfoyle’s team spirit and chops are not lost on the teams’ skaters.

Even the president of the team, Kristen Barclay, a senior who skated with Guilfoyle back in 2022, builds upon their national qualification, hoping to improve after the last rebuilding season.

“Collegiate skating is the best of both worlds, in my opinion,” Barclay said. “Because in college, you’re still skating as an individual. You get to go out there and do your thing but also have it be a team environment and have that close connection to everyone.”

It’s a tricky balance between building a team that encourages each other and criticizes each other when individual scores also impact the team’s standing.

But it keeps going back to the accepting environment the team is trying to foster.

“We’re friends,” Guilfoyle said. “We’ve all done it for so many years, and we just help each other out. If someone gets hurt, … we just keep building a positive environment.”

Collegiate skating itself is vastly different from individual skating. The fact that there is an actual team to support the individual endeavors of athletes is an anomaly in the sport.

First-year Hailey Robinson, a former individual skater who spent last year looking for a college to skate at, has already bought into this team atmosphere.

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“I think the main support is hyping each other up,” Robinson said. “We always cheer super loud. (Also the) general one-on-ones with people, those little talks where they’re like, ‘Hey, you’ve got this. Even if you don’t feel prepared, just go out there and do your best.’”

Robinson is a gold medalist in skating skills and singles, having reached the highest level of competition in the sport. This model of medaling in skills is part of the progression of figure skating. The four disciplines of singles, pairs, free dance and skating skills give skaters the opportunity to medal and prove themselves to judges. 

However, not all of the skaters on the team are at this level of proficiency; some of them are entirely new to the sport.

“The thing about intercollegiate skating and the team at CSU is really anyone can join, and I think that’s really unique,” Guilfoyle said. “If you’re skating up until high school, those might not be the vibes you get. If you haven’t skated since you were five or six years old, you’re probably not going to be welcomed in the sport. But with collegiate (skating), as long as you own a pair of skates and are willing to put in a little bit of work, I’m willing to support your goals in the team.”

The team has their third and final competition of the regular season Feb. 24-25 in Los Angeles, where they have chance to qualify for national championships. 

This buildup of the last two competitions all leads to traveling to California and seeing the other Pacific competitors that have overcome CSU over the past two seasons. But winning isn’t all the team is looking to do.

“It’s my passion; it’s something that I center my life around,” Robinson said. “Just when I get out on the ice, there’s just pure joy. I’m just so happy to be out there doing it, and it has taught me so many important life lessons, the main one being perseverance. When you fall down in life, you get back up quickly and try again.”

Reach Liv Sewell at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Liv_sewell22.

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