University of Washington Excited for First Intercollegiate Final

In their first season as an official intercollegiate figure skating team, the University of Washington is getting excited to compete at their first National Intercollegiate Final this week. 

By Grace Knoop

As soon as freshman Ashley Wu stepped onto the University of Washington campus, she had a plan to build the school’s first collegiate figure skating club. Just two years later, that team is making its way to its first National Intercollegiate Final.

Creating a new club is no easy task, especially as a new freshman on campus. Wu had just finished a year of competing in synchronized skating with Teams Elite. Her experience in synchronized skating solidified her love of team competition, a feeling she hoped to re-create with a collegiate figure skating team.

I really liked the team aspect of skating, because its really different than anything I have ever done before,” said Wu. So, I really wanted to try to emulate that in a way.”

Wu began calling up her past training mates and skating friends who she knew were on campus and the ball started rolling from there. One of her first calls was to Hannah Yi, a University of Washington senior whom she had grown up skating within the Seattle area. Wu would serve as the club’s president and Yi took on the role of vice president.

In the spring semester of 2023, the University of Washington’s brand-new collegiate skating team entered its first competition at the University of California, Berkeley. Self-funded by the skaters, the team competed with no expectations for placement, but with the hope of gaining a greater understanding of collegiate skating since it was so new to everyone.

I think the biggest challenge was just not knowing what to expect,” said Wu. None of us had done collegiate competitions before.”

At UC Berkeley, the team saw first-hand the camaraderie that collegiate skating brings. The team maneuvers event is an event specific to collegiate skating and was one that the new UW team did not fully understand. It was with the support of skaters on the Arizona State University and UC Berkeley teams that the team was able to get some competition tips and understand the event’s required jumps, spins and dance elements.

It is that camaraderie among the collegiate skating community that UW has come to love most.

We all became really good friends with other teams, and I’ve reconnected with a lot of my old friends that go to different schools,” added Yi. Its really awesome to see them.”

Not even a full season following their team debut, UW has qualified for their first National Intercollegiate Final, which will take place in Lake Placid, New York, at the Olympic Center — the infamous home to the “Miracle on Ice”. As such a new team, UW did not envision qualifying for the event. At the final regional qualifying event at the University of California, Los Angeles, the team was in first place following the first few events, but it wasn’t until the president of the University of California, San Diego pulled Wu aside to share his calculations that the team understood they were bound for the Final.

The president of UCSD pulls me aside and he goes, I dont want to get your hopes up, but I calculated the numbers and I think youre going,’” said Wu.

Wu kept that information to herself, not wanting to add any extra pressure to her teammates, instead sticking to the goal of simply skating their best. After the last event of the competition, it was clear that the UCSD presidents calculations were right, and UW’s young team started to wrap their heads around a trip to Lake Placid. 

To gear up for up for their first Intercollegiate Final, the team has been raising money to fund the cross-country trip and preparing its skaters for the culmination of the intercollegiate skating season. For the newbie team, the goal is to enjoy the moment together and grow even closer.

Yi, who will be competing in the pre-bronze pattern dance event, is excited to have one last hurrah with her team before graduating.

Im just excited to experience nationals with my team,” said Yi. The main emphasis is just the team itself [being] all together.”

Though she has the goal of a top-10 finish in the back of her mind, Wu is more focused on creating an experience that she and her team will always remember.

For the team, its just having fun and enjoying it,” she said. Its our first time and a lot of people are seniors and theyre graduating so we just want to soak in the moment.” 

Follow the University of Washington as they compete at their first National Intercollegiate Final this week by clicking here for full competition results.