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The Queens of Compton

Feb 20, 2013, 10:28 AM EDT

The Notre Dame Figure Skating team before its first competition of the season. The Notre Dame Figure Skating team before its first competition of the season.

They float, they glide, they twirl, they fly, they twist, and they spin. And they do all of this on ice. They’re the ballerinas of the wintertime.

If the Notre Dame hockey players are the kings of the Compton Family Ice Arena, then the Notre Dame figure skaters are the queens.

Established in 1997, Notre Dame Figure Skating (NDFS) welcomes both male and female students from the University of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College, and Holy Cross College.

The Synchronized Skating Team is a member of the Open Collegiate Division and competes against midwest schools such as Miami (OH) University, Ohio University, the Ohio State University, Michigan State, Northwestern, Lindenwood University, Grand Valley State, and east coast schools including the University of Delaware and the University of Maryland.

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With Coach Tracey Mulherin, right before skating at Midwestern Sectionals.

In the past three seasons, NDFS, which has 17 girls on its roster (and currently no males), has placed no lower than third in any major competition. In the 2012-2013 season, they placed second at the Dr. Porter Classic, first at the MidAmerica Championships and the Midwestern Championships (which means they’re now ranked first in the Midwest for the 2013-2014 season), and second at the Tri-State Championship.

Coach Tracey Mulherin is a Notre Dame graduate and has been coaching NDFS for 10 seasons now.

“There are several things that I love about NDFS – coaching a sport that I love at an institution that I love is one of them,” Mulherin said. “But by far the best part of the team are the skaters that I get to work with. It’s so cliché, but the team really does become a family – the skaters support each other on and off the ice. It’s especially gratifying to see the growth and maturation of each skater over the years they spend at Notre Dame.”

Before they arrive at Notre Dame, the figure skaters have often had several years of experience on the ice. Elizabeth Cassi, a junior at Notre Dame, began skating 15 years ago.

“[I started] after I went on a field trip with my kindergarten class to the ice rink and I was the only one that didn’t know how to skate,” she said.

For Cassi, skating was an important part of deciding what college to attend: “I met with some of the girls in the club and our coach when I came to visit Notre Dame during my senior year of high school. They were all super nice and I really liked how the skating program was set up here. They worked hard at practice but also knew how to have fun and build strong friendships with each other. Knowing that the skating club was a good fit for me played a large role in why I decided to come to Notre Dame.”

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At the awards ceremony after placing first at the Midwestern Sectional Championships.

Her passion for NDFS has helped her become the president of the club. As president, Cassi “take[s] care of a lot of the logistics of the club such as ensuring membership with U.S. Figure Skating, handling the procedures required by the University, overseeing events and fundraisers, and filling in wherever else needed.”

Miranda Oltmanns, a freshman at Saint Mary’s College, began skating at a younger age than Cassi. “I have been figure skating since I was four years old and synchronized skating since I was 12. My mother started my skating career when she signed me up for ‘SnowPlow Sam’ lessons at the local rink. Apparently, I liked it better than my dance and gymnastics lessons because I have been skating ever since!”

Oltmanns says NDFS was appealing to her for very similar reasons to Cassi: not only because the team is successful in competition, but also because she “saw how much fun [they] had. It seemed that it wasn’t entirely about winning, although that is important, but more about the relationships made and enjoying the time on the ice.”

“To be a figure skater you need to be passionate about your craft. It takes countless hours to make a program presentable, but when you add 17 skaters to the mix, that work is 17 times more difficult. The satisfaction my team and I receive when all of our hard work has paid off is a feeling that cannot be described…I continue the sport because I cannot imagine being anywhere else other than on the ice with my teammates.”

The competitive season may be over for NDFS, but there is still a chance to see them perform. NDFS will be performing an end-of-the-season exhibition at Compton Family Ice Arena on March 3 at 6:00 pm. Tickets are $3 at the door.

For more information about NDFS, visit their website here.

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Mixing it up for the team’s Halloween practice.

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Team photo at the beginning of the season.

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