Howard University is making history as the first HBCU in history to have an intercollegiate figure skating team.

The team was founded by two Howard University students who have been skating since childhood, Maya James and Cheyenne Walker.

According to U.S. Figure Skating, the process to get the club registered through their university and U.S. Figure Skating took a full semester, but by the summer of 2023, the Howard University Figure Skating Team was official, becoming the first intercollegiate figure skating team in history at an HBCU.

Diversity Ice founder Joel Savary (right) takes a selfie with the Howard University Figure Skating Club during their first official practice. (Credit: U.S. Figure Skating)

James, a junior studying psychology, and Walker, a senior studying political science and Afro-American studies both grew up skating and longed to get back on the ice, U.S. Figure Skating reports.

“I just missed the sport honestly,” James said. “I didn’t really skate that much during the pandemic; I stopped skating for like two years. As I was coming to college, I also saw a lot of the U.S. collegiate Instagram pages and how they went to competitions and how the competitions look so fun and welcoming.”

During their winter break in 2022, James read an article about Walker and reached out to her through Instagram to ask if she would be interested in working together to officially form a figure skating club. From there, Walker developed the team’s constitution, and they collaborated on the schedule and budget.

“When Maya reached out to me, I was so excited because I was speaking to other girls from Figure Skating in Harlem who go to Howard and we would always speak about how we wish there was skating, but we didn’t know how to go about it,” Walker said. “So, when Maya was like, ‘Yeah, I want to start this,’ I was on board for sure because it’s definitely something that I wanted to see on our campus community.”

With James serving as president and Walker serving as vice president, the club began recruiting student skaters, some experienced in the sport and others wanting to give the sport a try for the first time. After months of recruitment and planning, the team held its first practice on Oct. 7.

Ariel Clarke, a member of the history-making Howard Figure Skating Team said that the team is aware of the impact they are making in the HBCU community.

“Being the first of anything is a really big responsibility because you’re trying to set the precedent for everyone else,” Clarke said. “[Another member of the team, Gabrielle Francis], thought she was the only skater at Howard University and so did I, but the whole time we were in the same space with each other, and we didn’t even know. So, if there is another HBCU that feels like they should create a figure skating team or is inspired by our story, I think that would bring a lot of the current skaters on those campuses together to create a powerhouse of HBCU skaters.”

The team is set to compete for the first time in February 2024 at the University of Delaware.