ONE-ON-ONE: Jessiman & Sanders
By Jack Barrett, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Monday, June 1, 2009
I sat down with Margaret Jessiman ’12 and Annie Saunders ’12 to discuss the lightly publicized but highly successful world of Dartmouth Figure Skating.
From 2004-2008 you guys won the National Intercollegiate championship. How do you feel about this year’s third-place finish?
AS: Just fine, until I tell people that we took third and they say “Oh ... but haven’t you guys won it like every year?” Actually I was so excited with our third-place finish. The placement means a lot more when you feel like you fought hard to earn it, and we definitely worked hard this year. We had frequent injuries and illnesses throughout the season, and as we are a small team to begin with, we had to skate really well to come from behind. Also, skating is becoming a more popular collegiate sport so the competition is getting tougher, especially when we are competing against schools much larger than Dartmouth.
MJ: We definitely had a tumultuous year, so we were really psyched to qualify for nationals. Starting the year without a coach and major injuries and illnesses like appendicitis and staph infections were not ideal, but in a way it was cool to be a part of a team that had to fight its way to nationals, and as a freshman I feel that definitely made us closer. Also, the other teams definitely brought tough competition, and that’s a good thing for our league.
Do you feel any pressure to continue Dartmouth’s winning tradition?
MJ: We definitely consider ourselves a competitive team, and have high expectations for ourselves. But at the same time, skating results center around judges’ perception of just a few minutes out on the ice, so I think it’s more productive to focus on skating your best. If another college enters multiple boys who can land triple jumps, that’s out of our control.
AS: Not pressure but motivation. Knowing that we have won in the past inspires me to work hard so that I can represent the team well.
A lot of people don’t know how figure skating operates as a sport here. Do you run through the Athletic Department or separately? How do practices work? How do you decide how many people get to compete in which events? How does competition work?
MJ: We operate as a club sport. We are required to attend four practices a week, and we usually have ice time twice a day — midday and evening. We also have private lessons with our coaches during the week. The coaches and our captains work together to formulate what they feel is our strongest line-up for competition. The events range from various levels of freestyle and dance and then team maneuvers. Any level that one of our skaters places in gains points for our team, which are tallied for a grand total against the other teams at the end.
AS: We run the skating team like any club team, so we take care of most of our organization ourselves. We are really lucky to have at least an hour of ice time available once a day, and twice a day three times a week. At practice we each work on our skills individually and run through our programs on our own, and then at least once a week we will have the chance to work with one of the coaches privately for about 20 minutes. Our captains figure out all the logistics for competitions, and work with the coaches to decide which events people will skate. Skating is similar to swimming or track in that each skater competes individually but their placement adds points to the team total.
Do you guys have any intense weight lifting regiment?
AS: [Laughs] Funny. I mean, we definitely do strength training that’s geared for our sport, but no, I can guarantee you’ll never see a skater lifting anything in the gym heavier than a water bottle. The best way to be in shape for skating is to actually skate.
MJ: Ew. no. We do pilates sometimes though.
How would the best collegiate skaters fare in trying to qualify for Olympic competition?
AS: Collegiate skating is very different from national-level skating. Skaters on the team have made school a priority, and we all balance skating with multiple other activities. Usually to compete at the national level, you need to put skating first, and then school, family and a social life after, that is if there’s time, which is unlikely. So no, none of the skaters here will be the next Sarah Hughes.
MJ: With skating, training for the Olympics is definitely a commitment. There are some collegiate skaters, definitely on the Dartmouth team, in my opinion, with amazing talent, but they haven’t drilled themselves with that kind of regime. So it’s tough to say how they would fare.
Has anybody on the team ever successfully completed a flying lotus?
MJ: No, this famed move from “Blades of Glory” doesn’t actually exist. Plus, we don’t skate as pairs. We do have some flying camels and death drops, though. And at competitions we have seen some costumes that rival those in Blades of Glory. Even an Arabian Nights one that had a snake wrapped around the girl.
AS: It’s a work in progress.