Nauset Figure Skating Club Continues To Grow And Inspire

By: Brad Joyal

Topics: figure skating

Nauset senior Hailey Philbrick, left, skates with a young member of the Lower Cape Figure Skating club on Wednesday at Charles Moore Arena. BRAD JOYAL PHOTO

ORLEANS – Stop by Charles Moore Arena on a Monday or Wednesday afternoon and you’ll catch a glimpse of the passion many girls from the Lower Cape share for figure skating.

While young toddler-aged girls crisscross from one side of the ice to the other, so too do the members of the Nauset Figure Skating Club, a Nauset-sponsored club team that is also open to high school girls from Monomoy and Barnstable.

All of the club’s skaters are paying members of the Lower Cape Figure Skating Club, which hosts two on-ice training sessions for high school and younger girls each week.

“The club is getting huge now,” said Hailey Philbrick, a Nauset senior from Brewster who is among the group of Nauset girls that have been with the club since its inception three years ago. “There’s a lot of younger skaters coming in, so with all of them the ice fills up really quick. I think the highest amount of girls that we have on the ice right now is Wednesdays when we have 26.”

Even if the training sessions can sometimes be confusing — if not downright chaotic — due to the growing number of participants, the high school girls have been thrilled with their experience. Many of them grew up competing against each other as members of competitive club teams, which offered different, more demanding experiences than the Nauset club.

“This is a lot more stress-free and fun,” said Dori Walsh, a Monomoy freshman from Harwich.

“Stress-free” is among the most popular descriptors members of Nauset’s club used for the difference between skating for outside club teams compared to Nauset, which doesn’t have formal coaches and relies on the girls to push themselves.

“It’s such a different atmosphere than regular competitions where there’s like judges sitting there and it’s freezing and you’re cold and your coach is warming you up,” explained Ella Raye, a Nauset senior and Harwich resident. “This is so relaxing — you make new friends from New Hampshire and Maine and everyone is really friendly. And there’s no coaches, so there’s no pressure. We’re all doing it together.”

That sense of unity is another aspect of the club team’s dynamics the girls appreciate. Nauset, Monomoy and Barnstable athletic teams typically share some of the fiercest and most competitive rivalries among Cape and Islands high school sports, however, there isn’t much animosity among the club figure skaters.

“The schools have a rivalry with sports, but with this, the schools are together,” said Victoria Letendre, a Monomoy sophomore from Harwich. “It’s different and really fun.”

The club’s figure skating season roughly runs from November to March, depending on how the team fares in competitions. So far, the girls finished third at the Winterfest high school competition held in November in Falmouth, Maine, before capturing first place at the Ocean State high school competition in December in Woonsocket, R.I.

This year has been especially gratifying for the girls because they have been able to travel to various competitions, an aspect of the club that was lost last year due to COVID-19.

“It was still fun, but it wasn’t as exciting because we didn’t get to go anywhere,” said Ashley Tortora, a Nauset sophomore from Brewster. “We were just at our rink and we would make a video of our program, which was kind of nice because we could do as many as we wanted to.”

Returning to in-person competitions has allowed the girls to work together as a team — another key difference from many of their experiences as individual skaters. One aspect most of the girls enjoy most about the club experience is the fact every individual score is added to the team’s total.

“The high school competitions are a lot different,” Philbrick said. “They’re based on points and it’s actually really fun. We all get to earn points for our team and the points are all added up. It’s a different way to compete. It doesn’t put as much pressure on you.”

The girls also appreciate that the competitions they attend around New England allow them to tap into their individual personalities.

While some competitions require figure skaters to use traditional classical music, the girls on Nauset’s club enjoy having free rein of their musical selections. Some have chosen to use Christmas songs, while others prefer Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” or Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga’s hit single “Rain On Me,” all of which are unlikely picks for figure skating routines, according to the girls.

As close as the Nauset, Monomoy and Barnstable High School skaters are with each other, Wednesday’s training session made it clear that they also understand the role they play in building the sport throughout the Lower Cape and beyond.

The impact they have on the next generation of figure skaters was evident during their session; each time a Nauset, Monomoy or Barnstable girl jumped across the ice or completed a maneuver, there was almost always a younger girl looking on in awe.

Although the majority of the girls will get to see the club continue to grow when they return next winter, the seniors said they will always have fond memories of their high school skating careers and that they hope to benefit from them in some form.

“Most of the colleges I’ve looked at, I’m trying to keep a rink nearby,” Philbrick said. “Skating has given me a lot of skills that I can carry on, like coaching and working with the kids here. Competing on a team in college would be great, too.”

Email Brad Joyal at brad@capecodchronicle.com. Twitter: @BradJoyal