UMBC has seen its share of academic and athletic success across a wide range of fields and sports, but the University recently earned national acclaim in something new: figure skating.
Maya Jones ‘22, psychology, took home the bronze medal for UMBC at the 2021 U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating Championships in Pennsylvania on July 29 (Junior Ladies category). She earned a total of 103.18 points, including 66.55 points in her free skate to “The Dying Swan” by Camille Saint-Saëns. U.S. Figure Skating Fan Zone reports that the program opened with a double Lutz-double toe loop combination and also featured two Level 4 spins.
We caught up with Maya to ask her about her performance, how she got into figure skating, and how her passion for athleticism and artistry on the ice connects with her UMBC experience.
Congrats on winning bronze at the 2021 U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating Championships. What was the experience like?
Thank you so much. I’m just extremely happy and grateful to be able to be back on the ice and compete again after pausing on competitions for over one and a half years due to COVID. Being able to put out two clean, well-skated programs, I felt euphoric. Figure skating is a sport that has a huge ratio between practice time and competition time, so to be able to skate well when it matters most, especially after not competing for so long, was an incredible experience.
How did you get into figure skating?
My mom is actually my coach, so she put me on the ice as soon as I could walk. After that I just completely fell in love with the sport. Skating combines artistry with athleticism, and I think that’s what draws me to it the most. It’s a sport that is not only physically challenging, but mentally as well. The sense of achievement that comes from overcoming those physical and mental barriers is unlike anything else I have experienced. Every day of practice is a challenge in one way or the other, and every time I face something new. Sometimes you are able to overcome those challenges and other times you are not, but that’s what keeps it exciting, and the challenges I am able to overcome are what makes me love the sport the most.
What is your practice schedule like?
My practice schedule is all over the place. The specific days and amount of times I skate per week are completely dependent on the amount of schoolwork I have that particular week, so no two weeks are ever the same.
How hard has it been to balance college life with figure skating?
I always plan ahead. I try to set certain times for schoolwork and certain times for practice. Obviously, school comes first, so I haven’t been able to skate as much as I did in high school. Some weeks I’m able to skate four or five times a week, and other times none, but I’m just happy to be able to skate at a competitive level in college.
How did the pandemic affect your training?
When everything shut down due to COVID, I was completely unable to skate for three months which is the longest I’ve ever gone without skating. For the first couple of months back, there wasn’t a lot of ice time available, so I was only able to skate once every week or two. Thankfully, I’ve now been able to resume practicing at my usual amount.
How supportive are the friends you have made at UMBC of your figure skating?
They’re very supportive. I’ve taken a few people to skate on public sessions, which is always very fun.
Why did you choose UMBC?
I chose UMBC because I wanted a top-quality academic experience and I also knew UMBC had strong STEM programs. I’m combining my psychology major with a biology minor, and I have found that UMBC offers strong classes in both fields. I also really liked the atmosphere of the campus. It’s allowed me to form relationships that have had a strong impact on me as a person.
What’s in the future for you?
I’m actually going to audition for Disney on Ice. I’ll be graduating in the fall, so I’m hoping that once I graduate I can have skating as my career for a year or two. After that, I plan to start training to become an airline pilot, which I started exploring as a career after talking with a UMBC friend who is training to become a pilot. I’m confident that UMBC has put me into the right mindset to be able to tackle the challenges that come with the training.
Article by Zach Seidel ’12, M.S. ’15, director of digital media for UMBC Athletics.
Banner image: Ice skates. Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash.com.