Figure Skating, Computer Science, & TikTok Star: Penn State’s Newest Triple Threat
Ava Stephens, a second-year computer science major hailing from San Jose, California, began her journey at Penn State just a short time ago. You’ve probably seen her on Penn State’s Instagram or her own page, but her story is much deeper than a one-time viral reel.
A young Stephens couldn’t have guessed what her life would turn into when she first slipped on a pair of ice skates.
“I started skating because there was an ice rink near my house, and my parents just took me one day and I never stopped,” Stephens said.
Taking inspiration and coaching from world-class Olympic coaches such as Rudy Galindo and David Glynn, Stephens tapped into all of her resources and talents growing up. She continued to take private lessons all throughout high school, hitting the rink before and after school to perfect her craft.
Hard work paid off, and Stephens competed in regional, sectional, and national competitions as a young skater. She knew she needed to find a college that could provide her with the opportunities to grow as a student and a skater.
“My two big factors in choosing a school [were] a good engineering program and a good skating program, which I knew Penn State had both of those,” Stephens said.
Here at Penn State, Stephens is involved in both the club and competitive figure skating teams. There are typically three competitions a year, and she skates both her short and long programs at the senior, or highest, level.
While skating is a very individual sport, Stephens highlighted the newfound aspect of being on a team and everything this has meant to her as an athlete and a person.
“This year, being with the team, like having a group of girls that are always supporting me no matter what has been so rewarding,” Stephens said. “Being able to travel to competitions with everyone and cheer them on in the stands, and then have them cheer me on as well has been so exciting.”
Her current short program to the song “Paint It, Black” has been very successful for her and allows Stephens to step out of her comfort zone. This will be her second year skating the routine, and she also hopes to add a triple lutz to her program repertoire.
Following a long offseason of training, Stephens and the team are ready to kick off the competition season this November in Florida. They will have two more competitions after that, hopefully followed by an appearance in the national championships.
As if skating doesn’t keep her busy enough, she finds time to be heavily involved in the Women in Engineering Program, Association of Women in Computing, and gives local lessons at Pegula Ice Arena.
“It’s been fun and rewarding to take my knowledge and pass it down,” Stephens said.
Not only is skating her passion, but Stephens has also turned it into an opportunity for content creation. She started off by mindlessly posting videos of her skating routines to show people what she was doing on the ice.
Last March, a video of her skating to the “Ceilings” trend on TikTok received over 4 million views and is now just one of the many that have gone viral on her page.
“After that video went viral, my account started to pick up, and I consistently started posting more and more skating videos,” she said. “And now my account is continuing to grow and my videos are doing well.”
While she may not have planned to add content creation to her agenda, Stephens is choosing to embrace every opportunity that comes her way.
“It’s really just a fun hobby, an escape from my classes, where I can sit down and edit a little video of myself skating and see some positive comments on it,” said Stephens.
In the future, Stephens hopes to secure a job in the computer science industry and potentially still coach and compete for as long as her body allows her to. Whether that be through choreography or ice dance, she doesn’t see herself ever being able to fully step away from the sport that has brought her so much joy.
“I want skating to be a part of my life forever. I’ve done it for so long, and I just can’t imagine my life without skating,” Stephens said.
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