That’s the longest UMW senior Natalie Motley has been able to go without lacing up.
The culprit that kept her out of her skates? A cracked kneecap.
“I think my body realized it better hurry up and heal because I wasn’t going to give it long,” said Motley, whose in-line, roller and ice skates are practically extensions of her own two legs.
A world champion in-line figure skater, she whirls around the rink, throwing axels, lutzes and loops. But it was another passion – one harvested on her grandparents’ farm – that would really set her in motion. For a while, the Mary Washington environmental geology major chased two degrees at two schools in two states. She’s in class, on skates, and in her car so much, you might say Motley’s …
“A nut? Yea, I would say so,” she said in an interview crammed between class and an evening skate practice. “Crazy? Yes, definitely.”
She was 6 when her mother, in preparation for the inevitable onslaught of little girls’ skating-rink parties, took her to a rec center near their Northern Virginia home.
“I was like, ‘oh, my gosh, I love this,’ ” Motley said of her first time on skates. “I just had a blast.”
Swirling past photos of glitzy star skaters that hung on the wall, she was dazzled. Group lessons gave way to private ones. She did ballet for posture, Pilates for strength, weightlifting for endurance, plyometrics to jazz up her jumps. Roller skates morphed into ice skates and in-lines. At 10, she landed her first axel.
“I was ecstatic,” Motley said of the one-and-a-half-twist jump. “I did it over and over and over.”
She even snagged rink-time during summer visits with her grandparents in Illinois. On their farm, in her everyday shoes – without wheels or blades – she traipsed past long rows of crops, fished with her brothers and found something new.
“I was amazed by the open space and nature and the complexities of providing our own food source,” said Motley, who picked the farmer’s brain about pesticides, fertilizers and growing conditions. “I like trying to figure out how we can produce crops in a sustainable manner.”
She was sowing those seeds, finishing an associate degree in agriculture and natural resources at the University of Delaware, when she followed brother Matthew Motley ’11 to UMW, but not into his discipline, physics.
“I don’t like gravity,” said Motley, who at 5-foot-7 is taller than most skaters. “It pulls me down.”
Instead, she chose environmental geology and started bouncing between both schools, piling miles onto her Saturn and performing the ultimate balancing act. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, she squeezed in an online exam between warm-ups and competition, winning the national meet and an A on the test.
“She’s a complex person; she works very hard,” said Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Chuck Whipkey. “She’s always zipping around somewhere.”
When Motley isn’t competing across the globe, from Taiwan to New Zealand, racking up regional, national and world titles, you might find her completing her wetland research, tracking levels and flows on the water, and plugging away toward her degree.
“If you don’t achieve what you want the first time, try again. You have to be willing to work for it, and that applies to everything,” she said. “School. Skating. Life.”