Roller girl: A champion takes on the world — again


Photo by Patrick Houle

“I can do anything in a car,” proclaimed Patricia Houle (SEAS’01) with an air of complete confidence. “I’ve done so much homework on the road. It’s all about time management. And I refuse to get less than eight hours of sleep a night.”

An impressive feat for the average student? Of course. And an even more impressive feat for someone who spends a great deal of time practicing for national and international roller skating competitions.

Houle is not your average roller skater any more than she is your average college student. The six-time national champion and four-time world championship competitor has been roller skating since the age of 2, and competing in national competitions since the age of 7. She has won dozens of titles and medals in her sport, including a gold medal at the 1999 Pan American Games and one of three Ladies Singles spots on the 1999 Senior World Team. On October 26, she left for Brisbane, Australia, to compete in the World Championships.

“I’m missing 10 days of school for this competition, but fortunately the majority of my professors have been supportive,” she said on an evening just days before her excursion. “I think I’m the only member of the World Team ever to attend an Ivy League school. It’s rare for World Team members to even do school full-time -- many are part-time students.”

The Morristown, N.J., native is no stranger to challenges. Not satisfied just to be at Penn, she pushes her curricular load to the limit. She’s complementing her major in systems engineering with minors in math and French, and is even taking two years of Spanish on the side to gain proficiency.

Somehow, she has managed to make the athlete component of student-athlete look easy.

“I normally practice five days a week for about two hours a day, but when you factor in travel time back and forth, it seems a lot longer.

“Somehow, I seem to get my work done,” she added modestly.

Not only does she “get her work done,” but she also finds time to engage herself in such extracurricular pursuits as the Society of Women Engineers, Society of Systems Engineers and Alpha Phi Omega, Penn’s community service fraternity, where she planned a project to plant trees in Wissahickon Park.

For now, Houle’s focus is on Australia, where she is seeking to continue her record of success. Last year, Houle achieved sixth place in the Senior Ladies World Artistic Championships in Bogota, Colombia. For those unfamiliar with competitive roller skating, it is much like competitive ice skating, with both singles and pairs competitions in dance, free-style and figure skating.

Houle said she owes much of her skating success to her parents, who got her involved in the sport (both her parents judge skating competitions, and her mother teaches skating as well). She is also indebted to her coaches, John and Barbara Dayney, who have worked with her since she was 7 years old.

In the future, Houle said she expects to remain actively involved in roller skating, but not as a professional skater. “I already judge skating at the regional level, and I’d like to continue judging competitions, but as for the future, my goal is to get a job in the engineering field.”

With her track record of achieving goals, there’s little doubt she’ll skate rings around the competition.

Originally published on October 28, 1999