Her flight was delayed - an unusual problem for a student from Raleigh.
Hu spent move-in weekend in Michigan, where she represented UNC in the 2014 Collegiate Figure Skating Championships. She took first place.
Despite the gold medal and $5,000 scholarship, her favorite moments at the competition weren’t different from any freshman’s first days on campus: she enjoyed making new friends.
“It was so much fun because there were a bunch of student athletes,” she said. “Talking to them about what kind of stuff they do with their classes because everybody goes to different schools... I thought that was really cool.”
Hu started skating when she was seven, after trying it at a friend’s birthday party.
By 2012, she was skating in the National Championships, where she placed 11th in the junior division.
“That was a lot of fun. That was the first time I made nationals, and we competed in the big arena — so much fun,” she said. “And I’ve never been to San Francisco before then, so it’s fun to go there and see the city and be able to compete.”
For the past five years, Hu has trained with Shirley Hughes, a skating coach based in Washington, D.C.
“I used to drive up and train with her. I used to do that twice a month, just for the weekends back in high school. It was really hard, especially junior, senior year when I had like a ton of AP classes,” she said.
Despite her rigorous academic schedule in high school, Hu made time to practice eighteen hours a week.
“I did three hours a day. I’d do an hour before school and two hours after school,” she said.
Hu graduated from Enloe High School in Raleigh in 2013 and took a year off before college to focus on skating. She even stayed in Hughes’ house for week-long stretches to train.
“She skated six hours a day (while in D.C.) and did off-ice training and just worked really, really hard, and I’m hoping that that will keep her in good training form to be able to go to South Atlantics, which is our first big competition, and on to Nationals,” Hughes said.
Hu said her next goal is to make it to National Championships in Greensboro in January 2015.
For now, she wants to major in exercise and sports science, maybe while fulfilling pre-med requirements.
Hughes said Hu’s ability to push herself helps her on the ice as well as in the classroom.
“I think now, Jessica is really skating for herself. She really loves what she’s doing and she wants to be the best she can be, so she’s really self-motivated, and that’s a really positive thing,” she said.
Sophomore Tyler Tirpak has known Hu since early high school. He said she has always excelled at time management, allowing her to balance skating and school.
“It never seemed like skating consumed her,” he said. “I mean, you know on the inside it did, but on the outside she was like a normal kid, a normal student, had a social life.”
Tirpak said he is looking forward to seeing Hu compete at Nationals in Greensboro in January.