Tuesday, January 24, 2012

US Nats: Novice Monday

Today was the end of the Novice events and start of Junior Ladies. It was a very, very long day.

Novice Dance

It started around 10:30 am with Novice Dance. Just as I was unhappy with the "dance" qualities of the Pattern Dances, I felt like most of the Free Dances were just programs and not two people dancing with each other, but on ice. There were some notable exceptions.

One was Meara Lorello & William Dean. They skated to 50s rock music and they really interacted with each other as well as performed to the audience. They are a little slow compared to some of the top couples so they ended up in sixth place, but they did move up a spot from the Pattern Dances.

My new favorite Novice Dance team is Chloe Lewis & Logan Bye. I loved their dance and how every movement flowed from the movement before as one continuous stream instead of "now we're doing our lift, here comes our step sequences, time for a dance spin". The judges liked it too. They came in 3rd in the Free Dance. But it wasn't enough to move them up in the standings so they stayed in 4th place.

The other couple I liked a lot are Holly Moore & Daniel Klaber. Not only were they very dance-y, but their skating was crisp and fast with some great lifts and dance spins. They moved up to 1st and are now Novice Dance Champions!

Some other notes: Hannah Pfeifer & Grant Lorello (twin brother of Meara) skated to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy which is always a good choice and one of their lifts was super cool.

We also had another duplicate costume moment. This time I didn't notice during the warm-up. So I was confused to see the team that I thought had just skated standing on the ice ready to start  their program. I am serious - their costumes were that much alike!

Hannah Rosinski & Jacob Jaffe had some fast twizzles and he is very expressive, which you don't always see with the guys.

Novice Ladies

The only question with Novice Ladies was how much Karen Chen would win by. Answer: a lot! Some other notes:

Avery Kurtz has springy jumps.

Bradie Tennel has some really interesting spin positions.

The two AGs did not disappoint. Their free skates were as good as their short programs. Amanda doesn't have a lot of triples but everything she does is very high quality. After her scores were announced, her coach squeed. They were very excited and that was cute to watch. Amber started off with a very nice 2X-2T with hands over her head. Her costume was very interesting too. It was a Black Swan costume but it was subtle.

In the end, they swapped positions with Amber coming in second and Amanda coming in 3rd only 3.5 points behind. Madison Vinci was at the top of a pack of girls in the 111-117 range so she got the pewter medal.

Novice Men

Once again Wilber Ji skated as well as I've ever seen him. He did fall and then pop his last two jumps so he wasn't perfect but he moved well and sold his program and had a lot of nice elements before that. His scores were so low though. I didn't understand that until I saw that he actually did two triple salchows. The second one should have been in combination and you aren't allowed to repeat jumps so his score suffered for that.

When the second group came out, I was so nervous. I wanted both Vincent and Kevin to do well but I also kind of wanted Kevin to win just because I've been watching him skate since he was seven years old and also Vincent beats him a lot so I wanted Kevin to have a turn beating Vincent.

Vincent came out and his costume was red with a dragon on the back, which was perfect since it's Chinese New Year this week and also the Year of the Dragon. His program was good. He nailed everything, did a lot of hard stuff but made it look each and was generally the same kid whose been winning everything all season. However, I did feel like he was a bit tight and maybe the 120% kid was only 110%. So, it seemed like he could be beaten. But only if Kevin was spot on in everything.

I had to wait a while to find out, but Kevin came out and went into his first jump and ... popped it. Yikes! Okay, so it's unlikely he could win now but it's only one jump. But then he popped the next one. And the next one. It was kind of horrifying actually. But he got it together and skated the rest of the program clean and got in a lot of combinations by adding toe loops to jumps that were planned as single jumps and some nice spins especially his last combination spin (which got a level 4). His score seemed kind of low but he was so far about skaters 3-12 after the short, I thought it might hold up anyway.

The only skater I figured had the goods to pass him was James Schetelich who skated next. James had what I would call a Happy Skate. He wasn't perfect, but he was close and he was so happy while he was skating and so happy afterwards with his performance. It was pretty obvious he was going to move up and no surprise when he did.

There was one more skater but I didn't think he had the goods to rack up that many points and then his program was kind of a hot mess so I figured that was it. Kevin would get bronze, which is nothing to sneeze at, if slightly disappointing and my three favorite Novice Men skaters would come in 1, 2 & 3.

Then they announced the scores and Hot Mess was in 3rd pushing Kevin down to 4th. Our entire section all said "What?!" at the same time. Seriously, we actually said that out loud. (And so did a lot of the audience elsewhere from what I can tell.)

I ran into Kevin's coach afterwards and she said he lost a level on one of his spins on top of the pops due to not rotating enough times. He also didn't get his triple-triple in. But I think what really hurt him is that the judges really dinged him on the program components, which I don't think is fair. Because for 3/4 of the program, he was his normal self with his normal transitions, interpretation, choreography, etc. So maybe a little lower than normal, but most were fully 1 point lower than in the Short program. He only lost 3rd place by 1.54 points so just a few more fractions of a point on the five PCS marks would have kept him in 3rd place.

Oh well, it's over and done with and it's just skating. No one died. So I guess I have to move on and start thinking about Junior Ladies. Who were up next.

Novice Pairs

Just kidding. I knew Novice Pairs were up next. But I decided not to watch more than the last group as I didn't feel like drinking today. I didn't 100% hold to that. I watched Lucy and Robbie on the tv screens. They did well and moved up two spots, from 10th in the SP to 8th in the Free which netted them a 9th place finish overall. Yeah!

I also caught Middleton & Henning who ended up third in the freeskate after skating much better than they had the day before.

Then I went back to my seat for the final group. Zaitsev & Stevens were as delightful as the day before but stayed in fourth place overall. Likewise the top 3 teams stayed in the same positions.

Novice Awards

Then they did the Novice Awards and it went over which delayed the start of Junior Ladies. I found this annoying as I don't think it's fair to the skaters to make them stay up so late and then skate. They also did something I've never seen before. They had the Novice medal winners signing autographs on the concourse after the ceremony. I went to give Kevin another cake pop but he wasn't there. So I gave it Karen Chen instead. From one Fremont gal to another. (I asked her coach first if it was okay.)

Junior Ladies

Polina Edmunds skated second in the first group and she was just awesome. Her score was so high, I knew it would hold up and she'd skate in the final group for the free skate. Sure enough, she came in fourth!

I also liked Barbie Long's program. It was Swan Lake which can be an old hoary chestnut, and it's not my kind of classical music, but her costume had no feathers and she made no flapping wing movements with her arms. Yet, through her movements and choreography, it was perfectly clear she was a swan. So props to both her and her choreographer (whom I think is her coach) for being able to do that.

In the second group, we had all these gals who spent the fall on the Junior Grand Prix circuit. So I was afraid they'd all get put ahead of Polina due to reputation. Some did, but not all. Um, I mean some ended up ahead of her, not that they only did that due to reputation judging. The only placement I questioned was Ashley Cain's. I would have had Polina over her. They are only .72 points apart though so it was probably some technical issue I didn't notice that put Ashley on top.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The first to skate was Gracie Gold. I'd seen her in practice and was quite impressed. She did nothing to unimpress me here. She delivered a quality program with a triple-triple and mature presentation. I think she's going to win just as she's been winning all season. And so does everyone else.

Next up was Gwendolyn Prescott. I was so impressed with her program. Her jumps were secure and confident. Her spins were textbook. (Doug Mattis tweeted that she had the best layback of the competition.) The only problem is that some kids in the audience yelled and distracted her and she slipped a bit on some footwork. She recovered though and continued her program as if it hadn't happened.

But her score was so low. I was unhappy about that. She's currently in 8th which is respectable, but I would have had her over Mariah Bell who is in 6th. There is only 1.91 points separating them though so it's not like it was highway robbery. Basically Gwen had a higher tech mark but lower PCS than Mariah and lower tech but similar PCS to Katarina. It probably did come down to that slip on the footwork, which is a shame.

We also had two Dance Macbre's in this group. I preferred Hannah Miller's to Jessica Hu's.

Yes, half the girls in this comp are named Hannah. The rest are named Madison.
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