Wednesday, January 25, 2012

US Nats: Time for Juniors

The Junior events started today. Well, Junior Men finished. There were only three events though so it was much more restful than yesterday.

I started the day having "one of those days". Got up late, got out of the house late, had to take Mini-Mac to Concord, realized I had left my coat at home and had to go back instead of straight to the arena. Rush, rush, rush and I ended up getting to my seat about 5 minutes before the Junior Dance Short Dance started.

It was totally worth rushing to get there though even if the first event was Junior Pairs and normally I'm not big on watching Pairs. But this was different because I had some horses in this race.

Junior Pairs

Cali Fujimoto & Nicholas Barsi-Rhyne were up first. They are a local team and they've been skating together since they were at the Juvenile level even though some years they hardly competed. They move nicely on the ice and are very much a pair. I always enjoy watching them skate and today was no exception. However, they don't have the harder elements of the top couples, so they are in ninth.

Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier were next. I was very impressed with her in particular and thought their program was a solid effort that would score well. They supposedly ended third and I wasn't paying enough attention to think that was odd but it turns out someone somewhere made a major mistake and the scoring software was giving people credit for the strangest elements including things like Step Sequence+Jump. That isn't even a real element!

Eventually, after the event was over, the data was corrected and suddenly Denney & Frazier were in first, which I think makes more sense.

Simpson & Blackmer skated next. They were quite fierce, looking to each other's eyes so intently that I was afraid they'd look at me as they skated by and give me the Evil Eye! They were (supposedly) in 1st after this above Denny & Frazier which my notes didn't agree with and the corrected scores put them in 3rd.

(I have to say, I bet that sucked for them to think they were in first but only be in third.)

Jessica Pfund & AJ Reiss were next. I was curious about them because there were rumors that Caitlin Y., last year's Senior Pairs Champion in a now defunct partnership, had tried out with him. From what I see, they made a good decision not to pair up as they wouldn't have matched well. Jessica looked very familiar to me and her hometown is listed as a local town, so I think I've probably seen her skate in singles at some point.

Calalang & Sidhu were next. I had notice them in the warm-up and liked them and thought they looked good together in their skate. I expected them to place well and they ended up in 2nd. 

Oltmanns & Santillan did an interesting Pink Panther. I really liked the costumes but hated the music and I thought the program didn't really suit them either. They are in 10th.

Duarte & Grafton had some quality elements. In particular, they had one mirror footwork sequence where they were passing so close to each other and it was quite impressive almost like watching synchronized skating. They are in 4th.

At this point only one group was left but we'd already seen the top four finishers. The guy next to me said "we've seen the medal winners." His reasoning was that all the kids on the Junior Grand Prix had already skated. I pointed out that Aaron & Settlage hadn't skated and they'd won their Sectional (and done a Junior Grand Prix last year). I don't think he was convinced.

But before they skated and we would know who was right, we had to get through everyone else.

Goldberg & Dolkiewicz were first up. They were perky, but didn't have the harder elements and her hand touched the ice on their Death Spiral which I'm pretty sure is mandatory deduction off their GOE. They are in last place.

They were followed by de la Mora & Wilson who also didn't have the harder elements but did enough to end up in 8th place.

Finally, we got to AnnaMarie Pearce and Craig Norris. I had been looking forward to seeing them for weeks. They are in my skating club and I've seen them skate as single skaters many times. AnnaMarie had performance qualities that are through the roof and I loved to see her compete, but she never would score well because of jumps. Craig Norris also hadn't managed to break through the pack in singles skating in spite of some very nice qualities. I was very curious how they'd be as a team. Two singles skaters teaming up to get the chance to go to Nationals or a Real Pairs Team?

Answer: Real Pairs Team! Not only did they skate like a pair even though they've been only together for just over a year, they did a Throw Triple Loop. Right in front of me too and it was enormous! They have moved to LA to train with Meno and Sand and are making great progress and I really hope they stay together because doing Pairs seems to bring out the best in them and I think they have a great future together and it's so nice to see some of my favorite skaters have some real success. I will now stop gushing and go pray to the Gods of Pair Skating on their behalf.

Or I will when I'm done with this report anyway.

Aaron & Settlage finished up the competition and with a fall on their throw, it was looking like my seat mate was right. But the rest of their program was strong and they ended up in fifth, nicely positioned for a medal should they be able to seize the moment. Oh and AnnaMarie and Craig are in sixth ahead of the team that beat them at Sectionals. Whee!

Wait! What about Mozer & O'Shea? I am sorry to report that they had to withdraw and aren't here. She hit her head recently and isn't cleared to skate yet. Boy can I relate to THAT. I hope she recovers faster from her head injury than I have from mine.

An aside during the long break between Pairs and Dance

Which reminds me... I haven't given a Head Report in a while. I am happy to tell you that attending Nationals has not been the head-pounding experience that WDW was. I have been wearing ear plugs everywhere, which has helped. The sound system at the arena has been horribly loud, which hasn't helped. (Everyone has been complaining about it.) But what seems to be saving me is that there are lulls. At WDW, it was loud all the time and my headache would grow and grow and grow. Here, I get a headache, then it goes away. I get another one and it goes away. Tylenol works and so does finding some place quiet to hide for a bit. So my head isn't getting better, but it's not getting worse over the course of the week.

I think I'm going to make it.

Junior Dance

The Short Dance is a recent and interesting phenomena. They've taken the old Compulsory Dances -- which are now called Pattern Dances -- and told the skaters to smoosh them into something that looks like what the old Original Dance looked like with prescribed rhythms.

This year the Short Dance for Juniors is two patterns of the Cha Cha Congelado and then original stuff to one or more of the following rhythms: cha cha, mambo, merengue, rhumba, samba. It has to include the following:
  • short lift
  • not touching midline step sequence
  • one set of sequential twizzles
When I first heard about the Short Dance, I thought it sounded messy (okay I thought it was the stupidest idea known to man), but the reality has been some fun dances, both last year (the first year this was done) and this year. It's fun to see what original choreography people come up with, yet everyone is skating one section exactly the same so you can make meaningful comparisons even if you don't know that much about dance. Like you can say "their feet in that section looked crisper than the team before them." Plus, the Cha Cha Congelado is a very fun dance.

Another great thing about Latin Short Dances is that even the lower level teams can be fun to watch.

For example, Jeandell & Dodge who started out the night and are now 11th out of 13th had some nice knee action that made their dance really feel Latin. Howe & Janke ended up in the mid-pack and I thought their Cha Cha was particularly nice. Macini & Brooks were very happy with their skate (fist pumps at the end) and her costume was endlessly fascinating because it reminded me of tiger stripes.

Unfortunately, Dzierzanoski & Dispenza stood out by falling on their ending pose. Oops. But their music was fun combining Buster Poindexter and Santana. They also got a Level 4 on their straight line lift.

The next couple was Lauri Bonacori & Travis Mager. She is in a local club and I swear I've seen them skate before but it was a while ago and I couldn't quite remember the details, only that I was looking forward to seeing them. I thought their program was a nice change of pace and they had good interaction (i.e., they danced with each other). I was very impressed with their Cha Cha and they certainly got more points for it than the teams that came before them. 

In fact, their dance put them in 2nd overall. And that was with getting no credit for their lift according to the protocols. My notes say "nice lift" so they did one but the protocols have 0 for it. I am perplexed.

The Parsons are a brother and sister team. I loved the costumes and noted that their twizzles were in sync (often a problem even at higher levels) but were slow. However, they were complex enough to give them a level four. They also got 0 for their lift but are in 3rd. I'm obviously missing something with these lift marks.

Aldridge & Easton's first twizzles before they changed feet made me squee. (I'm kind of a twizzle gal. Which explains why Davis & White are my absolute favorite.) Their Cha Cha was also excellent and they are in first place.

Pogrebinsky & Gudis were up next. Elliana started skating in this area and I remember when she passed her first dances and started skating in her first dance events at local competitions. And now she's got a partner and is competing in Junior Dance. It's so exciting! She has a lot of personality and is very much a dancer. I wonder if she knew that when she took up dance or if she started just to improve her single skills (as many of the girls do) and caught the bug? Oh and Ross was nice too. (Smile) They are in seventh.

Bertsch of Bertsch & Kaplun had the Latin Diva thing down pat. I love a good Latin Diva. They are in 9th.

The other brother and sister team are the Gamelins. They are also dancing twins like the Lorellos, but actually skate with each other instead of other people. Unfortunately they had a BIG fall in the middle of their Cha Cha. While that only gave them 0 for one element out of 5, they also got a 2 point deduction for the fall (one for each of them). Their first pattern of the Cha Cha got almost 6 points so that's as much 8 points they lost! Which is probably why they are in 12th out of 13.

Next up were Hawayek & Bramante. They had cool music: Sway by the Pussycat Dolls and Tequlia by the Champs. Serious, how could you go wrong with that? I liked their lift too. It was a rotational lift and he was rotating extremely fast!  They are in 6th.

The final couple of the night, Heritage & Fast are a local couple. However, I wasn't familiar with them. They did a different kind of Latin, skating to Adele (what?!), and going for smooth rather than bouncy. They crowd loved them and they ended up in fifth. It was nice to see Pam and John O'Dougherty in the Kiss 'n Cry. Since I don't ice dance any more, I haven't seen them in ages.

Junior Men

After skating their Short Programs two nights ago, the Men were ready to vie for the crown.

Tomasello was the first skater and his costume reminded me of some socks I own, namely these:

Yes, he was skating to Jaws! Duh.

He got a lot of teasing about the costume on Twitter but I'm sure that was partly the idea. He started off with a nice double axel and a triple-triple. But at the end he fell on this footwork and was down for a long time so not only did he get the -1 deduction for a fall but he lost a lot of levels. This dropped him from 7th in the SP to 8th overall.

Emmanuel Savary had a horrendous Short so we were all nervous for him in the Free skate. He did a good job though. He did fall once but he didn't let it derail the program and he managed to get in pretty much all of his planned content with only one downgrade. In fact, he came in 9th in the Free skate, up four places. But, sadly, it wasn't enough to change his final position. Still dead last.

Andrew Nagode and David Wang (whose last name is pronounced as Wong confusing a lot of people online who started typing Wong) were next and they both had disappointing skates each dropping from their short program placement.

The next skater, Ryan Hartley, has horrendous jump technique. But he lands them. He landed seven triples! In fact, he put enough content out there to have the 5th best free skate of the night. However with being 11th after the short he was still behind Shark Boy.

The last person in the first group was Harrison Choate. He was dressed like a Mime. But without the white face, thank goodness. He did some miming in his program but it wasn't heavy-handed and, even though I really hate mimes, I loved the skate. He really threw down the gauntlet to the guys in the 2nd group. Mime Boy to 2nd group: Beat that, suckers!

So Jay Yostanto came out and did some Big Ass Jumps to start off. First a 3X-2T, then a 3X, then a 3Z-2T-2L. The triple axel is a very hard jump and I'm pretty sure no other guy in this event has one. Heck, some Seniors don't have one, at least not a reliable one.

So it looked like he as going to answer the challenge. But he couldn't sustain that and had a lot of issues with a fall and some pops and dropped from 6th to 7th overall.

The next challenger was Phillip Warren. He had been 5th in the SP. His program was very clean with only a hand-down on a triple flip. He had a lot of hard jumps too. Plus his program component scores were excellent. It was the second best free skate of the night, in fact, and it pulled him up to 3rd overall. Obviously he was very happy and so was the crowd who liked him very much.

Of course all we knew at this point is that he was above Choate pushing him to second place.

The next challenger was Timothy Dolensky who was actually first in the SP beating the expected winner, Nathan Chen by a fraction of a point. Timothy's skate was excellent with lots of triples and interesting leg positions in his Change Foot Camel Spin (for the no-teknic that means you do a camel spin, change feet and do another one with possibly other spin positions on each foot too since more positions equals more levels). This free skate did not beat Philip's. But Dolensky was enough ahead after the Short that he pulled into first anyway.

Uh oh, now Mime Boy was in third with the 2nd and 3rd place SP skaters still to skate! His medal chances were waning fast.

Nathan Chen was next. He's the skater everyone expected to win. (He's been winning a lot.) I hated the choreography of his SP, if you recall, but I loved his free skate. It had a maturity that the SP was lacking and he really looked like a Junior skater out there and not a little kid who had wandered into Juniors by mistake. So I take back everything I said two days ago, okay?

At the end, we all jumped out of our seats we were so excited by what we saw including 7 triples and an amazing footwork sequence to end the program.

And this kid is only 12! He's not even eligible to go out on the Junior International circuit (which is different than the US Junior level but overlapping).

Of course, he was in first after that. Now Mime Boy was in 4th! We so wanted him to get a medal but there are only four medals and Timothy Koleto, an excellent skater, was up next. It didn't seem like Nathan was beatable at this point, but Koleto was definitely in a position to get on the podium.

Unfortunately, he kind of melted down. It was horrible to watch so the least said about that, the better. He came in 10th in the free skate after being third in the short. Major bummer. But Mime Boy still had a medal (they have a pewter medal at US Nationals) and the last skater, Lukas Kaugars, didn't do anything to take it from him and in fact dropped from 4th to 6th.

Yeah to Harrison, pulling up from 10th to 4th. That has to be some sort of record! In honor of your achievements, I will stop calling you Mime Boy.

At the medal ceremony, everyone was very happy, too, which is nice to see.

P.S. "We" is the people sitting on either side of me who are all pretty hard-core, coming to everything when a lot of people only come for the Seniors or certain disciplines. We've been chatting between events, which is something I enjoy about coming to Nationals -- not just getting to see people you only see at competitions or talk to online but also meeting new people who are all as geeky about figure skating as you are.
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