2007 US Figure Skating Championships: Pairs Highlights

The 2007 U.S. National Figure Skating Championships were held Jan 21-28 at the both the Spokane Convention Center and Spokane Arena in Spokane, Washington. Approximately 250 skaters competed in their respective Novice, Junior, and Senior division.

Spokane was one of the first sites chosen after the creation of the U.S. Figure Skating Events Advisory Board (EAB) in 2003, which seeks out and examines bids submitted to host U.S. Figure Skating events. Spokane showed success with 2002 Skate America, had an excellent infrastructure in place, demonstrated organizational skills, enthusiastic volunteers and a true interest in hosting the best event possible.

The 2008 U.S. Championships will be held in St. Paul, Minn., Jan 20-27, and the 2009 U.S. Championships will be held in Cleveland, Ohio, Jan 18-25.

On Jan 22, the U.S. Figure Skating announced the selection of Reading, Pa., as the host city for 2007 Skate America. The international figure skating event is one of six stops on the ISU Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series. Competition will take place at the Sovereign Center Arena, Oct. 26-28, 2007. Reading last hosted the event in 2003.

Throughout the course of the event, 154,893 tickets were sold, beating the previous record of 125,345 set in Los Angeles in 2002. This year’s event started strong, with a sold out crowd of 4,000 at the Novice Compulsory dance.

Novice Division

In the Novice division, Tracy Tanovich (Bradenton, Fla.) and Michael Chau (Oakdale, Minn.) placed first in both their short and long programs to win the title.

Caitlin Yankowskas (Pelham, N.H.) and Daniyel Cohen (Newton, Mass.), who stood in fourth after the short, placed second in the long and overall to capture the silver.

Jaylyn Kelly and Gabe Woodruff of Lansing, Mich. slipped from second place after the short to third overall, settling for bronze.

Short Program

Performing to The Race, Tanovich (10) and Chau (16) opened with a very good double twist, but then Chau underrotated and fell on the side-by-side double flips. The team recovered to produce a difficult lift, side-by-side spins, a level four spiral sequence and pair spin, and a backward-outside death spiral, all of which were very good, placing first with 45.47 points.

Kelly and Woodruff opened with a very high double twist in their routine to a modern arrangement by Mozart, following up with a good level four lift and good side-by-side double flips. The team also produced a good level four spiral sequence, placing second with 42.74 points.

Minna Lee (Edgewater, N.J.) and Taylor Toth (Kittanning, Pa.), were third (42.03 points) after their performance to selections by Rondo Veneziano which featured a very good level four lift, side-by-side double flips, a good spiral sequence, and a level three backward-outside death spiral.

Yankowskas (16) and Cohen (18) earned 41.38 points for their routine to The Mission, placing fourth.

Tiffany Nahm and Christopher Nahm were fifth (41.14 points).

Long Program

Tanovich and Chau opened with a good double twist in their routine to Don Quixote, which also featured two good lifts, excellent side-by-side combination spins, a very good throw double loop, and a good level three straight line footwork sequence. The 2007 Novice Eastern Sectional silver medalists earned 83.29 points for a first place finish in the long and overall (128.76 points) to win the gold.

“The best part was hearing the crowd at the end,” Tanovich said. “They went nuts. It was great to hear that. We had the crowd behind us the whole program.” 

“Our component [scores] were all fives,” she continued, “which is very good for a novice pairs team. We were trying to really work the new system to our advantage, and it really paid off.”

Yankowskas and Cohen had problems in the pair spin and side-by-side double Axel-double toeloop jumps in their routine to Swan Lake, but the 2007 Novice Eastern Sectional bronze medalists otherwise produced solid side-by-side double Lutzes, a very good backward-outside death spiral, a throw double loop and Salchow, and good circular footwork, earning 75.64 points for a second place finish in the long and overall (117.02 points).

Kelly (12) and Woodruff (23) executed a very good double twist and a throw double loop in their routine to music from the Corpse Bride routine. The 2007 Novice Midwestern Sectional bronze medalists also produced a good throw double flip and a difficult lift to place third in the long (74.22 points) and overall (116.96 points).

Brynn Carman (12) and Christopher Knierim (19) of Colo. placed fourth in the long (73.73 points), rising from eighth place after the short to fourth overall (112.25 points).

Lee (16) and Toth (18), who stood in third after the short, placed ninth in the long (64.17 points) and seventh overall (106.20 points).

Junior Division

Keauna McLaughlin (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Rockne Brubaker (Algonquin, Ill.) were the gold medal winners in the Junior division, while Bianca Butler (Dana Point, Calif.) and Joseph Jacobsen (Lake Arrowhead, Calif.) and Jessica Rose Paetsch (Centennial, Colo.) and Jon Nuss (Colorado Springs, Colo.) won the silver and bronze medal, respectively.

The U.S. can send three pair teams to the World Junior Figure Skating Champions. McLaughlin and Brubaker were chosen along with two pair teams which competed at the senior level at this event: Kendra Moyle and Andy Seitz and Bridget Namiotka and John Coughlin.

Butler and Jacobsen were chosen as the first alternates.

Short Program

Skating to the Somewhere in Time soundtrack, McLaughlin (14) and Brubaker (20) opened with an excellent level four lift, followed by side-by-side double Axels, an excellent double twist, a very good throw triple Salchow, and good side-by-side combination change spins. The team also displayed an excellent backward-outside death spiral, a very good pair combination spin, and a level four spiral sequence, placing first after the short with 61.76 points.

Butler and Jacobsen skated a clean routine to Pas de Deux by Tchaikovsky which featured an excellent double twist, combination side-by-side spins, and a level four spiral sequence. The team also produced a very good throw triple Salchow, backward-outside death spiral, and pair combination spin, as well a difficult lift, earning 54.48 points for a second place finish after the short.

Performing to music from the Anastasia soundtrack, Paetsch (13) and Nuss (18) opened with an excellent lift and very good side-by-side double flips, but had problems on their double twist. Despite the mistake, the 2006 U.S. Novice Champions also produced a good throw triple Salchow, a very good level four spiral sequence and side-by-side spins, as well as a good backward-outside death spiral, placing a close third with 53.93 points.

Kaela Pflumm (Laurel Hollow, N.Y.) and Christopher Pottenger (Coppell, Texas) skated a clean program which featured a very good double twist, spiral sequence, level four lift, throw triple Salchow, and side-by-side flying camel combination spins, placing fourth with 52.32 points after the short.

Andrea Best (Howell, Mich.) and Trevor Young (West Bloomfield, Mich.) were fifth (48.94 points), followed by Meg Byrne (Blue Bell, Pa.) and Nathan Bartholomay (Newtown, Pa.) who had 48.09 points.

Long Program

Skating to Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, McLaughlin and Brubaker opened with an outstanding triple twist, but McLaughlin stepped out of a triple Salchow and later fell on a throw triple loop. The 2006 JGP Final Champions also had problems on their combination pair spin and McLaughlin singled her first jump on the side-by-side double Lutz-double flip sequence. The team otherwise produced two excellent lifts, a very good pair combination spin and spiral sequence, and good backward-outside death spiral, placing first in the long (100.47 points) and overall (162.23 points) to win the title.

“We had a good short, so it was an improvement,” said McLaughlin, of their performance.” On the fall, she commented: “It was just a fall and I came back strong, so I was happy.”

“It was pretty good,” said Brubaker, of their performance. “We focus on perfecting everything and little details. With the new [scoring] system, it’s not just about one element when you have all the other things like component scores that add up. We try to focus on the whole package. The biggest thing is the components. As far as elements, we do them pretty well, but for us, it’s working on our skating skills and choreography.

Brubaker added that this year has probably been his favorite. “We have an awesome relationship and have so much fun. This has probably been my favorite nationals so far.”

Butler (17) and Jacobsen (19) had a crashy landing on their opening triple twist and Butler later fell on a triple Salchow in their program to Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor by Rachmaninoff, but the 2007 Pacific Coast Sectional Junior Champions otherwise produced good side-by-side double flips, a side-by-side double Lutz-double flip sequence, two difficult lifts, a good pair combination spin and a level three circular footwork sequence, as well as a very good forward-inside death spiral to place second in the long (92.35 points) and overall (146.83 points).

“We feel good,” said Butler, of their performance. “We performed good.”

Jacobsen added that this year has been up and down for them. “We’ve had a lot of great moments and skates, but we’ve also had to deal with some injuries we’ve never had to deal with before.”

Pflumm (15) and Pottenger (19) had a shaky exit in their final lift and Pottenger stepped out of his jump in the side-by-side double Axels in their routine to Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor by Rachmaninov. Pflumm also put her hand down on a throw triple Lutz, however the 2006 JGP Hungary silver medalists otherwise produced a good double twist, a throw triple loop, and a level four spiral sequence, as well as a good pair combination spin to place third in the long (90.75 points). With a total score of 143.07 points, the team missed the third spot on the podium by .21 points, placing overall (143.07 points).

Paetsch and Nuss opened their Sing, Sing, Sing routine with a triple twist, but Paetsch had a shaky landing on a throw triple Salchow and Nuss stepped out of his jump on the side-by-side double Lutzes. The team also struggled with their first lift and Nuss later fell at the end of a pair combination spin. Despite the mistakes, the 2006 JGP Final bronze medalists otherwise delivered a good spiral sequence, an excellent level four lift, a side-by-side double Lutz-double flip sequence, and a good backward-outside death spiral. The team placed fourth in the long (89.34 points), but with a total score of 143.27 points, maintained third place overall to win the bronze.

“It wasn’t our best performance of the year,” admitted Nuss, “but overall, I thought it was pretty good. We wanted to come in here and skate well and maybe get a spot on the Junior World team.”

Paetsch felt that there were only a few hard things about moving up from the Novice division. “There is only a 30 second difference between programs.”

Best (18) and Young (19) placed fifth in the long (85.92 points) and overall (134.86 points). The 2007 Midwestern Sectional Junior Champions produced a very good throw triple Salchow, as well as good side-by-side double Axels and a double twist, however the team almost collided during their footwork sequence, and Best stepped out of a throw double flip.

Byrne (15) and Bartholomay (17) were sixth overall (129.19 points), followed by Lisa Moore (Fort Collins, Colo.) and Justin Gaumond (Denver, Colo.), who placed seventh with 125.05 points.

Senior Division

Brooke Castile (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.) and Ben Okolski (Ann Arbor, Mich.) were the surprise gold medal winners in the Senior division, edging out Rena Inoue and John Baldwin (both of both of Santa Monica, Calif.) by .35 points, while Naomi Nari Nam and Themistocles Leftheris took the bronze.

The top two teams earned a spot at the upcoming World Figure Skating Champions, with Nam (Irvine, Calif.) and Leftheris (Long Beach, Calif.) being chosen as the first alternates.

All three teams were chosen to represent the U.S. at the Four Continents Championships in February, with Amanda Evora (Sugar Land, Texas) and Mark Ladwig (Fargo, N.D. and Moorhead, Minn.) selected as the first alternates.

Short Program

Skating to Soul of Spain, Inoue (30) and Baldwin (33) opened with very good side-by-side double Axels, but Inoue stepped out of the landing on the throw triple Axel. The defending champions also had problems on a shaky lift, but otherwise produced a very good spiral sequence, double twist, and side-by-side combination change spins to place first with 62.73 points.

“We want to do a clean short and a clean long,” said Inoue, “but tonight we had a little wobbly lift, and I stepped out of the throw triple Axel.”

“We have a throw triple Axel, and it’s more important to go for that,” said Baldwin, on trying the easier jumping pass in the short. “There is a 0.7 point difference between the double Axel and the triple toe. The quality of our double Axel is high, so it’s not worth the risk.”

“We left a couple of points on the table,” continued Baldwin. “I had a little bit of a struggle with a lift so that’s uncharacteristic for me, but our goal is to come off the ice being happy and we did.”

Later in the press conference, the alleged attack on Baldwin at the Grand Prix Final in Russia was brought up. Apparently, Baldwin posted a release on his website about the attack, and the team was asked to comment on why this is so important.

“It was the worst thing that happened to me in my whole life,” said Baldwin, “and I don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”

Nam and Leftheris opened their Jalousie tango routine with excellent side-by-side triple toeloops, followed by a very good throw triple loop, a good lift, and a level four spiral sequence. The team also produced a good double twist, placing a close second with 62.29 points.

Nam and Leftheris were both pleased with how they skated, as well as the fact that the audience ‘booed’ the marks they received. “This is the third time that that has happened, and we were like ‘YEAH!’” said Nam, pumping her fists above her head.” The team viewed it as accolades from the crowd on a job well done.

The team shares the same coach (Peter Oppegard). “Every time we have competed, Rena and John have been there,” said Nam. “We have always either skated right before or after them, or with only one team in between. We are used to it.”

Performing to Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Castile and Okolski executed an excellent pair combination spin, a triple twist, and throw triple Salchow. Okolski stepped out of the side-by-side double Axels and the 2006   Nebelhorn Trophy Champions had unison problems on their side-by-side spins, but otherwise produced a good spiral sequence and a very good lift, placing third with 59.77 points.

In the last year, the team changed coaches, moved to a new rink, and Okolski moved to a new town in order to make a change. The team currently feels that they are in a happier and more motivating environment.

“I want people to know that Ben is my best friend,” said Castile, “and that we are in this for the long haul.”

Tiffany Vise (20) and Derek Trent (26) opened their routine to Perfidia and Jazz Machine with a very good double twist, but Trent underrotated and put his hand down on the landing of the side-by-side triple toeloops. Despite the mistake, the 2007 Midwestern Sectional Champions also delivered a very good throw triple loop, backward-outside death spiral, difficult lift, spiral sequence, and side-by-side flying camel combination spins to place fourth with 58.44 points.

Performing to Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A by Maksim Mrvica, Kendra Moyle (Chelsea, Mich.) and Andy Seitz (Bettendorf, Iowa) opened with an excellent level three lift, followed by side-by-side double Axels, a double twist, and a throw triple loop. The 2006 World Junior silver medalists also delivered a very good spiral sequence and side-by-side flying camel combination spins to earn 54.30 points for a fifth place finish.

Skating to Black Magic Woman by Carlos Santana, Evora (22) and Ladwig (26) executed a difficult lift and displayed good spins, but Evora stepped out of a throw triple Lutz and underrotated her jump on the side-by-side triple Salchows. The team finished in sixth place (53.24 points) after the short.

Bridget Namiotka (Chester Springs and West Chester, Pa.) and John Coughlin (Kansas City, Mo.) were seventh (50.91 points), followed by Rhea Sy (Irvine, Calif.) and Cole Davis (Cincinnati, Ohio) who placed eighth with 50.49 points.

Long Program

Performing to music from the Requiem for a Dream soundtrack, Castile (20) and Okolski (22), who stood in third after the short, opened with an outstanding triple twist and throw triple Salchow, followed by a solid double Axel-double toeloop sequence. The team went on to produce three very good lifts, a solid throw triple loop, side-by-side double toeloops, and a good level three spiral sequence. The 2007 Midwestern Sectional silver medalists placed first in the long (118.63 points) and overall (178.40 points), edging out Inoue and Baldwin to win the title.

“Unbelievable!” said Castile, on their performance. “It feels great! It was everything we wanted to do today, and we skated nice and strong. It felt great to skate like that at nationals. It felt really good.”

Castile added that they had worked hard all year. “I feel like we’ve prepared in every way possible and it just doesn’t compare to anything I’ve done in skating. I just want to keep building from this. It’s a good start for us. [We have done] everything that we wanted to this year.”

“One of the things about our coach (Johnny Johns) is that he is extremely organized,” said Okolski. “He mapped out where he wanted us to be at each point in the year. We worked our hardest to get there every time to meet his goal. It obviously it worked for us.”

Inoue and Baldwin, both of Santa Monica, Calif., had problems right from the start when Baldwin fell on the side-by-side triple toeloops. Inoue later fell on a throw triple Axel, but the 2006 Four Continents Champions otherwise delivered a good double twist, a side-by-side double Axel sequence, three very good lifts, and a very good side-by-side pair combination spin, spiral sequence, and straight line footwork to place second in the long (115.42 points) and overall (178.15 points).

“Today was not our day,” said Inoue, on winning the silver. “I am sure that you have heard that from athletes from all sports – not just figure skating. Today was not our day, but fortunately we made the World team.”

Baldwin lauded Castile and Okolski.”They’re a great team and it’s good to see a base being built in the U.S. I think we have a lot of strong pair teams.”

“Let me tell you,” continued Baldwin, on Castile and Okolski’s twist, “they’ve inspired us. They are an inspiration on how that element gets done.” Baldwin added that they would add it in to their program only if it were on par with Castile and Okolski’s.

“It’s hard to talk about next year,” said Inoue, regarding the 2008 U.S. Nationals. “We have a couple more missions this year.” “I don’t see why not if we stay healthy,” said Baldwin.

Nam (21) and Leftheris (24) opened their Caravan routine with very good triple toeloop-triple toeloop sequence and side-by-side double flips, but Nam touched down with her free foot on a throw triple Salchow and later fell on a throw triple loop. Nevertheless, the 2006 Skate America bronze medalists also produced a very good forward-inside death spiral and three difficult lifts, placing third in the long (106.20 points) and overall (168.49 points) to capture the bronze.

“I think we got a little ahead of ourselves,” said Nam, on losing momentum after the first minute of their program. “It’s another learning opportunity, and we’ll take it that way. Of course I’m disappointed. I am not going to lie.”

Leftheris felt that experience is what they need. “This is our second nationals. Since last year, we’ve added the second throw triple in our program and it’s still really new to us. I think with every competition, whether we miss an element or not, we’re improving.”

Evora and Ladwig opened their West Side Story routine with a triple twist, but Evora stepped out of a huge throw triple Lutz and Ladwig put his hand down on the side-by-side triple Salchows. The 2007 Eastern Sectional Champions also executed three difficult lifts, a very good backward-outside death spiral, and a good spiral sequence, placing fourth in the long (105.42 points) and overall (158.66 points).

Julia Vlassov (Hudson, Mass.) and Drew Meekins (Wellesley, Mass.), who stood in ninth after the short, produced a clean program to Warsaw Concerto which featured three difficult lifts, a solid throw triple loop, a good side-by-side double Lutz-double flip sequence, a very good throw triple Salchow, and good spins. The current World Junior Champions placed fifth (98.24 points) in the long, and with a total score of 147.93 points, moved up to seventh overall.

Vise and Trent, both from Colorado Springs, Colo. placed sixth in the long (97.02 points) and fifth overall (155.46 points). Vise underrotated and fell on a throw quadruple Salchow (downgraded to a triple) and singled a throw triple toeloop. Trent also underrotated his jump on the side-by-side triple toeloops.

Moyle (16) and Seitz (21), who stood in fifth after the short, placed ninth (94.40 points) in the long and sixth overall (148.70 points).

Sy (25) and Davis (22) placed seventh in the long (96.61 points) and were eighth overall (147.10 points).

Namiotka (17) and Coughlin (21) were ninth overall (146.88 points).

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