Golden Skate

Cain and Reagan accomplish rare feat at U.S. Nationals

Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan won the junior pairs title at the 2011 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Continuing with their strong performances at the US Championships, fifteen-year-old Ashley Cain and twenty-one-year-old Joshua Reagan made the rare jump from novice pairs champions to junior pair champions in back to back seasons. The Texas-trained duo led from the start of the competition, and never looked back.

“It was amazing,” Reagan gushed after the program. “I’m kind of at a loss for words right now. It was a great skate, and I was so happy after so many different points. In the ending spin (Cain) said that we did it, and we were just so happy.”

Skating appropriately to Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, the Junior Grand Prix Finalists showcased senior level difficulty including a pair of side-by-side triple Salchows and a brand new throw triple flip.

“After we did the (double) Axels-(double) Axels, I got shivers in my body,” Cain admitted. “It feels great to put the triple flip out there. We haven’t landed it in the competitions that we have tried it in yet, and to land it here felt great.”

Cain and Reagan earned a total of 142.28 points overall, and look to be a solid bet to be selected for the Junior World Championships team that will compete in South Korea at the end of February.

“This was the one we wanted,” coach David Kirby announced proudly. “Success is doing the right thing at the right time, and today they did the right thing at the right time.”

Finishing with the silver medals in their first year as a team is Andrea Proapst (18) and veteran Christopher Knierim (23). After a disappointing sixth place finish in the short program, the duo came back with a strong freeskate highlighted by a gorgeous triple twist and a throw triple salchow.

“This one I think I was more focused on not winning a medal, but working on the component marks and relating to each other while skating instead,” Knierim said of his Nationals experience. “I think that this is the best I have ever related to my partner on the ice.”

The Canadian-born Proapst and three-time US Junior Pairs medalist Knierim earned a total of 136.46 points in the competition. Proapst, sixth in the junior ladies competition at the 2010 Canadians, was in awe of the excitement of competing at the US Championships for the first time.

“The difference is huge,” Proapst said of competing at the US Championships. “The skating atmosphere in the arena, the lights, and the crowds are all much more exciting.”

Coach Dalilah Sappenfield believes that this team has potential in droves, and is convinced that Proapst is the right match for her longtime pupil Knierim.

“(Andrea’s) mom contacted me about working with Larry (Ibarra) to see if she would be interested in pairs,” Sappenfield recalled. “At the time Chris was looking for a partner, and I immediately had them try out. By the second session, there was something that I knew I could do with her and develop. This is a perfect match. I did not want Chris to partner hop; I wanted him to have a long-term partner. They get along well, they don’t fight, and they are like brother and sister. She’s just a dream skater to work with.”

After finishing in second in the short program, Cassie Andrews (17) and Timothy LeDuc (20) settled for bronze with a competent effort in their first season together.

“We definitely left a lot of points on the table,” LeDuc revealed after their program. “It’s definitely a huge step forward for us, and we’re very pleased with our efforts today. We are still a very new team, and to be out there at nationals and being second after the short, we’re pleased. We definitely know that we have a lot of room to improve in the future.”

Despite making several mistakes on key elements, Andrews and LeDuc earned high praise for their program components, earning the third highest scores of the day. Their total of 129.84 points secured them the third spot on the podium.

“We’re really excited,” Andrews said of winning the medals. “It’s a big accomplishment for our first year.”

Finishing with the pewter medals was sixteen year-old Brynn Carman and eighteen year-old A.J. Reiss. Though they had the third best freeskate of the day, their total of 129.02 points overall, was just a little short of earning the bronze medals.

Mandy Garza and Brandon Frazier finished in fifth place, while Haven Denney and Daniel Raad moved up to sixth place overall. The third place team in the short program, Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton struggled in their freeskate, and dropped to seventh place overall.

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