In their first season together, U.S. pairs team Caitlin Fields and Ernie Utah Stevens not only won the junior title at the 2015 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships, but placed fifth at the 2015 World Junior Figure Skating championships.
The skaters, who teamed up in August 2014 and are coached by Serguei Zaitsev, had such a late start that they weren’t even sure they would be able to compete last season.
“Everything went so quick!” said Fields. “We were fast tracking everything to make the most out of the season. It felt pretty good, but It was a lot of work.”
The newly-paired team had only two opportunities to compete prior to nationals. They competed in and finished first at both the Midwestern Sectionals and the Mentor Nestle Nesquik Torun Cup.
“I wouldn’t say those events necessarily gave us confidence going into nationals, but that they rather were just a part of the process,” said Fields. “Our programs were so new and they increased in difficulty at each competition.”
“Unfortunately, I had an emergency appendectomy in mid-December and we were grateful that I was able to recover enough to compete in Poland as well as nationals,” added the 19-year-old.
When Fields and Stevens arrived in Greensboro, N.C., their practices went well and their schedule was clear and smooth.
“We also had a wonderful time seeing the friends we hadn’t seen last season when we were both without partners,” added Stevens. “There were so many wonderful fans who were just so ready to root for us and this meant the world for us as a new team.”
The team fought hard and placed first in both the short and long program to win the junior national title.
“When we stepped on that ice, we were not going to let anyone take it away from us,” said Stevens.
Going into Junior Worlds, the new team didn’t have much exposure to the skating community, so there weren’t many expectations.
“That made it enjoyable to tell everyone our story through our skating,” said Fields.
“We barely knew who we were yet, so there wasn’t the pressure of having the U.S. junior title on our minds,” added Stevens. “However, there was definitely both the expectation and pressure of how we would present ourselves to an international audience. We just wanted to show what the future of U.S. pair teams are capable of doing and how no one should brush us off to the side.”
In Tallinn, Estonia, the team wasn’t flawless, but they placed a respectable fifth. Both skaters felt it was a success as they received all the levels they were going for.
“We achieved everything we set out to do at Junior Worlds,” said Stevens, 21. “We stepped into the arena as the top American team, and we walked out of it as just that. We gave the world a glimpse of what is to come from the both of us as a team.”
“This team has many distinctive qualities and a passion for skating,” said coach Zaitsev. “Today’s figure skating requires high skills and proper training, but that may not be enough. Unwavering willpower is what at the end will make you a leader, and to deliver that takes time.”
This season, the skaters are keeping last year’s long program to Don Quixote, while their new short program is to “Piano et voix rythmiques” by Hugues Le Bars and was choreographed by Shanetta Folle and Zaitsev.
“This music is very different for pairs skating,” Stevens explained. “It’s a bit more on the modern side, and we have been working exclusively with a modern dance teacher to help us develop our bodies to perform new movements and artistic expressions that is required in order to successfully pull it off.”
In addition to working on their split twist and presentation skills, the skaters are also working on triples jumps.
“We have been working very strategically on developing our jump technique to pull off triple jumps in both our short and long,” Stevens shared. “With this being our first year in seniors, there is a lot for us to learn, but making our side by side jumps stronger is our main priority.”
“We can thank our choreographer, Shanetta, for pushing us completely and tirelessly to develop a new level of footwork as well,” he added.
When not training, Fields studies nutrition, while Stevens is a junior at Butler University where he is majoring in Strategic Communications major with a specialization in Advertising.
In their spare time, Fields enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing, while Stevens likes to watch figure skating, horse racing events, and learn new languages.
The team’s first competition this summer was at 2015 Skate Milwaukee in July where they past their senior test. Afterwards, they traveled to Moscow, Russia, for extensive training with their coach to work with Artur Dmitriev and his teams. They are currently pending ISU Challenger series events later this fall and are also listed as alternates for Skate America.
Their goals for this season in their senior debut is to develop their elements and continue to gel as a pair team.
“We want to be a team that is reliable and consistent,” said Stevens. “We want to go for it this season and not hold anything back. Ever since we teamed up, we have had to move forward at warp speed, so this is our year for learning.”