The newly-formed U.S. team of Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Brandon Frazier are currently in first place after the Pairs Short Program at 2020 Guaranteed Rate Skate America, which took place after the Men’s event on Friday night. Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson placed second, followed by Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov.
Scimeca Knierim and Frazier put out a very respectable routine in their first outing, scoring 74.19 points. The team, performing to “In the End” by Tommee Profitt (Feat. Fleurie & Jung Youth), opened with a very good level 3 triple twist, followed by side-by-side triple toes, and a throw triple loop. The death spiral was graded a level 4, as was the change foot combination spin and group 3 lift.
There was a slight music mix-up as they took their beginning pose, but Scimeca Knierim found it oddly comforting, relating it to being back home.
“Brandon and I are very proud of the way we skated today,” said Scimeca Knierim. “We’ve been working really hard. We’re happy with how we skated, but we know we have a lot work ahead of us.”
Coming into the season, the team did not set any benchmarks, per se, as they didn’t know what to expect from each other. However, they are quite pleased with where they are at.
“We just need more time,” said Frazier. “Alexa and I have done a great job getting the throw loop on a quick basis. We still need the mileage to really get it down consistently. We are just trying to stick with our process and trust it.”
There were definitely challenges when the two skaters teamed up. There were elements that gelled quickly and others that did not.
“Alexa and I were just so grateful to have an opportunity to skate with one another,” said Frazier. “We were really motivated, and with that kind of positive energy, we can work through challenges and roadblocks that we come across.”
“There was a give and take from both of us on each element,” added Scimeca Knierim. “I had to learn some new lifts that Brandon taught me, and he had to adjust to throw techniques. We are still working on our timing together.”
In their program to “Light of the Seven” from the Game of Thrones soundtrack, Calalang took a fall on the opening side-by-side triple Salchows while Johnson did a double. The 2020 U.S. silver medalist rallied to deliver a very good level 4 triple twist which garnered many Grades of Execution (GOE), followed by a throw triple Lutz. The team also earned level 4 on the the spin, steps, and lift, and despite the mistake at the beginning, earned 71.08 points.
“Our short program wasn’t our best,” admitted Calalang. “We had a mistake at the beginning, but we really tried to focus on our performance and our overall skating skills. We are really happy to be back competing in a more competitive setting. Our twist has improved a little bit and we’re happy to show that it got a little bigger.”
“We feel definitely more like a pairs team,” said Calalang regarding their career thus far. “The first year we were trying to figure each other out, the second year we were getting a better understanding, but this season, I feel like like we have a great understanding of each other, our personalities, our work ethics.”
“If feels really good back doing Grand Prixes,” added Johnson. “We definitely missed it!”
Lu and Mitrofanov pulled off a very good level 4 triple twist, side-by-side triple Salchows, and a throw triple loop in their “Moulin Rouge” routine. The group 3 lift was also graded a level 4 as was the final combination spin. They earned 67.52 points. Their main goal is to make the podium at this event.
“We’re very proud of how we skated,” said Mitrofanov, who feels his partner’s biggest strength is her consistency. “We just put down a very solid program. This gave us confidence right now going into the free skate.”
The team chose “Charlie Chaplin” for their free skate and are trying to push their artistic mark.
Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc are in fourth with 64.12 points. Both skaters underrotated the triple Salchows and the landing of the throw triple Lutz was two-footed. However, the lift, spin, footwork, and death spiral were all graded a level 4.
“We came into this competition feeling very strong,” said LeDuc. “Very pleased with our training going into this. We’re just trying to set ourselves up in every way possible and use every opportunity to make ourselves stronger.”
“I knew with how we skated that our scores would be quite low,” said Kayne in regards to her expression when their scores were revealed. “We talked about it before we sat down. I think I just have a very expressive face without the use of the lower half. I don’t think the score was undeserved.”