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2013 U.S. National Championships

Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton Dominate Junior Dance Event Despite Fall in Free Dance

by Doris Spicer Pulaski

(23 January 2013)   It was a tale of two rinks, each of which had placed three teams in the top six at the 2013 US National Junior Ice Dance Championships after the Short Dance. The winning team, Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton, of the Detroit SC, did what favorites are supposed to do; they won both the free dance and overall competition handily with a total score of 159.85, which exceeded their best international result, 142.10, received at last year’s 2012 World Junior Championships.

Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton in Uplifting Free Dance

There was one hair-raising moment, when Aldridge slipped at the end of the rink just after the completion of a fast level 4 twizzle sequence, and just before the team was to start their diagonal step. Aldridge explained her misstep this way: “I tripped going into the diagonal step sequence. But what our coaches always tell us, you have to be reactive, because anything can happen out there. And we’re just very well-trained. And even if we have falls like that we know exactly how to react, how it get right back into our element or whatever we are doing at that time. And I mean we did that today.”

They did indeed do that. The 2013 Grand Prix Final bronze medalists, executed their diagonal sequence as if nothing had happened at all, and received all +1 and +2 grades of execution for it, too.

Aldridge and Eaton successfully recreated the mood of the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” from their folk dance-y intro. The dancers waltzed beautifully, with a lovely lilt, to “Matchmaker,” in the way ice dance judges prefer, and earned level four for their circular step sequence in the process, a notable achievement.

If Aldridge & Eaton’s victory was no surprise, the second place finish of Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker, aged 16 and 19, who are also trained by Pasquale Camerlengo, Angelika Krylova, Massimo Scali, Natalia Annenko-Deller, and Elizabeth Punsalen-Swallow, would never have been predicted even six months ago. The team only came together seven months ago. Baker talks about the experience of moving to the hotbed of world ice dance excellence, the Detroit metropolitan area: “I'm very new to that since I just moved to Detroit seven months ago; coming just from me and my old partner training at our facility with no other elite athletes; going to this training camp is like spectacular. I love it: all the coaches, all the amazing skaters! It's so easy to go into the rink every day and to know that if you're having a hard day, that they'll help you through, and it's so nice to see everyone working so hard, like everyone's on the same page, wanting what's best for them.

The top teams, like the world's' bronze medalists Nathalie [Pechalat] & Fabian [Bourzat], and Kaitlyn [Weaver] & Andrew [Poje], they're so inspiring because one day, as Alex [Aldridge] and Dan [Eaton] said, we hope to be just like them, at their level, but we've not only grown mentors out of them but friends as well.”

Hawayek & Baker were only in third place coming into the free dance, but skated an aggressively cheerful, smile-inducing performance to the soundtrack of an “American in Paris,” including the numbers, “Good Morning” and “Singing in the Rain” to score 89.02 for the free dance, and 149.74 overall. Particularly impressive was their level 4 diagonal step sequence near the end of the program, when tiring muscles make it even harder to hit the deep, clean edges and tidy turns required for that element.

The team they passed won the bronze medal, Lorraine McNamara, 13 & Quinn Carpenter, 16, who train at the Wheaton Academy with coaches Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak, and Dmytri Ilin. McNamara & Carpenter were not that disappointed at only repeating as US bronze medalists in junior ice dance. McNamara declared in her opening statement at the post-free dance press conference, “I think it's great that at our ages, only thirteen and sixteen, that for two years in a row now, we can say that we were on the podium. It's great to have skated to really fun, entertaining programs, clean.”

McNamara & Carpenter scored a personal best free dance mark of 85.58, surpassing their old standard of 76.99, achieved at last year’s US National Junior Ice Dance Championship. Their final score was 149.25, less than half a point behind Hawayek & Baker. In earning their third place finish, the couple, appropriately cast as Romeo and Juliet, performed to "Le Balcon" and "Les Rois Du Monde" from Romeo et Juliette, de la Haine a l'Amour by Gerard Presgurvic. The only flaw in their routine was an extended lift, which cost them a -1.00 deduction, and also, in the end, cost them the silver medal.

While McNamara & Carpenter had to be somewhat disappointed with their third place finish, Holly Moore & Daniel Klaber, Novice champions last year, were thrilled to finish fourth in their first US National Junior Ice Dance Championships, and had an emotional celebration with their coach Pasquale Camerlengo in the Kiss and Cry area when their scores were revealed. The team chose music from the “Moulin Rouge soundtrack for their free dance, which earned them a personal best score of 82.94, and a total score of 141.33 to claim the pewter medal.

When asked how their perfromance felt,  Holly Moore said “It felt really good. We, I think that was the best we’ve ever skated it. And it felt really good and we got our personal best score. And our goal was just to come in and have fun, and I feel like we did that.

Elliana Pogrebinsky & Ross Gudis, who train at Wheaton Academy with McNamara & Carpenter, scored 73.49 in the free dance and 127.77, well behind the four medalists, to earn fifth place, but an improvement on their eighth place finish last year. Their rink-mates Whitney Miller & Kyle MacMillan, who were last year’s Novice silver medalists, were awarded 67.10 in the free dance, for sixth place, and a total score of 112.82.

In the battle of the two rinks, this year it was really no contest. The clear victory went to Krylova and Camerlengo’s students over Wheaton Academy. However, both the coaches from both training schools will probably have noticed that Igor Shpilband, whose teams dominated the junior field prior to the 2011-2012 season, but who has had no junior teams since, was back on the boards this year. The former coach of U.S. Senior Champions, Meryl Davis & Charlie White, was coaching a team of brand new juniors, the team of Min & Ogay. Who knows what will happen next year.

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