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2013 U.S. National Championships

Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage Win Junior Pairs Short Program with Personal Best Performance

by Doris Spicer Pulaski

(23 January 2013)  It's a common saying that people watch figure skating for the same reason that they watch Nascar, for the crashes. Nowhere are crashes more frequent in skating than in pairs events, but fortunately the pairs short program at the 2013 U.S. Nationals Figure Skating Championship had no really disastrous accidents.

Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage

The event was won by Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage who skated to "The Swan" by Camille St. Saens. The eighteen-year old Aaron and the twenty-year old Settlage scored 52.94 to lead the event going into the free skate by more than three points, and achieved a personal best score for the short program. The positions that skaters have to assume to earn level 4's for lifts are not, on the whole, suggestive of swan-like grace. Aaron & Settlage overcame that difficulty to present a fluid and elegant program that still managed to be swan-like. The strongest parts of their performance were their double twist, and their side by side double axels.

Britney Simpson, 16, & Mathew Blackmer of the Broadmoor SC, had a bye to the 2013 US Championships, as the 2012 US Nationals Junior Pairs silver medalists. The team from Colorado skated to "The Mask of Zorro" soundtrack by James Horner. The couple, which is coached by Dalilah Sappenfield and Larry Ybarra, earned 50.25 points, and is in second place. The pair skated with speed, flow and strong edging to music that contained some rather strange sound effects, giggling and chanting. The highlights of their performance were a high, well controlled double twist, and a big triple Salchow throw during which Simpson held her arms akimbo throughout the jump and landing. The one negative of their routine was a failure to earn higher than a level 1 for their back outside death spiral.

Jessica Noelle Calalang & Zack Sidhu skated to the old ragtime standard, "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin. The team, coached by Todd Sand and Jenni Meno, scored 48.32 points and earned third place in the pairs short program. The first place pair at 2013 Pacific Sectionals made a number of minor bobbles during their program. Calalang was not able to hold the landing edge on her double Axel and rotated out of it. Calalang & Sidhu only received a level 1 for their back outside death spiral. This season, many teams have shown an inability of the lady to hold her head lower than her skating knee for at least one revolution during the back outside death spiral, which still holding a steady back outside edge.

The positive highlights of the sixteen-year old Calang and the twenty one-year old Sidhu performance were their light-hearted connection to their vaudeville-based routine choreographed by Cindy stuart, which was, of course, entertaining, their level four step sequence, and a very nice, high double twist.

It was very surprising to see a tiny thirteen-year old girl, dressed rather like one of the orphans from Ludwig Bemelmann's popular children's book, "Madeline" skating to the "Duelling Banjos" instrumental piece from the "Deliverance" movie soundtrack with a very adult looking nineteen-year old man, but that's the image that Chelsea Liu & Devin Perini presented in the pairs short program. Their choreographers, Christine Binder, Todd Sand, and Cindy Stuart, and their coaches, Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, must find it a challenge to create programs for such a mismatched pair.

Certainly, the silver medalists from the 2012 US Nationals Novice Pairs event don't seem fazed by anything. They performed with verve and cuteness, if not with technical perfection, miming kicking each other, slapping each other, and generally fooling around, to earn fourth place and a score of 47.20.

There are negatives as well as positives to teams where a small lady is teamed with a large man, and Liu & Perini demonstrated both. Their throw triple Salchow was so huge that Liu found it impossible to land on one foot, and had to put a hand down as well to keep from falling. Their double twist was very high and earned +2 GOEs.

Caitlin Fields & Jason Pacini finished fifth with a score of 43.79, while Brianna de la Mora & Taylor Wilson are in the sixth place with a score of 42.31.

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