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2013 U.S. National Championships

Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir Begin Quest for Pairs Title

by George Rossano

(24 January 2013) 

With the loss of reigning Pairs Champions Cadeey Denney & John Coughlin due to his recent hip surgery, Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir became the favorites to capture the pairs title this year, and took the first step on that quest with a strong Short Program performance.  The team skated a nearly clean program with just a handful of negative GoEs on their change foot combination spin.  They gave a lively performance to "Stray Cat Strut" and "The Pink Panther" showing the most mature "pair quality" of the event.

Marissa Castelli & Simon Shnapir

On the good speed they displayed in the program Shnapir said, “We definitely train in these programs hard and we’re always trying to push all of our elements to be faster and the program to be faster. This is a high intensity program, it’s a quick and fun program, so I think coupled with our nervousness, we got going from the get go of the program. It was fast, but it didn’t feel out of place for us. We like to really push the program and skate fast and hard and go all out into these elements.”

Having gone from pursuit of the favorites, to being the favorites in the event, Shnapir said, “I think we’ve embraced it. Like Marissa said, we understand all of that, but for us it’s more about focusing on what we do. Every day in practice, and how we prepare for these competitions, there’s always something going on around us. Some kind of event, someone’s injured, and what have you, but for us it’s focusing on getting our job done day in and day out.”

Placing second in the short program, a huge 9.08 points back were Felicia Zhang & Nathan Bartholomay.   They opened with a big clean triple twist, but on triple toe loops Zhang put a hand down. There were no other major errors,  but their death spiral only achieved level one and their step sequence level two.  The team holds second place by just 0.40 points.

Describing their performance Bartholomay said, “Felicia and I felt really good today. We’ve been working really hard on having a calm aggressiveness throughout our program and we were really tried to drive that home today. Yeah, we had a little mistake here and there, but we felt really strong and pushed the nerves aside and got done what we needed to get done.”

This is the second season at Nationals for the team, which moved from Delaware to Florida in the last year.  “We have been together since May of 2011 so this is our second nationals, Zhang said.  "I believe we have made so much improvement from last year. And we are looking to have another strong program to end off the season.”   She added, “It’s been awesome from moving to Delaware to Florida and being surrounded by pairs is a great motivational tool for both of us and it has really benefited us in our skating.”

Alexa Scimeca & Christopher Knierim are close on the heels of the second place team despite two significant errors.  After completing a superb triple twist, throw triple flip was poorly landed with a stumble and step out on the landing.  Then on triple Salchow, Knierim fell, and the element was also called under-rotated.  They slightly outscored Zhang & Bartholomay in components, but trailed them in elements.

Describing their experience as a new team this season Knierim said,  “It has been nine or 10 months since we have started. We have been busy. We have gone internationally a couple times. That has been a really good experience for us being a new team. This is our first nationals and we didn’t put any expectations behind it. We just wanted to come in and put on a good performance and I think we did that even with the mistakes.”

 Afterwards Scimeca also remarked,  “Chris and I are really happy with our skate today. We had two pretty big errors, but it’s all about experiences. We’re still a new team and we’re just enjoying ourselves out there. I think we’re just excited to perform. It’s not always about being perfect, just being in the moment.”

Just 0.31 points further back in fourth place sit Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier in the crowded top of the field.  Other than being hit with a mandatory -3s for their solo jump which was singled Salchow, and achieving only level one on the death spiral,  the team had strong elements in a lively performance to "Malaguena."  Their well executed performance was rewarded with the second highest component scores of the segment.

On their reaction to competing as seniors for the first time Frazier said, “I would have to say just the energy, I have never felt a competition like that before, and that was just the short. It wasn’t nerve racking, I mean there was a little nerves always when I compete, but it was just so exciting…to be knowing we’re the last ones out there, it’s a great competition, we have a lot of support”

“We felt really trained, and most importantly I felt like we both were together. Connected. We didn’t do that program more than another. We both contributed 50/50. Obviously there’s so much more to improve on everything, but for a first time for senior and I felt like it was something to take a lot of positive from.” 

The new pairing of Lindsay Davis & Mark Ladwig has been slow in gelling this season, and the team has struggled to mesh as a pair.  Here at Nationals, the worst of those growing pains now appear behind them.  Their only significant error was a late catch in their triple twist, but their death spiral also only achieved level 1. They opened with strong triple Salchows and their step sequence was also well done.  The team is less than one point behind Denney & Frazier.

On their first time skating together at nationals Ladwig said,  “This is our first nationals, so it was really a good attack on the program I thought. Both of us went out there and went for the levels went for our features and I think it was reflected well.”   Davis added, “Actually, I feel like we’re setting down what we laid in practice so it feels really good.”

First place for Castelli & Shnapir seems a foregone conclusion at this points, but the remainder of the podium remains an open opportunity for most of the teams.

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