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2014 U.S. National Championships

Setoyama & Botero Win the Gold at 2014 US Novice Pairs Championship

 by Doris Spicer Pulaski





(6 January 2014)  Ai Setoyama & David Botero continued their winning streak by placing first at the 2014 US Nationals Novice Pairs competition. The team skated to “Singing in the Rain” by the Boston Pops Orchestra, and earned 86.44 points to win the Free Skate, and 129.18 points overall, to claim the gold medal by over seven points. Setoyama & Botero achieved the highest base value of the competition for their elements, which included an Axel entry lasso lift), a level 3 back inside death spiral, a level 4 side-by-side spin, and a level 4 pair spin. A particular highlight was the height on their level 3 double twist. The only problem in the routine was with their double flip-double loop combination.   Botero was very insecure in his landings

Setoyama & Botero performed a light-hearted program to “Singing in the Rain” by the Boston Pops Orchestra. Setoyama wore a pink top, a black skirt,and a pink bow in her hair. Botero sported a white shirt, black vest, and black pants and a pink pocket square. Natural, outgoing performers, already skilled at interacting with the audience, the team also received the highest program components scores of the event as well.

Cirinia Gillett & Maximiliano Fernandez who placed second in the short program, also placed second in the free skate as well, with a score of 83.09 points, and a total score of 121.90 points to earn the silver medal. The students of Jim Peterson and Amanda Evora, who skated to the "Waltz of the Flowers” by Peter I. Tchaikovsky, showed very nicely synchronized side-by-side spins, and a stylish level 2 forward inside death spiral. The 2014 Eastern Sectional Novice Champions executed most of their elements for positive grades of execution. The sole exception was their double twist lift, which had so little height that Gillett scarcely left Fernandez's hands.

Californians Jessica Lee & Robert Hennings settled for the bronze medal. They scored 83.04 points in the Free Skate, and 121.45 points overall, to trail, Gillett & Fernandez by less than half a point. Cindy Stuart, their choreographer, gave them a fast-paced, athletic routine to Music from Cirque du Soleil’s “Iris” by various artists. The team dressed as circus performers, as their music would suggest. Hennings wore a puffy sleeved white shirt with a black bowtie, black and white checkerboard vest and black pants, while Lee had a red dress with a black and white checkerboard insert in the bodice. Lee & Hennings smoothly executed a really fine Level 3 forward inside death spiral, featuring lovely positions. Their throw double toe loop and double twist were also very nice. The students of Poor and Leftheris did have some problems with the throw double flip, for which they received a negative grade of execution. Lee pitched forward onto her toe pick on the landing. Also, Hennings' footwork could have been smoother during the lifts.

Lindsay Weinstein & Jacob Simon finished in the fourth-place, pewter medal position, far behind the leaders, with a Free Skate score of 73.02 points, and a total score of 108.59 points. The Illinois couple had problems with a number of elements in their Free Skate to the "Puss and Boots Suite” by Henry Jackman, choreographed by Jeremy Allen and Susie Wynne. Their double Lutz-double toe loop earned -2 grades of execution from nearly all the judges. The team lost all synchronization of the skill due to a stumble by Simon on the landings of both jumps. The students of Jeremy Allen also failed to achieve the ice coverage during the lifts shown by the higher-placed teams, and received negative grades of execution for their throw double loop and their unsynchronized side by side spins.

Joy Weinberg & Michael Lueck, the fifth place finishers, had a freak fall in their ending pose where Lueck tripped and sat down, and Weinberg fell into his lap. The team covered this up so well, that you might have thought the move was intentional, but the judges were not fooled, and awarded a -2.00 deduction for the falls. Their total score for the Free Skate was 71.44 points and for the event was 104.54 points. The students of Trudy Oltmanns showed a lot of power and a charming style in their routine to "The Mask of Zorro" by Erich Kinzel. Their lifts were particularly noteworthy, and Weinberg's throw jumps showed good distance. However, their double twist needs more height, and they received an edge call on their double Lutz. They were unable to complete their flip combination, and were only credited with a single flip for it. Also, their pair spin was off-axis and wobbly.

Kailey Matkin, & Justin Highgate-Brutman presented a nice version of "West Side Story" by Leonard Bernstein, to finish sixth overall with 68.86 points in the Free Skate, and 103.84 points overall. Matkin stumbled in the middle of the side-by-side spin and the team also had problems with the pair spin.The lack of smoothness in the landings of their three lifts affected their grade of execution.

Madeleine Gallagher & Jonathon Horton finished in eighth place in the Free Skate with 67.37 points, but placed seventh overall with a total of 101.94 points.

Gabriella Marvaldi & Cody Dolkiewicz finished seventh in the Free Skate with 67.47 points for an eighth place finish overall, with a final score of 97.60.

One might be amazed to learn that most of the teams entered at the 2014 US National Novice Pairs Championships are new teams: of the twelve teams entered, nine are in their first season together. It is less amazing when you consider the average difference in ages between the partners that is now typical in US pair skating at the Novice level, which this year roughly four and a half years.

The custom in the United States of preferring older men to team up with very much younger partners in Pairs may make the execution of effortless lifts and huge twists and throws easier, and, indeed, add an element of increased safety for both partners, but it also may force the couple to choose between finding new partners in order to compete internationally, or alternatively, waiting until the lady in the team is old enough to compete as a Senior.

The brutal fact is that for the members of many of the Pairs teams competing here, few will be eligible to compete internationally next season as juniors. Several will never be eligible to compete as Juniors. In fact, the talented team of Setoyama & Botero, who won the 2014 US Nationals Novice Pairs Short Program, will never be eligible to compete internationally as Juniors. And that is a shame. It is hoped that they will succeed in surviving the long wait until Setoyama is eligible to compete in Seniors, when she reaches age 15.