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2014 U.S. National Championships

Setoyama & Botero Win the Short Program at the 201Championships4 US Novice Pairs

 by Doris Spicer Pulaski





(5 January 2013) In the Novice Pairs Short Program in the 2013-2014 season, a single or double twist, a double loop jump, a single or double throw toe loop, a back inside death spiral, a step sequence, a pair spin, and one lift are the required elements. There were no really disastrous performances at the 2014 US Novice Pairs Championships Short Program. Nearly every team skated and performed their elements as well as they were able. The most important difference between the teams' scores, then, was the levels they earned from the technical panel for each element, rather than the consequences of their mistakes.

Ai Setoyama & David Botero, both of the All Year FSC, won the event with a score of 42.74 points, nearly four points ahead of their competitors. The new team, coached by Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, arrived in Boston as the gold medalists at the 2014 Pacific Coast Novice Pairs Sectional Championships. Their performance here was so smooth and practiced that it was difficult to believe it was only their first season together. Setoyama & Botero, had the highest technical component score in the event, partially due to the fact that they were the only team to perform an Axel-entry lift for a level 4, and partially due to their flawless exaction of all their elements. Not a single judge gave them a negative grade of execution for any element. The team also earned a level 3 for their back inside death spiral, a feat that many senior pairs find difficult. While skating to Carmen (“Carmen Fantasie” by David Garrett) is nothing new, the level of polish this team shows is notable. Setoyama, at age 13, already has a gift for appearing relaxed and connecting with the audience and Botero, age 21, showed the surest feet and best speed of any of the men in the lift. The team also earned the highest program component scores in the competition as well.

Cirinia Gillett & Maximiliano Fernandez, coached by Jim Peterson and Amanda Evora, are in second place with a score of 38.81 points. The Florida residents are also a new team with a large difference in ages: Gillett is 11 years old, while Fernandez is 18. Gillett & Fernandez performed a well-choreographed routine, created by their choreographer, Jim Peterson, to a Flamenco medley. The team did a good job of capturing the character of that difficult genre by including characteristic arm movement in most of their elements. On the technical side, Gillett & Fernandez executed a high quality Step-In Level 3 Lasso Lift, very well-done side by side double loop jumps with both arms over the head, and received a level 4 for their step sequence, a highlight of their routine. They had significant problems on the Level 1 double twist, which did not have much height, and the back inside death spiral only earned level 1 because Gillett’s head is only briefly low enough to count toward any level.

The third place team, Jessica Lee & Robert Hennings, coached by Naomi Poor & Themi Leftheris, trail Gillett & Botero by less than half a point, earning 38.41 points for their charming short program, choreographed by Cindy Stuart. Lee, in a black flapper dress, and Hennings, in a short black jacket and a white shirt and bowtie, hammed it up as Peppy and George to music from The Artist soundtrack by Ludovic Bource. The highlights of their program were a strong step-in lasso lift, and their jazzy level 4 footwork in their step sequence. However, their double twist was a bit low and underwhelming, and their pair spin was slow and did not have enough rotations in some of the positions to earn more than level 2.

Lindsay Weinstein & Jacob Simon, who had placed first at the 2014 Midwestern Sectionals, are currently in fourth place with a score of 35.57. The highlight of their routine to “On the Century” by Cy Coleman was their level 4 step sequence. However, in general, their elements were well done, but did not earn high levels. Their double twist was only level 1, as was their step in lasso lift, while their back inside death spiral only earned the Basic designation. Weinstein & Simon, coached by Jeremy Allen, are a new team this season.

Kailey Matkin & Justin Highgate-Brutman skated to a fifth place finish to the "Mary Poppins Overture" by Richard and Robert Sherman. The team, coached and choreographed by Brooke Castile,,earned 34.98 points. The new team failed to achieve more than the basic level for their back inside death spiral, their double twist, and for their step in lasso lift. The highlight of their lighthearted performance was a well-executed level 4 pair spin at the very end of the program.

Madeleine Gallagher & Jonathon Horton earned 34.57 points and lie in sixth place following the 2014 US Nationals Novice Pairs Short Program. The highlights of their routine to "Unstoppable," by E.S. Posthumus were a well-executed level 2 double twist and an excellent level 4 pair spin.

Another new team, Joy Weinberg & Michael Lueck, earned seventh place with a score of 33.10 points. Grace Knoop & Noah Chinault are in eighth place with 31.38 points.