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Kayne and O'Shea Crush Rivals in Pairs Event

 by Karen Frank



(24 January 2016)  “Oh my God, we won Nationals!” Tarah Kayne said in the “Kiss and Cry area,” after she and her partner Danny O’Shea skated a clean long program to capture the 2016 title.

With an emotional free skate to The Music of the Night, from The Phantom of the Opera, Kayne & O’Shea hit every jump and throw cleanly and received level fours on every element save for the triple twist (level 2).  Their coaching team, Jim Peterson, Amanda Evora, and Lyndon Johnston at the Southwest Florida FSC, often comes up with creative lift and throw entries such as the acrobatic flip-over to a throw triple Lutz that Kayne & O’Shea completed in the second half of the program.

With this championship, the coaching team in Southwest Florida has, to borrow a hockey term, completed a “hat trick,” as they also coached the Junior and Novice Pairs winners.  Said O’Shea, “It goes to great coaching and a really great team atmosphere. We all help each other out. Everyone’s going to have hard days, but from the youngest novice to up to the senior teams, we all push each other and help each other. It’s a really fun atmosphere.” Added Kayne, “Some days where we don’t feel like coming in to the rink, but then I think, alright, if the twelve year old little girl can do it, I can definitely do it.”

In winning the competition, Kayne and O’Shea dethroned the reigning champions, Alexa Scimeca & Christopher Knierim by nearly fifteen points. Though Scimeca & Knierim successfully performed a quad twist, the rest of the program unraveled soon after when Knierim fell on a triple toe, and Scimeca had to put her hand down on the landing of the throw triple Lutz. “We had a shot at regaining another title, but we opened a door for other teams to take advantage in both the short and the long and they just waltzed right through it,” Knierim said.

More telling though, was the fact that the new champions also won on program components marks, by six points. In spite of Scimeca & Knierim’s success on the Grand Prix, their skating in this particular completion came across a bit cold. The music to Elizabeth: The Golden Age, has some lovely moments to it but needs an energetic and clean performance to generate excitement.

In their second year of partnership, Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran grabbed the audience’s attention with their speed and passion. The team is inconsistent in their jumps and throws, but their lifts look fast and secure. In between the elements, this team moves beautifully, with effortless looking glide. By the time they had finished the first lift, the crowd was already cheering for their Journey medley. "As far as getting the audience going with us and feeling the energy we want, just now we actually captured that spirit. It felt exhilarating halfway through that program."

On the podium with the Pewter Medal, Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage, had a rough time with their sixth place free skate.  Though the Colorado based team performed their lifts with gorgeous positions, they made mistakes on every throw and jump element. They had a large enough advantage in the short program to stay ahead of Jessica Calalang & Zack Sidhu, who moved up from a seventh place short with the fourth best free skate to finish in fifth. Calalang & Sidhu, who are coached by Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, performed a strong free skate to Nino Rota’s Romeo and Juliet. They had a couple problems on their side by side elements, but made up the difference with rock solid throws.

Rounding out the top six, were new team Erika Smith & AJ Reiss. Given that Nationals was their first competition, they skated very well. Reiss looked solid in the lifts, and they were able to land side by side triples – both of which will set them up nicely for future competitions.