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2020 Nationals: Senior Pairs Short Program

Senior Pairs Competition Kicks Off 2020 U.S. Championships

by Liz Leamy

Alexa & Chris Knierim

(24 January 2020)  The 2020 U.S. Championships, held at the Greensboro Coliseum in the heart of North Carolina, kicked off in splendid fashion with a memorable senior pairs short program competition.

Described by various members of the press as one of the finest pairs competitions they had ever seen, Alexa & Chris Knierim, who won their first U.S. title in this venue back in 2015 and are the 2018 U.S. champions, wound up at the top of the leaderboard with a 77.06.

Skating to the classic romantic ballad ‘At Last’ by Etta James, the Knierims put out their A game, knocking out all of their elements, including a soaring lasso lift, solid side by side triple toe loops and a high throw triple flip with the expertise, strength and confidence of seasoned top world competitors.

Alexa, wearing a sparkling soft pink dress and Chris, donned in a tuxedo, emanated the feeling of dancers at the famed Rockefeller Center Rainbow Room in New York City with their performance, something that resonated strongly with the audience, who responded with rousing applause while the panel of officials awarded them accordingly.

The Knierims, who have faced some challenges since representing the U.S. at the 2018 Olympics after making a coaching change where they moved from Colorado Springs to Southern California (to train with Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, the three-time World medalists and thrice U.S. titlists in 1994, 1995 and 1996) have been focusing on jump consistency this past season, which made this a program to remember.

“I think the reaction we had [at the end of the program] showed how happy we felt,” said Chris Knierim. “I think throughout the season we’ve been going in a good direction.”

Alexa agreed.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment to come,” said Alexa. “I’ve been dreaming about it and I was just glad we were able to put [this program] out tonight.”
Tarah Kayne & Danny O’Shea, the 2016 U.S. titlists, earned the second-highest score, a 70.35, for their exquisite interpretation of Claude Debussy’s "Claire de Lune."

The team, who trains with Delilah Sappenfield in Colorado Springs, skated a seamless and clean program that earned them a standing ovation from the crowd.

They executed all of their elements with the ease, fluidity and command of premiere international contenders and used some creative and innovative entries for their death spiral, triple Salchows and throw triple Salchow, among other things.

This team, who has been competing together nationally for eight years, said their goal was to make sure their execution, performance and the quality of their skating skills was on point, things they said they’ve been focusing on this season thus far.

“We wanted to feel that at every competition we were taking a step forward,” said Kayne.

The two said they have a particular affinity for this program, which was created in mid-December by Sappenfield, with the footwork having been crafted by 2014 Olympic dance champion Charlie White.

“The music really settles me,” said Kayne, who said her nature is to run on a high-speed gear. “The music comes on and I feel comfortable.”

Ashley Cain-Gribble & Timothy LeDuc, the 2019 U.S. titlists finished in the third spot with a 68.86.

This Dallas-area based duo earned high scores for their terrific skills, which included a breathtaking pinwheel/horizontal lasso lift that covered the entire ice length, solid triple Salchows and fast, well-synchronized spins, which made them a crowd favorite.

They had a slight two-footed landing, however, on a throw triple flip.

Still, their dramatic program to Tommee Profitt’s ‘A Storm is Coming’ was outstanding, earning them high enough scores to put them in the hunt for a second U.S. title.

“Ashley and I had worked really hard going into this competition,” said LeDuc. “We’re really excited for a good effort in the long [program].”