2007 U.S. Nationals
by Martha L. Kimball
All photos copyright 2007 by George S. Rossano
The three-segment Junior Dance contest began on Monday morning, refereed by Jenny Mast, with Linda Leaver as technical controller. Samuelson and Bates staked an early and authoritative claim to the title with a confident Silver Samba, technically the best of the day, scored 20.46 for elements, 15.08 for program components, and 17.77 for the segment.
The team from Ann Arbor, Michigan, 5-foot-3 and 6-foot-2, increased their narrow lead in the Midnight Blues, a dance that showcased their long leg line. This likable duo, who first competed together in the Juvenile ranks in 2001, scored 20.66, 15.30, and 17.98 for a total CD score of 35.75.
Said Bates, "We got a lot of feedback from the technical specialists after our internationals, which really helped us to prepare for this event."
Accustomed to Olympic-size ice, they were hampered slightly by the need to adjust to a smaller surface.
Samuelson and Bates had two level fours for the second dance and excellent GOEs, yet they finished just over a point ahead of their nearest competitors.
Making the event essentially a two-horse race was the strong presence of sister and brother Madison Hubbell, 15, and Keiffer Hubbell, 18 (as of Jan 15). Although the Hubbells, also Ann Arbor-trained, were second in the Novice division last year, they won both the Grand Prix Netherlands event and the Final. Could they beat their rink mates and friendly rivals here as well?
It was close, with scores of 20.08, 14.85, and 17.47 for an expressive samba and 19.16, 15.13, and 17.15 for the blues, for a total CD score of 34.62.
Keiffer said, "We skated well and are proud of our performance. We knew, coming here, it would be a battle with Samuelson and Bates.… We have been training with them for years and years."
Then came the rest of the field, with a mathematical deficit ranging from four to 13 points. The closest were Pilar Bosley and John Corona, both 18, who train in Ardmore, Penn. They were third in the samba with scores of 17.59, 12.84, and 15.22; and fourth in the more difficult blues with ratings of 16.55, 12.79, and 14.67.
Bosley had injured her left hip a day earlier, running into a wall during practice. She competed wearing a pad, with the pain mitigated by an allowed analgesic.
Although Bosley and Corona were bested in the second dance by Shannon Wingle, 16, and Ryan Devereaux, 17, of Canton, Mich., they held on to third place going into Tuesday’s Original Dance.
The Monday morning Original Dance event saw Madison and Keiffer Hubbell move the small distance from second to first place when their near competitors, Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, suffered a freak fall.
Skating the tango, a difficult OD, in elegant red-and-black Spanish-style costumes, the blonde sister and brunette brother, similar in height, earned five level fours and a level three, with 6.50s for performance, choreography, and interpretation and timing. The level four midline step sequence was their first.
Madison, 5-foot-8, with a neck like a swan, paints a stunning portrait when linked with her 6-foot-0 partner.
The Hubbells’ footwork and lifts earned appreciation from audience and judges alike, resulting in scores of 29.50 for elements, 24.50 for program components, and a segment total of 54.00, a personal best. Combining CD and OD, the Hubbells enter the free dance with 88.62 points.
"We skated very well, probably one of our best ODs of the season," Keiffer opined.
Asked if the duo is enjoying the neck-and-neck competition, Madison said frankly, "Enjoy is a strange way to put it. We expected a lot of great skaters here. Prefer more points ahead? Sure. Yes. But I’m happy with where we are right now."
Where they are is in the lead by a slim 2.24 points.
In surely an unprecedented circumstance, all three current frontrunners train together in Ann Arbor with the same coaches and call themselves friends, so the leaders’ fall both benefited and pained their rink mates.
"You never want anyone to fall," said Madison, "whether you’re friends or not. We wish well to all our competitors. It was hard to see them come off the ice and not really be happy with their performance as much as they could have been, but you just have to put that aside."
Samuelson and Bates were sanguine about the tumble and didn’t seemed ruffled going into the free skate in second place.
They bested the Hubbells in four out of five program components, all but performance (due no doubt to the fall), which also cost some unpleasant negative GOEs.
Samuelson explained the mishap. "I think I hit my toe pick after the rocker. It was just a freak accident."
As to the rest of the "Quejas de Bandoneon" OD, Bates said, "I thought that we did incredibly well for ourselves up to that point. The rest was a struggle, but it was only ten seconds. The last two elements were not what we were hoping for, but I was really pleased with the way we skated all the way up until then."
Five of Bates and Samuelson’s elements were rated level four. The team earned marks of 27.50, 25.13, and 50.63, with a combined score, CD and OD, of 86.38.
The surprised and exhilarated team of Lynn Kriengkrairut, 18, and Logan Giuletti-Schmitt, 21, Pacific Coast champions, rose from the ashes of seventh and sixth places for the two compulsories to earn third place for the OD and overall.
Sharp in attractive bronze and black costumes for their "Primavera Portena" tango, they entertained the crowd with their lifts and twizzles and earned scores of 26.76, 20.15, and 46.91 and a combined total of 75.36. Four of their elements were rated level four.
The real shock is that this duo has been together for a scant five months, compared to better than half a decade for the teams who currently lead.
Kriengkrairut and Giuletti-Schmitt, originally from North Dakota and Illinois, had nothing but good things to say about their Michigan training environment.
Asked if the Ann Arbor teams had any interesting off-ice training techniques, the two looked at one another and laughed.
Giuletti-Schmitt spilled the beans. "I think we get teased a little bit for it, but, yeah, we do the same thing every day. We work with a metronome and do a lot of push-ups, crunches, a lot of different exercises before we get on the ice. It’s almost like a mini-workout every time before we step on the ice. Same [metronome] timing every day, same settings for different exercises."
Tick, tick, tick. Don’t knock it. It works.
Kriengkrairut is a success story in another way. Several years ago she was diagnosed with "pulmonary sequestration" and underwent major surgery for removal of the lower lobe of one lung. She has regained full lung capacity, and her skating has helped in her recovery.
Going into the free dance in fourth place are Piper Gilles and Timothy McKernan, who wore black and red for their "Tanguedia" tango by Piazzolla. Expressive and dramatic, they earned scores of 25.45, 20.61 and 46.06 with a combined total of 75.14.
Shannon Wingle, 16, and Ryan Devereaux, 17, Pacific Coast silver medalists, earned fifth place for the OD and fifth overall entering the free dance. Their scores were 25.04, 20.63, 45.67, and 75.00.
Eastern champions Pilar Bosley and John Corona, third in the compulsories, earned seventh for the OD, sixth overall, with low program component scores and two level-two elements although few GOE deductions.
Madison and Keiffer Hubbell made a valiant attempt to wrest the title from the heirs apparent, the same rink mates whom they bettered at the Grand Prix Final.
Wearing sky blue with orange trim and performing to "Canto Alla Vita," a vocal by Josh Groban with a pulsing techno beat in the background, the brother and sister had two level three elements and four level fours.
There were lots of positive GOEs for the passionate performance that ended with a hugely popular hydroblading move that they’ve termed the "Romeo and Juliet."
The marks were 37.36 for elements, 41.50 for components, 78.86 for the free dance segment, and a combined score of 167.48.
But Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates had laid down a challenge that held up by the slimmest of margins: .17. She in a dress of deep tangerine, he in black with Latin ruffles, they performed a Latin medley from "Thalia’s Hits Remixed."
It was a very different free dance from the Hubbells’, and in some ways the distinction was a matter of taste. Still, Samuelson and Bates had a certain crispness and definition that their rivals lacked. Perhaps Bates’s height and lithe musicality are unfair advantages, but the whisper-close outcome seemed to be the right one, and the judges awarded a perfect slate of six level fours.
Smiling broadly at the dance’s end, the team received scores of 39.38, 41.89, and 81.27 for a combined event score of 167.65.
Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, seventh and sixth in the two compulsories, third in the OD, had the fourth-ranked free dance and squeaked out the bronze medal.
Kriengkrairut wore turquoise, Giulietti-Schmitt an opalescent shirt of port wine and turquoise, to skate to a jazzy vocal from "Take the Lead."
They had some hydroblading, some funky dance moves, and a Look, Ma, no hands carry, along with four level fours, for scores of 33.06, 34.50, 67.56, and a total of 142.92.
Piper Gilles and Timothy McKernan, she in an elaborate gold dress, he in dark slacks and a cape-like burgundy top, performed lyrically to an odd vocal from "Dreamscape" to sew up fourth place with scores of 33.41, 34.22 and 67.63 for a 142.77 combined total.
Shannon Wingle and Ryan Devereaux finished fifth. She wore a violet dress and a Juliet cap. He wore black with violet embellishments. Their music was "Era," a piece with a medieval religious feel, and their scores, including three level four elements, were 32.47, 34.91 and 67.38 for a combined event total of 142.38.
The atmosphere was subdued at the medalists’ press conference. Perhaps, with rivals so close in ability and friendship, it was awkward for one team to triumph over the other.
Samuelson paid homage to the Hubbells. "Madison and Keiffer are such great skaters. They’re definitely our toughest competitors, and they’re great people as well."
Madison Hubbell returned the compliment. "This time we had a little more difficulty in the footwork and we didn’t get the kind of levels that we wanted, but we are happy with our performance, and we’re aware that Evan and Emily are amazing skaters; and we expect to be competing with them no matter what. It could go either way. We’re just happy it was so close."
This is a rivalry destined to endure.
|Samuelson & Bates||Hubbell & Hubbell||Gilles & McKernan|
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