by Sandra Stevenson
The 5’5" Sandra Jean Rucker, 17, from the All Year FSC, took the lead by virtue of being the only skater to do a clean program. Performing to music from the movie, Forrest Gump, choreographed by Cindy Stuart, dressed in a short sleeved black outfit, she accomplished a triple loop, a triple Lutz to double toe and double Axel. But, in a successful effort to be careful, she sacrificed speed into and flow out of her jumps.
"I’m very pleased. The crowd was wonderful. But I do have things to work on," she said immediately afterwards. "I have to work on presenting myself and becoming more comfortable with the moves."
Rucker, whose home is in Yorba Linda, California, is trained by Tammy Gambill. She is the Pacific Coast champion, though she was piped by Crystal Shum for the Southwest Pacific regional title. This is her second trip to Nationals in Juniors. In ’03 she was ninth but last year failed to get out of regionals. "That was frustrating," Rucker admitted. "But my coach helped me through that."
This is probably the last year we shall be poring over ordinals. No longer will we have the fun of analyzing the placements and praising the judges if we agree with them. Here, seven of the nine judges thought Rucker was best but one decided she was only second best and Lawrence Mondschein from East Windsor, NJ, placed her fourth.
Those two judges placed 15 year old Megan Oster first while the other seven thought her second best. Oster, whose home is in Kenosha, Wisconsin, represents the Wagon Wheel FSC. She performed in white with silver and pink accents interpreting "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues. Oster accomplished a double Axel and triple Lutz to double toe but fell on her triple loop and again on footwork just before her final move, the layback spin.
Oster, who is coached by Denise Myes and Alex Ouriashev (who looked somewhat apprehensive in the kiss and cry area and gave quite a bit of last minute instruction to their pupil) said she was "a little bit nervous. The trip on the footwork was a little surprising."
Oster won bronze in novice last year and also in her first international, the Triglav Trophy in Slovenia. Earlier this season, she took fourth place in a very large field in the Junior Grand Prix in Ukraine, and won the Midwestern Sectional. "It’s neat that you get to travel around," Oster said.
Gaining six third places, a second and two fourths, was Christine Zukowski, a 15 year old who lives in Newark, Delaware, and represents the University of Delaware FSC. She survived a delay while a quartet of flower girls was dispatched to search the ice, unsuccessfully, for sequins.
In a backless blue, white and silver outfit, and skating to Croatian Rhapsody, Zukowski stepped out of her double Axel. She landed her triple Lutz on a deep edge and although she got airborne for the double toe in that combination, she was forced to put two hands on the ice to keep from falling. The triple loop was good. Her straight line step sequence went well with her music and she finished with an excellent combinations spin which concluded in a blue.
Last year Zukowski advanced from second after the short to take the Novice title. Soon afterwards she won an international gold in the Gardena Spring Trophy in Italy. This season she traveled to China for the Junior Grand Prix finishing fifth in Harbin, the birthplace of Chinese pair skating.
Zukowski said the hardest thing about moving up from novice to junior was "the length of the program. You have to train harder to get the strength up." She is coached by Jeff DiGregorio and is the current South Atlantic and Eastern champion.
Anna Peng, performing in a green sleeveless dress to the music, "An Ancient Journey" by Kitar & "Fairy of Water" by Daichi, just managed her triple Salchow to double toe. Her double Axel was low and she completed only a double loop but her spins were very good.
The 15 year old who lives in Cherry Hill, Delaware, and represents the University of Delaware, lies fourth. She is coached by Pamela Duane Gregory who guided her to 2nd in this season’s South Atlantic Regionals and 3rd in Easterns. Peng was injured and did not compete last season. She was 5th in national novice in ’02.
In fifth place is Tenile Victorsen, who will be 15 on January 31. Victorsen gained a spread of ordinals - two thirds, a fourth, three sixths, two sevenths and an eighth. Performing to "The Long Road Home", violin music by Joshua Bell, in a bright yellow sleeveless outfit, her spirals and spins were good and she accomplished her double Axel and triple toe to double toe. However, she collapsed on a very under rotated triple loop.
Victorsen lives in Lake Arrowhead but represents the Los Angeles FSC. Last year she was 3rd in novice after short but dropped to 8th in long and 7th overall. Victorsen qualified this year for by taking second place in the Pacific Coast Sectionals.
In sixth place is the runner-up for the Midwestern title, Molly Oberstar, 16, from Duluth, Minnesota. She performed in a V-backed peach and salmon creation with a rugged hem to music from the love theme from the movie, "Cinema Paradiso".
Oberstar had good spirals and spins including a combination which concluded with a ‘Sasha’ in which she held her foot in a high kick position well over her head. Her combination was triple Salchow to double toe and she completed the double Axel. However, her triple loop was very low and possibly under-rotated
Last year Oberstar, who has been skating for 11 years, was 11th in Novice. It is the first time the Duluth FSC has qualified two skaters for nationals. (The other is senior lady, Angela Lien.)
Melissa Telecky, 17, Detroit SC, who was 9th in juniors last year, lies 7th. Wearing a muted purple outfit, Telecky, who is coached by Mitch Moyer, interpreted "Mirror of Emotions" and "Flight of the Lovers" by Farzad.
She fell on her triple toe and presented only a double loop. Telecky qualified by taking 4th in Midwesterns after winning Eastern Great Lakes.
In eighth place is Juliana Cannarozzo, 15, who skated in a red and silver sleeveless creation using the music "Harem". Cannarozzo, who is trained by Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson at the SC of Boston, fell on her triple Lutz and triple loop but recovered to sail through the double Axel. Cannarozzo, whose hometown is Reading, Massachusetts, was 10th in novice last year. This season, she won the New England Regionals and was 4th in Easterns.
Crystal Shum lies ninth. The 16 year old from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, represents Glacier Falls FSC. Appearing in a very unusual sleeveless checkerboard outfit of two different blues with two accents of bright red, Shum put her hand down on her triple toe but brought off a high double Axel. She did only a double loop but has split spirals and good spins in a routine choreographed by Karen Kwan Oppegard.
Shum was 8th in novice last year. Trained by Peter Oppegard, she qualified by winning Southwest Regionals (ahead of Rucker) but was 4th at Pacific Coast.
Lying tenth is Margaret Wang, who sported a huge bruise on the outside of her left upper leg. Just three days short of her 16th birthday, she performed to music from the movie, "Pinocchio" in a purple and silver sleeveless costume.
Wang stepped out of her triple toe but managed to bring off the second jump in the combination, the double toe. The landing on her double Axel was somewhat jackknifed and she did only the double loop. Wang lives in San Jose, California, and represents the Peninsula SC. She qualified by taking third at Pacific Coast. Last year Wang was 5th in Pacific Coasts at Novice level.
Danielle Shepard, 15, from the Granite State FSC, has a history of not doing well in the short, and she lived up to that reputation. She lies 11th. In a turquoise sleeveless creation, accompanied by music from Samson and Delilah, she two-footed the landing of her triple loop and fell on her triple toe. To complete the debacle, she singled her Axel.
Shepard, who is from Litchfield, New Hampshire, and represents the Granite State FSC, is coached by Alexander Vlassov in Lowell, Massachusetts. She was the Novice runner-up last year, jumping from 6th in short with a second rated long. Based on that showing, she was sent to Slovenia where, in another come from behind showing, she won the Triglav trophy, soaring up from 5th in the short.
This season she took 7th in the JGP in Ukraine but was a disappointing 17th in another JGP in Serbia and Montenegro. She was 2nd in Easterns.
In last place is Caroline Miller, 17, from the Rocky Mountain FSC, who qualified by taking 3rd place at Midwesterns, after being only 4th in Southwestern Regionals. Last year, also skating at Junior level, she didn’t make it out of regionals.
Miller, who is from Louisville, Colorado and is trained by Cindy Sullivan, fell on her double Axel, did a double three between her triple and double toes, and had a bad fall on her triple loop. However, her choreography to Astor Pizollia’s Tango, was enjoyable. She wore a black sleeveless outfit with touches of orange.
By Maggie Doyle
Sandra Jean Rucker
She trains in Riverside, California with Tammy Gambill, returning to this coach this season. Cindy Stuart choreographed her free skating program to music by Rachmaninoff. This 2005 Pacific Coast Sectional Champion was 9th in the 2003 national junior competition. "I am pleased with my performance and the crowd was wonderful. I know I have some things to work on but it felt great I’ve been training really hard and I was mentally prepared." She wants to improve on presenting herself more and be more comfortable skating before a large audience along with gaining more control over her nerves.
She is also captain of her high school's dance team and her father Dave played baseball in the major and minor leagues. She came to these nationals determined to win a medal after just missing the roster at last year's Southwest Regional competition. She dealt with a hip strain injury last season.
She arrived in Portland without a new exhibition program but will be working with her coach to create one prior to Sunday’s exhibition.
Christine Zukowski of the University of Delaware FSC came into this free skate in 3rd position. She trains in Newark, Delaware with Jeff DiGregorio. This 2005 Eastern Sectionals Champion is in the midst of her first season as a junior competitor and won the 2004 U.S. Novice national title in Atlanta, Georgia last year. This strong jumper included a triple Lutz – double toe loop combination but fell on her second triple Lutz, her final triple jump. She determinedly held on to land her opening double Axel, then successfully also included a triple toe-double toe combination and triple Salchow. She was the 2004 Novice Ladies champion and in her first year of junior competition.
"I could have skated better but now I know what I need to work on to skate better. I was a little nervous (skating in the main arena) but once my music started I just tried to let my body do what it usually does in practice,’ she said. She and DiGregorio have already decided she will move up to senior ladies next season.
She utilized three choreographers this season, Marina Akbarov, Sasha Kiranov, and Lisa Coppola and skated to "Samson & Delilah" for her free skate. She says she has a passion for gum and collects key chains. She enjoys watching football, baseball and basketball.
Megan Oster of the Wagon Wheel FSC trains in Vernon Hills, Illinois and Buffalo Grove, Illinois with coaches Denise Myers and Alex Ouriashev. Her programs were choreographed by ABC TV commentator Susie Wynne Barth. Her free skate to "Rhapsody in Blue" garnered her 3rd place, after finishing in 2nd place in the short program.
She had a nice triple toe - double toe combination in this program but she struggled with several of her jumps today, stepping out of her initial triple Lutz in combination, falling on her flip and singling her loop and a Lutz. Oster rallied back to include a triple Salchow- double toe loop late in her program but did stumble during her footwork. Oster said, "I lost focus because I was so excited after I did my first two jumps but I regained my focus because I knew I had to have those last two jumps to medal."
[The editor's notes show Oster opening with triple toe loop - triple toe loop, which is confirmed by other sources. Ed.]
Oster also said of her performance, "I think it went well and it was better than at Mids. I’m glad I committed on everything, but the fall on my footwork was surprising." She enjoys the international travel as a junior competitor and this is her first year competing at the junior level, after finishing 3rd at the 2004 Championships for novice ladies. She and her coach are still deciding about moving up to senior ladies next season.
She comes from a family of competitors as her cousin competed on the tennis circuit for four years, her uncles were national bike racing competitors and her sister Melanie is also a figure skater. She collects angels and likes to play soccer. She grew up in Kenosha, Wisconsin and won the 2005 Midwestern Sectional Championships.
This Eastern Sectional bronze medalist did not compete at the 2003 or 2004 national championships but competed as a novice in 2002 where she finished 5th. She is also an accomplished pianist, winning the Warminister Symphony Youth competition. She wants to eventually attend Harvard medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon.
Tenile Victorsen (fifth in the short program) finished 4th today with her "Salome" program by Richard Strauss with a huge triple toe loop also including a triple Salchow – double toe loop combination. She later executed a triple toe – double combination but missed her triple Salchow and doubled the Lutz. Her choreographer and coach is Peter Oppegard and she trains at Lake Arrowhead, California. She plans to remain at the junior level next season. She wants to play cello for the Los Angeles Philharmonic after her skating career concludes. "This was my first year as a junior and I have a lot to work on. It was great to be competitive here and I didn’t expect that really."
Anna Peng also skates for the University of Delaware FSC in Newark, Delaware but she trains with Pamela Gregory who also choreographs her programs. She skated to Vivaldi's "Winter" and "Four Seasons" for her free skate. She finished just behind rink mate Zukowski in the short program but today dropped to sixth place in the free skate for 5th place overall.
J1: Peggy Graham
J2: Wendy Enzmann
J3: Colette Nygren
J4: Kimberly Heim
J5: Melissa Kent
J6: Lawrnece Mondscheim
J7: Linda Chihara
J8: Sharon Watson
J9: Susan Johnson
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