2007 U.S. Nationals
by Martha L. Kimball
All photos copyright 2007 by George S. Rossano
A crowd of 6,865 attended the Sunday evening Spokane Arena event refereed by Anne Cammett, with Steve Winkler technical controller.
There wasn’t supposed to be much suspense. Caroline Zhang, by gifts and credentials, entered so far ahead of the field as to be a shoo-in. And she was a treat, this dainty yet steely Junior Grand Prix Final champion by overwhelming scores.
The 4-foot-9 13-year-old opened with a triple Lutz – double toe combination, followed by a triple flip and a layback spin. She was delicate, almost ethereal, as she flowed through the elements and subtle transitions in her understated powder-pink dress.
Then the teen from Irvine, Cal., performed a spiral into a double Axel and suddenly, for no apparent reason, went splat -- flat on her stomach.
"I think [the Axel] was okay going out," Zhang assessed. "I landed it, but I just fell forward….I’ve never actually fallen on double Axel in competition before."
What was she thinking when it happened? "Ow!"
Zhang ended strong with two level-four elements, spiral sequence and combination spin, for marks of 31.10, 23.77, and 53.87 for the segment.
It was Mirae Nagasu, also 13, of Arcadia, Cal., who seized the perhaps unexpected moment. In an event awash in lush music and flowing costumes, Nagasu skated out in a funky little dress, pink-and-raspberry striped on the top with a hot-pink straight skirt, and performed the definition of pep and perkiness to music from Swing Kids.
The Pacific Coast champion, like Zhang, opened with triple Lutz – double toe and triple flip with a number of deductions; those would be the last deductions of the program. The rest was immaculate, with level four spiral sequence, fast layback, and combination spin, plus a nice spread-eagle into double Axel. Each element featured a surprising little twist, mirrored by the surprising bright orange lining that appeared when Nagasu’s slit skirt flipped up in the wind.
The pony-tailed youngster said, "I just wanted to have fun out there, perform for the audience, and hope they like it too." She had a litany of people to thank, "most of all my parents for working so hard for me."
In her first Nationals, said Nagasu, "I turned my nervousness into gasoline to get me going."
That netted her first-place marks of 32.46, 21.80, and 54.26.
Blake Rosenthal, 16, Eastern bronze medalist, was a soft symphony in yellows as she flowed, relaxed, through a program set to the strings of "Close without Touching." Like Nagasu and Zhang, the Delaware skater opened with triple Lutz – double toe (slight deductions) and triple flip. Her strong suits were level three elements: circular footwork, layback spin, and combination spin, plus a solid double Axel, for third-place marks of 29.45, 22.22, and 51.67, a personal best.
Third was fine with Rosenthal. "I think it’s a really good position. You’re not all the way at the front. You’re kind of an up-and-comer. There’s not too much pressure on you."
Ashley Wagner, 15, silver medalist at the Grand Prix Finals, had to be content with fourth place thanks to the strength of the competition. She skated a clean, measured, and confident performance to music from The Cotton Club wearing a faux two-piece outfit, pink-and-black on the top with a black skirt.
Wagner opened with her highest-rated element, a triple Lutz – double loop. She had level four spirals and combination spin, with a smattering of deductions for the triple flip and spin combination. Happy with the effort, she allowed herself a little celebration at its conclusion and received scores of 30.02, 21.18, and 51.20.
Michaelee Scarincio, 14, Eastern silver medalist trained in Boston, wore a gorgeous white dress to perform Mark Mitchell choreography to lush music.
A hand down on her second jump pass, triple Salchow – double toe, cost a lot in deductions. However, she received level fours for her spiral sequence and combination spin.
Scarincio moved with fluidity and used her arms to graceful effect. Her marks were 26.34, 20.39, and 46.73
Behind Scarincio by just .30, Alexe Gilles, Midwestern champion from the
Broadmoor, ended the short program event in sixth place.
Just turned 15 on January 16, Gilles wore a white dress tipped in red to perform "There’s a Place for Us" from West Side Story. Soft and sweet, light on her feet, Gilles received deductions for her flying camel spin but performed easy-flowing jumps: triple Salchow - double toe and double Axel. Her spiral sequence and combination spin were pegged at level four.
Gilles received marks of 26.80, 19.63, and 46.43.
Yet there was no shame in the outcome. It was a remarkable Junior event, with performances of which seniors would be proud. At the end, Nagasu was ahead of Zhang by a scant 3.19 points, and a similar margin separated Zhang from Ashley Wagner. A substantial chasm yawned between those three medalists and the rest of the field.
Nagasu, the short program leader, performed first in the last group and laid down a challenge. In shades of rosy pink, the 4-foot-7 dynamo from the Pasadena FSC performed to Dvorak’s String Quartet in F, the "American" quartet.
She opened with a Bauer into an easy double Axel and a triple Salchow,
then performed a flying camel with layover into a donut. Next came a triple flip that earned a few negative GOEs; a triple toe--double toe--double loop combination; a relaxed level four spiral sequence; a triple Lutz--double toe combination; triple loop--double loop; a highly rated layback; and straight-line footwork.
The triple Lutz that followed received mostly negative GOEs, but the final level four combination spin brought back the Wow! factor as Nagasu ended right on the music. Her marks of 56.71, 44.49, and 101.20, for a combined total of 155.46, were greeted with a big cheer.
Later Nagasu explained the psychology that had helped her to make the leap. "Last season I was really disappointed in myself because I didn’t make it out of Regionals. I was one of the people who was expected to go [to Nationals], and that made me overconfident, and I didn’t practice as hard as I did this year. I knew that I could always do better, so I wanted to make it to Nationals this year. And I did." She certainly did.
That was the act that Zhang, second in short program, had to follow. She was admirably composed as she launched into Cindy Stuart’s choreography of the beautiful classic, "Meditation" from Massenet’s Thais.
The 4-foot-9 youngster who trains in Artesia and Lakewood, Calif., coached by Ming Zhu Li and Sondra Holmes, opened with her big trick, triple Lutz—double toe—double loop, which earned a few negative GOEs.
Dressed in powder blue tipped in white, expressive with her soft arms and gentle strokes, Zhang spiraled into a double Axel, then fell splat on her triple flip, a costly error. She recovered with a serene combination spin; triple loop and Lutz; a long and well-extended level four spiral sequence; triple flip –double toe; footwork; triple toe—double toe; and then two excellent finishing spins, layback and elaborate level four camel combination. Her marks were 55.74, 43.27, 98.01 and 151.88.
Zhang called the missed flip "a stupid thing" that resulted from inattention. She had landed all of her practice attempts.
Ashley Wagner, fourth after the short program, pulled up one spot with a very capable skate that demonstrated why she is the Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist.
Performing to "Summertime" in a periwinkle dress trimmed in silver,
Wagner started strong with triple Lutz—double loop; an easy-looking triple Salchow; a level four flying sit spin; double Axel; triple loop; and a camel combination spin.
When the music changed to a more up-tempo segment, the negative GOEs started to accrue. There was a bobble in the triple flip—double loop—double loop. The ensuing footwork and spirals were fine, but errors intruded again in the triple toe—triple toe jump sequence, the missed triple Lutz, and an imperfect combination spin.
Still, Wagner showed a great deal of poise and a much smoother presentation that last year when she finished fourth in Juniors.
Blake Rosenthal, third in the short program, had the eighth-ranked long program but finished fourth overall with a performance in midnight blue and teal to Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor by Rachmaninoff. She completed four triples, two in combination, and a level four spiral sequence and combination spin, for marks of 40.22, 41.00, 79.32 and 130.99.
Alexe Gilles, sixth in the short program, pulled up to fifth overall with marks of 45.06, 37.88, 82.94 and 129.37.
Gilles, sixth last year in Novice, wore lavender to skate to La Boheme.
She fell out of her opening triple flip but completed two other triples in combination and a level four flying sit spin.
Crowd favorite Chrissy Hughes, Pacific Coast bronze medalist from Shoreline, Washington, skated the fourth best long program but was relegated to sixth overall after an eighth-placed short program.
Just eighth last year in Novice, the local heroine, dressed in fuchsia, whipped off four triples, a spiral into a double Axel, a leisurely spiral sequence, and an audience-pleasing whirling sequence of double Lutz—double loop—double loop. Her marks were 44.42, 40.39, 84.81, and 129.21.
|Mirai Nagasu||Caroline Zhang||Ashley Wagner|
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