by Martha L. Kimball
Claire Davis, 14, from Littleton, CO, and Nathan Miller, 16, from Oklahoma City, OK, emerged on top in Novice Pairs after a rather cleanly skated and pleasant opening Short Program event. They received seven first-place ordinals.
Miller, doing double duty here as a Novice ice dancer, deemed their first senior Nationals "a big step up." The duo presented a measured and expressive program to "Moonlight Sonata" wearing understated pale violet costumes.
The program, chosen and choreographed by co-coach Dalilah Sappenfield, showed off strong side by side double loops, a lasso lift, and solid spins. A team for just a year and a half, Davis and Miller were proud of their presentation, a notable strength.
"Iím so excited," said Miller. "My adrenalineís going. Just to be here is awesome." He admitted that part of his competitive challenge is to reign in his natural energy and enthusiasm.
The sole flaws of the day were a scraping boot on the death spiral and a less-than-perfect split twist.
Molly Aaron, 14, from Scottsdale, AZ, and Taylor Toth, 16, from Kittaning, PA, squeaked in next on a majority of seconds. Their "Tico Tico" program a la Christopher Bowman displayed energy, speed, and a take-charge attitude. No shrinking violets, the pair wore black and Da-Glo orange to romp through a high split twist, a step-overhead lift, solid jumps and spins with attitude.
Asked if a small dead spot near the end of their program, before the footwork sequence, was an error or a dramatic pause, both skaters, here at their first senior Nationals together, laughed and claimed the latter, with winks implied.
Coach Doug Ladret promised double Axels and "monster throws" in the Long Program.
Lisa Moore, 14, and Nicholas Girardi, 18, both of Fort Collins, CO, glided to a majority of third-place ordinals with a light and lovely interpretation of Cinderellaís "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes" based on a well-received number that they had done for a local ice show, choreographed with a dancey feel by coach Heidi Thibert.
Evoking the fairy tale princess, Moore wore a light blue dress, gloves, and a tiny tiara, with a black velvet ribbon around her neck.
The split twist was high, the step-overhead lift solid, and the presentation deliberate and relaxed.
Asked if there was anything that he and his partner could have done better, Girardi replied, "I think thereís always something you can do better. Skate faster, better."
He identified the teamís strengths as "skating to the music" and "our lifts."
With ordinals from first to seventh, Bianca Butler, 15, of Dana Point, CA, and Joseph Jacobsen, 17, of Lake Arrowhead, CA, finished the Short Program event in fourth place with fast side by side spins but off-synch double loops, an imperfect split twist, and a finish ahead of their music.
A program that went over well with knowledgeable audience members nevertheless left Kelsey Syme and John Pfoh in just seventh place. Dressed in graduated shades of blue into white, they skated to a lyrical number with subtle choreographic flourishes called "Winter Games." Their presentation, posture and speed all rate honorable mention.
Two of the top four pairs maintained their Short Program positions after the Free Skating, while second and fourth places flip-flopped.
Claire Davis and Nathan Miller of Colorado remained solidly in first to win the Novice title with another beautifully choreographed Dalilah Sappenfield thematic program, this one to selections from the film Prince of Egypt.
The Egyptian flourishes were well woven into the content, with perhaps one small break in character on Millerís part.
"I kind of tripped and pulled back, and then I was just trying to focus and stay with the music, focus on the hardest part, which is my double flip [emphasis on mine, not hers]."
Davis & Miller opened with a high double split twist that will become a triple for next season in Juniors, followed by throw double Salchow, star lift and side by side double Axels. Other key elements were a creatively entered back inside death spiral, side by side double flip Ė double toe loop combinations, a throw double loop, and an excellent final combination spin.
Miller, who competes in both Pairs and Dance, was asked how he "juggles" two women.
"I donít know. It just seems like they both kind of have the same type of personality," he laughed when comparing Davis and his dance partner, Stacy Kim. While Davis was at liberty to rest upon her laurels, Miller had yet more work to do on the same day at the late-evening Novice Free Dance event.
Bianca Butler and Joseph Jacobsen of southern California, who had slightly bobbled their double twist landing, gone off-synch in side by side double loops, and finished ahead of their music in the Short Program event settled down and finished second overall with a free skate that earned two first-place ordinals.
The skaters coached by Jenni Meno and Todd Sand, whose own style was somewhat evident in the program of their proteges, were even more strongly evocative of Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner. The John Nicks influence that first informed the work of Starbuck & Shelley, then matured with Babilonia & Gardner and continued through Meno & Sand found further expression, specifically in a pull-Arabian and closely matched moves like the pair spiral and Ina Bauer.
Butler & Jacobsen, who had been twice cut off in the warm-up while heading into their throw triple twist, made no excuses for the rough catch that marred their opening move. In fact, they were very proud of the maneuver, the only triple twist in the competition, recently added to their repertoire. Certainly that twist helped them to climb to the second spot on the podium.
Other elements of note in the "Spartacus" program included side by side double Axels and flip combinations, a throw double loop, and inventive, difficult lifts.
Lisa Moore and Nicholas Girardi of Colorado remained in third place thanks to a tiebreaking total of marks. The "Cinderella" kids of the Short Program floated through "Camelot" selections, including the lyrical "If Ever I Should Leave You."
The duo opened with a pair camel spin, high double twist, throw double Salchow and double Lutz Ė half turn Ė double flip. Girardi powered Moore into two impressive one-arm press lifts. The program ended with a heel stretch (catch-foot extension) into back outside death spiral.
In between, there were two errors. Girardi ran afoul of his double flip. He put a hand down and later demonstrated the art of positive spin: "I was just happy that I wasnít on my bottom."
Moore went up onto her toe in her half of side by side camel spins, causing Girardi to remark that he knew things were getting dicey when he saw his partner lose her edge on the very first revolution.
"I was a little worried when I saw a blade on the first turn," Girardi deadpanned. "That made my life a little bit more frightening."
Nonetheless, solid ordinals ran from second to fourth for a majority of thirds.
The unlucky team to slip to the bottom of the podium was the Arizona-trained duo Molly Aaron and Taylor Toth. To the ethnic sound of "Hungarian Dance," "Two Guitars," and "Tzigano," they opened with a double twist and went into side by side double Axels. Ominously, Aaron fell. Later she fell again during the double Axel combination, and the side by side spins that followed fell out of synch.
Aaron and Toth accomplished a throw double Salchow, pair spreadeagles, and attractive lifts and combination spins to earn ordinals from second to fourth and relinquish the bronze medal only in a tiebreaker.
J1: Carolyn Clausius
J2: Susan Juohnson
J3: Kathleen McBride
J4: Joyce Komperda
J5: Jan Serafine
J6: Sam Singer
J7: Lynn Goldman
J8: Wendy Enzmann
J9: Sharon Watson
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