All photos copyright 2007 by George S. Rossano
by Martha L. Kimball
In contrast to some years past when nail-biting and anxiety were the spectatorís lot, the 2007 Novice Pairs Short Program event was a pleasure.
The field of twelve teams seemed to be in control of the elements and the venue.
The Sunday afternoon event at the Convention Center was refereed by Samuel Auxier, with Deveny Deck, technical controller; Steven Moore, technical specialist; and Kenneth Shelley, assistant technical specialist.
Tracy Tanovich, 10, and Michael Chau, 16, Eastern silver medalists, were touted as hot prospects and didnít disappoint. They performed to "The Race," a selection made famous by Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallowís US championship title win.
Even though Tanovich fell on her double flip and accrued heavy deductions, the team earned 26.78 for elements, 19.69 for program components, and a segment score of 45.47, nearly three points more than the next-placed team, with high marks for choreography and level fours for the spiral sequence, throw double twist, and pair spin.
The program concluded with what Chau termed "a nice uproar at the end."
"We were very happy with the components, but some of the technical elements -- we had a few level threes and a few level fours, which was great, but we were going for all level fours and we missed out on a few. It may have been just short rev[olution] stuff. Overall, things went pretty well."
Jaylyn Kelly, 12, and Gabe Woodruff, 23, from Michigan, were crowd favorites in cornflower blue and black, performing dynamically to a "Hooked on Classics" strain of Mozart. The Midwestern bronze medalists sparked excitement throughout their program, which included a high throw triple twist and level four overhead lift and spiral sequence.
The 4-foot-8 and 5-foot-7 duo rotate both jumps and spins in opposite directions, creating an appealing effect. Their pair spin was anemic, earning a spate of deductions, and a tremor on the death spiral cost a few as well, but strong component marks countered the negative effect. And the audience was clearly enamored of the petite Kelly who looks a bit like a young Tai Babilonia from a distance.
"It just helps so much," Woodruff said of the crowd support. "If you feel like youíre being enjoyed, it just makes you want to present even more. I heard them on every element."
The duo copped freely to their errors and paid homage to inspirational skaters like Shen & Zhao. As to their own place in the skating universe, Woodruff summarized, "We have a good size advantage. Weíre a power team, and weíre looking to incorporate the grace in connection with the power."
Marks of 24.37, 18.37, and 42.74 sent the team into second place.
Minna Lee, 16, and Taylor Toth, 18, the Eastern champions who train in Newark, Del., finished the segment in third place with a "Rondo Veneziana" program and gave an engaging interview.
Toth, who needs to go into stand-up comedy and couldnít be more entertaining, obligingly answered a question about the dayís highlights by assuring the press with a dramatic twinkle, "It was all highlights. It was amazing. We were the crowd favorites. Theyíre speechless. I think we left everyone in awe."
But back to Earth: Lee assessed the performance. "We had a really nice lift today. All of our elements felt pretty solid, the way we do them in practice."
The most deductions cropped up in the throw double twist ratings, offset by a strong level four overhead lift.
Lee and Toth were happy to stand in third going into the free
skate. Said Toth, "We went out and skated our best. We didnít really have a place in mind. My coach has always told us to really focus on the skating aspects, because any time Iíve thought about first place or whatever, the skating is always negatively affected."
Caitlin Yankowskas, 16, and Daniyel Cohen, 18, performed in lush cornflower blue, a popular color this year, to Concierto de Aranjuez, opening, in a departure from convention, with a death spiral. They showed
good spins and spirals and solid double flips, although their throw double twist came up short.
They hugged each other at the end of their routine and seemed pleased with the effort that yielded marks of 21.75, 19.63, and 41.38 for fourth place for the segment.
Tiffany Nahm, 14, and Christopher Nahm, 14 (he was born in January 1992; she arrived the following December, according to their official bio sheet), thoroughly entertained the crowd with a Phantom of the Opera number choreographed by Randy Gardner.
The Pacific Coast champions, wearing white and black, distinguished themselves with a nice throw double twist and final pair spin, though their side-by-side spins were not of the best quality. They earned a big crowd reaction and marks of 21.48, 19.66, and 41.14 for fifth place in the segment.
Midwestern champions Amanda Luchau, 12, and Andrew Speroff, 18, from the Broadmoor, also received a warm reception for a jazzy interpretation of
"Hernandoís Hideaway." Luchau slipped out of her flip, but their opening throw double twist and overhead lift were solid for marks of 23.16, 18.77, and 40.93 and a sixth placement for the segment.
Tracy Tanovich & Michael Chau
Caitlin Yankowskas & Daniyel Cohen
Jaylyn Kelly & Gabe Woodruff
Tracy Tanovish & Michael Chau were far and away the class act in this event, winning both the short and the long decisively, and running up a total margin of victory of 11.74 points. No doubt hear who deserved to win. In the Free Skate they were first in both element points and Program Component points, earning component marks in the low to mid 5s. Some individual judges went as high as 6. And this despite errors in three elements that received a majority of negative GoEs.
Afterwards Chau assessed the experience saying the best part of it was "probably hearing the crowd at the end. Itís just great to hear that. ... I saw some of the levels out there, and it looked very well. All our components were all fives. Thatís very good for a Novice pair team. We were very proud of that. All the hard training pays off. ... We really worked the new system to our advantage, and I think it paid off." In regard to using "Don Quixote" as their music and whether he had seen John Curry's 1976 performance he said, "Yes, many times, many times. Iíve done it on stage as a ballet dancer. It has a lot to do with the skating community. Sometimes it can be overdone, and I think that we really pulled it off, but we did it our way."
Second and third place turned out ot be a close contest, with the two teams ending up jsut 0.06 points. Far closer than IJS is capable of discerning the true value of a performance.
Caitlin Yankowskas & Daniyel Cohen squeaked in for the silver overall, with the only other performance today to receive Program Component scores above 5. They too had error on three elements that resulted in a majority of negative GoEs on three elements, and a few more on two others. Said Cohen, "I would say it wasnít our greatest program, but we really put everything we had out there. A couple of elements were shaky. Our two lifts werenít as great as they usually were in practice. Our last pair spin was a little shaky also but everything else was fine. I think we had really good speed. And our side-by-side jumps were good." Added Yankowskas, "and I think our choreography was really good too." said Cohen "We try not to think about placements. We try to go out and do everything we know how to. We practice the program every single day. Itís very routine for us." "Each performance is separate," said Yankowskas, "Itís like a new competition." The team says they will be moving up to Junior next season.
Jaylyn Kelly & Gabe Woodruff placed second in element points, but were weighted down by Program Component scores in the mid 4s. They two had three errors that resulted in a majority of negative GoEs for those elements. Said Woodruff, "We were a little tight at some points, but we skated relatively clean, and weíre very pleased to walk away with a medal." At the end of the routine, the two skaters exchanged high fives. Woodruff explained, "Relief about how we skated. Relief to be relaxed and to be done. Itís a lot of hard work. You wait all year for this. Itís kind of like work, work, work and then youíre done. Itís disappointing, too [for the season to be over]."
Given how close the results were, the team might have been disappointed in the scores, but Woodruff commented about whether the marks were fair, "I think so. Iím not that affected. Iím so focused on how we skated. Thatís the most important thing. Iím very happy with that."
This was the only team in the group that skates with opposite rotations. Said Woodruff, "I never did pairs before with anyone else." "So he learned my way," chimed in Kelly.
The pleasantly chatty Woodruff also commented on their coaches (Aaron Parchem and Jason Dungjen) after the event, "Well, Aaron competed just this year so he has a lot of [experience] as a competitor himself. Jason Dungjen was actually really influential in the new system, so he gives us a lot of pointers. I trust that he really knows his stuff because heís part of the judging system. Heís a technical assistant, so thatís a big advantage that I think we have. He (Parchem) gives us a lot of input from a skaterís point of view. He was a great skater." About moving up to Juniors he said, "Itís very deep (the field). Going in, I think I knew there were about six or seven people that had an easy medal shot, so it was going to come down to who skated best. ... Weíre stepping it up this year."
Fourth place in the Free Skate, and overall was taken by Brynn Carmen & Christopher Knierim. They were an unambiguous 4.72 points out of third place, but well ahead of the fifth place finishers. They had errors on four elements that resulted in negative GoEs, but even had they not made those errors, they still would have placed fourth. They received respectable Program Component marks in the mid to upper 4s.
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