U.S. Nationals

Senior Pairs






Place Team SP FS
1 Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker 2 1
2 Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett 1 2
3 Rena Inoue & John Baldwin 3 3
4 Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig 6 4
5 Brooke Castile & Benjamin Okolski 5 6
6 Chloe Katz & Joseph Lynch 7 5
7 Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin 4 8
8 Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent 8 7
9 Laura Lepzinski & Ethan Burgess 12 9
10 Jessica Rose Paetsch & Drew Meekins 10 10

MeeRan Trombley & Laureano Ibarra

9 12
12 Lindsay Davis & Alexander Merritt 11 14
13 Bianca Butler & Joseph Jacobsen 15 11
14 Stephanie Kuban & Steven Elefante 16 13
15 Lisa Moore & Justin Gaumond 17 16
16 Andrea Best & Trevor Young 19 15
17 Chelsi Guillen & Danny Curzon 13 18
18 Jennifer Brunn & Don Baldwin 14 19
19 Kendra Moyle & Steven Pottenger 18 17

Photos copyright 2009 by George S. Rossano


Short Program

Starting Order - Short Program
  1. Chloe Katz & Joseph Lynch

  2. Chelsi Guillen & Danny Curzon

  3. Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin

  4. Brooke Castile & Benjamin Okolski

  5. Stephanie Kuban & Steven Elefante

  6. Rena Inoue & John Baldwin

  7. Jennifer Brunn & Don Baldwin

  8. Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent

  9. Lisa Moore & Justin Gaumond

  10. Jessica Rose Paetsch & Drew Meekins

  11. Andrea Best & Trevor Young

  12. Kendra Moyle & Steven Pottenger

  13. Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker

  14. Lindsay Davis & Alexander Merritt

  15. Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig

  16. Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett

  17. Bianca Butler & Joseph Jacobsen

  18. Laura Lepzinski & Ethan Burgess

  19. MeeRan Trombley & Laureano Ibarra


Short Program Placements


1 Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett
2 Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker
3 Rena Inoue & John Baldwin
4 Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin
5 Brooke Castile & Benjamin Okolski
6 Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig
7 Chloe Katz & Joseph Lynch
8 Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent

MeeRan Trombley & Laureano Ibarra

10 Jessica Rose Paetsch & Drew Meekins
11 Lindsay Davis & Alexander Merritt
12 Laura Lepzinski & Ethan Burgess
13 Chelsi Guillen & Danny Curzon
14 Jennifer Brunn & Don Baldwin
15 Bianca Butler & Joseph Jacobsen
16 Stephanie Kuban & Steven Elefante
17 Lisa Moore & Justin Gaumond
18 Kendra Moyle & Steven Pottenger
19 Andrea Best & Trevor Young

This year’s short program elements for the Championship Pairs include a Group 3 lift, with a hand-to-hip takeoff (such as a star or platter position) and a forward inside death spiral, as well as the requirements that are included every year: a pair combination spin, a solo combination spin, a double or triple side-by-side jump, a double or triple twist, a spiral sequence, and a double or triple throw jump.

The surprise leaders after the pairs’ short program are 15 year-old Caydee Denney and 24 year-old Jeremy Barrett. Executing a level 2 triple twist, side-by-side triple toes, a beautiful throw triple flip, and a level 4 star lift, the duo received positive GOEs on all eight elements from the nine judges, except for three -1s, each on a different element. Their technical score of 36.58 was the highest of the event, with a total segment score of 61.51. Coached by Jim Peterson, Lyndon Johnson, and Alison Smith, the pair skated together briefly in the summer of 2006 before Denney moved from Florida to Colorado to pursue her singles career. When she returned to Florida last summer, they reteamed, quickly earning an international assignment to Nebelhorn Trophy, where they placed 4th. Denney’s younger sister, Haven, placed second earlier this week in Novice Pairs with partner Daniel Raad, while rinkmates Tracy Tanovich and Michael Chau won Junior Pairs on Friday. Denney is age-eligible for Four Continents and Senior Worlds by just one week.

2008 U.S. Champions and 2007 World Junior Champions Keauna McLaughlin, 16, and Rockne Brubaker, 22, earned the highest program components of the event, but step outs on the landings of their side-by-side triple Salchows (him) and throw triple loop (her) resulted in negative GOEs for those elements. Their technical score was the fourth highest of the event, with a combined total of 61.12 leaving them just 0.3 behind the leaders. McLaughlin is suffering from a bad cold and the program overall was slightly tight and less aggressive than usual. Their triple twist was called level 3, one of only two level 3 triple twist of the event, and received all +1 and +2 GOEs. In addition, their level 4 star lift and level four pair spin received +1s and +2s from every judge, except for one -1 on the pair spin. Four of their five program components averaged in the low 7s, with transitions averaging 6.89.

Only 0.01 behind McLaughlin and Brubaker are 2004 and 2006 U.S. Champions Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, with a total score of 61.11. The veterans of the event at ages 32 and 35 respectively, they incorporated a triple twist (level 1) into their short program for the first time, but received negative GOEs. Their side-by-side double Axels, although of a lower base value than the side-by-side triples performed by other top teams, were in perfect unison with excellent flow on the landings, and received GOEs of +1 and +2. With the exception of the twist and one -1 on their pair spin, the duo earned only base mark and positive GOEs. Both their program components and their technical score were the second highest of the event. With the top three teams separated by only 0.4, the long program – and the two coveted spots on the World Team – are up for grabs in the long program.

Caitlin Yankowskas, 18, and John Coughlin, 23, nabbed the last spot in the final warm-up by placing fourth with a total segment score of 56.06. They executed side-by-side triple Salchows and a throw triple Salchow that received positive GOEs, including two +2. Except for their triple twist, called level 1, and their death spiral, called level 3, all of their other elements earned level 4. Their technical score was the 4th highest of the evening, but their program components were only 7th highest. Yankowskas and Coughlin appeared thrilled with their performance, skating one of the only clean short program performances.

Brooke Castile and Benjamin Okolski, the 2007 U.S. Champions, had not competed internationally this year due to her nagging foot injuries. They opened their programs with side-by-side triple Salchows, a new element for them, but Castile was unable to hold the landing of hers and fell, incurring a 1.0 deduction for the fall. Their triple twist, called level 1, was successfully completed, but she was also unable to hold the landing of their throw triple Salchow, stepping out. Their side-by-side combination spin had good unison, and their death spiral had a nice position; both elements were called level 3. Their other two elements, the spiral sequence and pair combination spin, were called level 4. The program components for the duo, skating to "The Chairman’s Waltz" from Memoirs of a Geisha, were the fourth highest of the event, but they placed fifth in this segment with a score of 54.46.

Placing sixth with a total score of 52.98 were Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, training partners of Denney and Barrett. Ladwig fell on the landing of his side-by-side triple Salchow, but the jumps were credited with the full rotation rather than being downgraded, a problem that has plagued this team in the past. Their death spiral, pair combination spin, lift, and spiral sequence were all called level 4. Their solo combination spin, called level 3, received -2 GOEs. Due to a misprint in the newest edition of the ISU Rulebook, which arrived this week, Evora and Ladwig were informed at the last minute that they needed to include a camel position in their solo spins. When they attempted the difficult forward sit-back camel transition, both wobbled, resulting in negative GOEs. As it turns out, the ISU Rulebook is incorrect, and the pairs are not required to include all three basic positions in their short program spins, which the singles skaters are required to do.

Chloe Katz and Joseph Lynch, who placed eighth last year, were 7th in tonight’s short program. They skated a clean performance, including side-by-side double Axels, a throw triple Salchow, and a nicely executed double twist, called level 2. Their other elements were called level 4, except for their death spiral, called level 3, and they received mostly base mark GOEs, with a few +1s and -1s mixed in. Their segment score of 52.06 reflected a solid performance.

Last year’s pewter medalists, Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent, found themselves in 8th place with a segment score of 51.16 after Trent’s triple toe, which was two-footed, was downgraded to a double, earning both the base mark of a double toe and a GOE reduction, a double hit. Their double twist, called level 3, was high and clean, with positive GOEs from all nine judges. Vise and Trent’s spiral sequence was called level 1, possibly because they did not hold an unsupported spiral for three seconds or were not in a spiral position on each foot for three sequences. Skaters who commit those errors are automatically punished with a level 1 for failing to fulfill the requirements of the short program, which include a change of foot and a spiral position with the leg unsupported by the hands. The duo, in the sixth year of their partnership, were rewarded by the audience with a hardy round of applause, in recognition of the high quality of their elements.

The top eight pairs will skate in the final session of the long program on Saturday. The remaining eleven pairs will skate in the morning session, intersected by one group of Championship Dance competitors. This unusual schedule is to accommodate NBC’s live broadcast.

MeeRan Trombley and Laureano Ibarra placed 9th in the short program, completing the second level 3 triple twist of the event. Their pair spin was also called level 3, but their other elements were level 4, including an impressive star lift that covered the length of the arena. A small mistake on the landing of the throw triple Salchow and a single Axel by Trombley limited their technical score, with an overall segment score of 48.63.

A new team from the Broadmoor, Jessica Rose Paetsch and Drew Meekins, earned 47.67 points to land in 10th place. Both won U.S. National titles at the Junior level with other partners; Paetsch’s was just last year, with Jon Nuss, who is no longer skating. The newbies executed difficult elements with some small mistakes, earning negative GOEs on their triple twist, throw triple Salchow, and side-by-side triple Salchows. Their other elements, called level 3 or 4, earned mostly base marks.

Another new team found themselves in 11th place with 45.87 points. Alex Merritt, a Championship Pairs competitor last year with Katie Beriau, is now skating with 16 year-old Lindsay Davis. Davis, in her first year skating pairs, qualified to compete in both Championship Pairs and Novice Ladies, in which she finished 9th. With a nice double twist, called level 2, and a good throw triple Salchow, they doubled their side-by-side Salchows. Their spins, both of which were called level 4, were very nice.

Laura Lepzinski and Ethan Burgess, a second year team, finished in 12th place with 45.09 points after both fell on their side-by-side triple Salchows, which were downgraded. A high triple twist with a clean catch was the highlight of their program, which also featured a level 4 lift, pair combination spin, solo combination spin, and spiral sequence.

Right behind them with 44.63 points were Chelsi Guillen and Danny Curzon. After Castile and Okolski withdrew from Cup of China, this Arizona-based team took their place. Tonight, they skated a clean short program with a double twist, side-by-side double Axels, and a throw triple toe, but most of their elements received negative GOEs from the judges. They received level 3 or 4s on all of their elements except the death spiral, called level 1, and twist, called level 2.

John Baldwin’s younger (31) brother Don Baldwin made his maiden appearance in Championship Pairs, skating with Jennifer Brunn (18), who is also new to pairs. They skated admirably for such a new team, completing a level 4 double twist, the only one of the event, and nice pair elements. A fall on their throw triple Salchow and a small miscue on the landing of their side-by-side double Axels earned negative GOEs from the judges, along with a deduction for the fall, for a total score of 43.35.

In 15th place was Bianca Butler and Joseph Jacobson, who have skated together since Juvenile Pairs. They earned 42.73 points for a performance that included a level 4 lift and a nice pair combination spin. They fell on side-by-side double Axels that were downgraded, and she stepped out of the landing of their throw triple Salchow.

Stephanie Kuban and Steven Elefante placed 16th with 42.25 points. They completed a nice double twist, called level 3, and a level 4 death spiral, along with a nice level 4 lift. Their side-by-side triple toes earned negative GOEs from several judges, and a fall on their throw triple loop resulted in both -3 GOEs from the judges and deduction for the fall. Their technical score was actually the 15th highest of the event, but the fall deduction moved them down a place in the standings.

In their first year as Seniors, Lisa Moore and Justin Gaumond earned 38.60 points to place 17th. Although they attempted a triple twist, throw triple loop, and side-by-side double Axels, the Axels were downgraded and every element received negative GOEs from the judges, with the exception of a lovely level 4 star lift.

With 38.31 points, Kendra Moyle and Steven Pottenger were the only team to have an element receive zero points when she failed to leave the ice on their side-by-side triple Salchow attempts, resulting in a call of Salchow, no rotation. They completed a triple twist and two level 4 elements, a star lift and a spiral sequence, but a fall on their throw triple Salchow reduced their scores and left them in 18th place.

Andrea Best and Trevor Young provided the most frightening moment of the event, when both fell hard on their lift. Best hit the ice with her forearm first; her face bounced against it, while her side slammed the ice. Amazingly, they continued their program, executing a huge throw triple Salchow with a step out, along with a level 4 pair combination spin. Combined with a fall on their side-by-side triple toes, the team received 3.00 deductions. The crowd, knowledgeable about skating, showered the duo with a standing ovation at the end of their performance. Coach Johnny Johns later reported that Best was significantly bruised, but nothing was broken. Best and Young hope to skate the long program if her condition permits.


Free Skate

Starting Order - Free Skating

Morning Groups

  1. Lisa Moore & Justin Gaumond

  2. Andrea Best & Trevor Young

  3. Kendra Moyle & Steven Pottenger

  4. Jennifer Brunn & Don Baldwin

  5. Chelsi Guillen & Danny Curzon

  6. Bianca Butler & Joseph Jacobsen

  7. Stephanie Kuban & Steven Elefante

  8. Jessica Rose Paetsch & Drew Meekins

  9. Laura Lepzinski & Ethan Burgess

  10. MeeRan Trombley & Laureano Ibarra

  11. Lindsay Davis & Alexander Merritt

Evening Groups

  1. Chloe Katz & Joseph Lynch

  2. Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig

  3. Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent

  4. Brooke Castile & Benjamin Okolski

  5. Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker

  6. Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin

  7. Rena Inoue & John Baldwin

  8. Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett


Free Skating Placements
Place Team
1 Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker
2 Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett
3 Rena Inoue & John Baldwin
4 Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig
5 Chloe Katz & Joseph Lynch
6 Brooke Castile & Benjamin Okolski
7 Tiffany Vise & Derek Trent
8 Caitlin Yankowskas & John Coughlin
9 Laura Lepzinski & Ethan Burgess
10 Jessica Rose Paetsch & Drew Meekins
11 Bianca Butler & Joseph Jacobsen

MeeRan Trombley & Laureano Ibarra

13 Stephanie Kuban & Steven Elefante
14 Lindsay Davis & Alexander Merritt
15 Andrea Best & Trevor Young
16 Lisa Moore & Justin Gaumond
17 Kendra Moyle & Steven Pottenger
18 Chelsi Guillen & Danny Curzon
19 Jennifer Brunn & Don Baldwin



(Full report, 2/3/09.)

The pairs skated in two groups, separated by a group of Senior Dance, in order to accommodate NBC's broadcast schedule. The top eight teams, which skated in the late afternoon, included three former Senior National Champions (McLaughlin/Brubaker, Castile/Okolski, & Inoue/Baldwin), two former Senior Pewter medalists (Evora/Ladwig & Vise/Trent), as well as newcomers (Denney/Barrett, the surprise leaders after the short program at their first Nationals together & Yankowsas/Coughlin in their second season) and veterans (Katz/Lynch in their eight season), providing tension and intrigue. The other eleven teams skated earlier in the morning and provided their own share of drama, some riveting and some of the "please don't kill her" variety. Five lifts – out of the bottom six teams – failed to go up, the most in recent memory. Six of the nineteen teams were coached or co-coached by Delilah Sappenfield, also an unofficial recent record.

Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker, who are co-coached by Delilah Sappenfield and Keauna's mother Lei'Ina McLaughlin, won their second straight Senior National title – and third straight, including their 2007 Junior title. In three trips to Nationals, this team has never finished lower than first. Their reign was nearly interrupted this year, however, and their victory was secured by the highest Program Components of the event. They finished the competition with 178.76 points after earning 117.64 in their free skate. Keauna, who was batting a serious cold, is a tough cookie, completing two secure throw triples, Salchow and loop, each of which earned +1 or +2 GOEs from every judge. Their triple twist, called Level 3, received one +3 GOE – as well as one base mark GOE. Each of their three lifts received Level 4 with positive or base mark GOEs; in addition, their two spin elements (solo and pair combination spin) were called Level 4. Their step sequence was Level 3, as was their back outside death spiral, which was one of only three executed in the Senior Pair event. Although outside death spirals carry a higher base value than inside death spirals, the position required by the woman in order to receive "features" towards a higher level is considerably more difficult to obtain in outside death spirals. In addition to these well-executed elements, McLaughlin and Brubaker had mistakes on their jump elements, as Brubaker singled the second part of their planned triple Salchow-double combination jump, and McLaughlin fell on their side-by-side triple toes. Their Program Components ranged from 6.75 to 8.25, averaging in the low 7s. Although this is their second Senior National title, it will be McLaughlin and Brubaker's first trip to Senior Worlds; last year, she was too young for Senior ISU Championships and he was too old for Junior ISU Championships. In case this young team, nominated by many as the Great American Pairs Hope, needed more pressure on them, Worlds will be held in McLaughlin's hometown of Los Angeles.

In their first Nationals together, Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett finished second in the free skate (114.76) and second overall (176.27). Although many in the audience felt that this new team deserved to win, Denney and Barrett appeared thrilled to make the World team in their first full season together. Their technical elements were textbook. They also completed a Level 3 triple twist that received +1 and +2 GOEs. Their two solo jump elements – a triple toe-double toe sequence and double Axels – had excellent unison and tracking. Both of their throws, a triple loop and triple flip, were solid. In addition, they completed four Level 4 elements: a Group 5 Axel lasso lift, a Group 3 lift, another Group 5 lift, and their solo spins. Their step sequence was called Level 3, while their pair spin received "only" Level 2. The duo skated with confidence and sureness, and their technical ability was never in doubt. Their Program Components ranged from 5.75 to 8.00 and averaged in the high 6s, with Skating Skills and Performance/Execution in the low 7s.

As the final standings were posted after Denney and Barrett concluded the Senior Pairs' Event, many in the audience booed when the duo moved into second place behind McLaughlin and Brubaker. Although Denney and Barrett's program was cleaner – and they deserved higher technical marks than McLaughlin and Brubaker, which they received – their ability to project to the audience, relate to each other, and express the attitude/theme of their music was not as strong as McLaughlin and Brubaker, who were also somewhat more powerful. In the opinion of this reporter, McLaughlin and Brubaker deserved higher PCS, while Denney and Barrett deserved higher TES, and the final placements were the result of the math. Either way, the United States has two young teams with strong technical and presentation skills, and it will be a treat to watch both teams develop.

Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, in their ninth Senior Nationals, finished third in the free skate and overall, earning 171.08 points to stamp their passports for Four Continents in Vancouver, but not to Worlds, as the U.S. only has two spots at Worlds this year. Their free skate, worth 109.97 points, opened somewhat messily, with an underrotation on their side-by-side triple toes, a messy Level 1 triple twist – an element they have not completed in recent years – and a double Axel-double Axel sequence on which he stepped out. After those three elements, all of which received negative GOEs from the judges, they skated a nice program that earned almost all base mark or positive GOEs, with the exception of a single -1 GOE on one element. Two of their lifts, a Group 3 and a Group 5 lift, earned Level 4, while their Group 5 Axel lasso was a Level 3. Inoue stood up on a throw triple Salchow and a throw triple loop, but their signature throw triple Axel was not included. Both of their spin elements were called Level 4, while their step sequence and back outside death spiral were called Level 3.

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig did not earn a spot on the Four Continents or World Teams, but appeared to win a much larger personal victory, as they skated a strong program marred only by mistakes on the two solo jump elements. Evora was in tears at the end of their program, as they were showered with appreciative applause by the knowledgeable crowd. The duo, who are training mates of Denney and Barrett, coached by Jim Peterson and Lyndon Johnston following Kerry Leich's departure from the Ellington rink earlier this year, opened with a high triple twist, called Level 2, that received +1 and +2 GOEs. Evora stuck both throw triples: the only Lutz of the event, and a loop in the second half of their program. Their lifts, which are always inventive, were all called Level 4, and included a Group 5 Axel lasso, a Group 5 reverse lasso, and a Group 4 that began with an innovative entry and just got more complicated from there. Their other elements were called Level 3 (step sequence, back outside death spiral, and pair spin), although their solo spins received Level 4. After the misinformation that this team received before the short program, causing them to insert a camel position at the last moment, it was nice to see their usual spin that begins with unusual (for pairs) flying sit spins. As so often happens to them, however, their solo jumps were not as strong as their other elements. Their triple Salchows were downgraded, and both erred on their double Axel sequence, with Evora two-footing and Ladwig stepping out; in addition, the Axels were downgraded to singles. Their Program Components were fifth-highest of the evening and this performance was a delight to witness.

Competing in their first event of the year due to her foot injuries, Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski debuted a lovely program to Debussy's Clair de Lune. The effects of her injury were apparent, as it looked as though she couldn't hold the landings of jump elements, falling on a fully rotated solo triple Salchow and stepping out of the landing of both throws: a triple loop and a triple Salchow. All of their other elements were well-executed and received only base mark or positive GOEs from the judges. Their unusual ordering of the technical elements include a back inside death spiral, called Level 4, as the second element of the program. Their Level 1 triple twist was the third element. Three of their remaining elements were called Level 4, including both spin elements and the Group 5 Axel lasso lift. Another three were called Level 3: the step sequence, the Group 3 lift, and the final element, a Group 5 lift whose difficult exit led directly to their ending pose. This interesting choreograph came with a price, however: a 1.00 deduction for being over the allotted time for the free skate. Castile and Okolski's free skate was only good enough for 6th place in that segment, with 102.55 points, leaving them in 5th overall, with 157.01. Without a season's best score from an approved international, they are not eligible to be selected for any Grand Prix events except the invitational spot chosen by U.S. Figure Skating for Skate America.

Chloe Katz and Joseph Lynch, who have been spending more time recently with Johnny Johns, skated a breakthrough 5th place free skate (104.09) points to finish in 6th place overall with 156.15 points. They attempted less difficulty than some of the other top teams, but executed each element well, receiving base mark or positive GOEs on every element, except one. Their Level 2 double twist complimented three other nice lifts: a Group 5 Axel Lasso, called Level 4, a Level 4 Group 3 lift, and a Level 3 Group 5 lift. Their side-by-side double Axel-double toe combination had strong unison, but their other jump element was only double flips. They completed two throw triples, a gorgeous loop and a Salchow that received mostly -1 GOEs. In addition, their two spin elements were rated Level 4, as was their death spiral, and their step sequence received a call of Level 3. Overall, it was a strong performance, one of the few clean performances of the night.

Another of Delilah Sappenfield's teams, Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin, fell to 7th overall (153.67 points) with their 8th place free skate (97.58) after finishing fourth in the short program. They opened with an impressive Level 4 Group 4 lift that covered 3/4 of the ice surface and included a carry. They received all positive GOEs for this lift, including one +3 from Roger Glenn, judge #5. Their next four elements, however, all received negative GOEs: a Level 1 triple twist, a side-by-side triple toe-single toe combination, an attempted double Axel in which Coughlin waxeled and lost control, and a throw triple Salchow with a stepout. At that point, they appeared to regroup and completed a Level 4 Group 5 Axel lasso lift, throw triple loop, Level 3 Group 5 lift and step sequence, and Level 4 death spiral, pair combination spin, and solo spin. In a deep field, however, the early mistakes were costly.

Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent came oh-so-close to landing their throw quad Salchow in their 7th place free skate (97.75 points), but she just slipped off the edge. A strong throw triple loop complimented their other elements, three of which received Level 3 (double twist, Group 5 Axel lasso, back inside death spiral, and step sequence), while four were called Level 4 (solo spins, pair combination spin, Group 3 lift, and Group 5 lift). Their only other mistakes came on their jump elements, as Trent did not complete the rotation on their side-by-sde triple toes, resulting in a total gain of 0.53 points for that element. Their second jump element, single Axel to double toe sequence, was successfully completed, but still garnered only 1.85 points due to the low base value of the jump, combined with the 20% penalty for sequences compared to combinations. They placed 8th overall, with 148.91, after earning the pewter medal last year.

Laura Lepzinski and Ethan Burgess placed ninth in the free skate with 96.12 points to finish ninth overall, with a total of 141.21. They skated a program that was clean, except for mistakes on both attempts at side-by-side jumps. A Level 1 triple twist received +1 GOEs from all nine judges, and both their throw triple loop and Level 4 Group 4 lift, which rotated in both directions before changing position and included a carry, received positive GOEs up to +2. Both of their spin elements were called Level 4 with positive and base mark GOEs, and one of their Group 5 lifts was called Level 4; the other was Level 2. A hesitation on the landing on their throw triple loop, a single Salchow by Lepzinski when Burgess landed a triple, and a single toe by Burgess on their double flip-double toe combination were their only mistakes. Their long program earned nearly 13 points more than the 10th place team and they handily won the early session of Senior Pairs.

Jessica Rose Paetsch and Drew Meekins, a new pair coached by Delilah Sappenfield, finished 10th in both the free skate (83.20) and overall (130.87). They completed a nice Group 5 Axel lasso lift that earned +1 GOEs from all nine judges, along with a Level 4 Group 3 lift, and a Level 3 Group 5 lift. None of their lifts received a single negative GOE. Their triple twist, called Level 1, received mostly -1 and -2 GOEs. Stepouts on their side-by-side triple Salchows and throw triple Salchow resulted in -2 GOEs, and their throw triple loop had a fall. In addition, they completed a Level 3 death spiral and step sequence, as well as a Level 2 solo spin, all of which received base mark or +1 GOEs. Meekins' IceNetwork blog, The Inside Edge, written with Sarah Brannen, included an entry from every day of Nationals and was quite entertaining.

Laureano Ibarra, Delilah Sappenfield's son, skated his last competitive performance before retiring to coach full-time. With partner MeeRan Trombley, he finished 11th overall with 129.61 points after a 12th place free skate worth 80.98 points. Trombley and Ibarra executed a high triple twist, called Level 2, along with three lifts called Level 4, including a Group 3 and two Group 5 lifts. Their Axel lasso earned a total of 7.29 points after bonuses for GOE and execution in the second half of the program. Their other elements also earned high levels, with their solo spins and death spiral earning Level 4s, with their step sequence being called Level 3 and pair spin Level 1. Trombley underrotated and fell on their side-by-sde double Axel attempts, and popped the solo double toe, resulting in a call of 2t< with negative GOEs. A small error on the landing of the throw triple Salchow resulted in -1 GOEs, while a fall on their throw triple loop caused -3 GOEs and a 1.00 fall deduction. Ibarra's long career has earned him many fans, along with rave reviews of his lifts and twists, and his presence on competitive ice will be missed. We wish him the best of luck in his coaching career. (Trombley's plans are unknown at this time, at least to this reporter.)

Lindsay Davis had a busy week, competing in both Novice Ladies and Senior Pairs during her first Nationals. With partner Alex Merritt, she fininshed 14th in the free skate (79.46) to place 12th overall (125.33 points). Unfortunately, falls on both throws, a triple Salchow and a triple loop, resulted in a deduction of 2.00. In addition, their solo triple Salchows were given -1 GOEs by all nine judges for a turnout, and Davis singled her Axel in their attempt double Axel-double toe combination. They completed a nice double twist, called Level 2, a Group 3 lift called Level 4, and a Level 4 solo spin. Four other elements were called Level 3, including their step sequence, Group 5 lift, pair spin, and death spiral. Their attempted Group 5 Axel lasso did not go up, resulting in zero points.

Bianca Butler and Joseph Jacobson finished the competition in 13th place with 124.46 points, thanks to their 11th place free skate. They earned 81.73 points in a program that included two Level 4 elements, solo spins with excellent unison and a Group 3 lift. Their two Group 5 lifts, along with their step sequence, death spiral, and pair spin, were all called Level 3. The duo completed a throw double loop, one of only two attempts at a throw double in the event, along with solo double flip-double toe jumps. Side-by-side double Axels were downgraded with a deduction for a fall, and their throw triple Salchow had a step-out, resulting in -2 GOEs from eight of the nine judges. Outside of the two solo jump elements and the throw triple Salchow, they received mostly base mark and +1 GOEs for their elements, which kept them above other teams with higher base values to their elements.

A new team training with Delilah Sappenfield, Stephanie Kuban and Steven Elefante, finished 13th in the free skate with 80.96 points. Combined with their short program placement, they ended the competition in 14th place with a total of 123.21 points, significantly ahead of the 15th place team. They executed a nice double twist, called Level 3, side-by-side triple toes, and a throw triple loop, all of which received positive GOEs or base marks from the judges. Their other two jump elements, a throw triple flip and side-by-side double Axel-double Axel sequence, had errors and received negative GOEs. Their Group 3 lift was called Level 4, while their completed Group 5 lift was called Level 3; their third lift, a Group 5 Axel lasso, did not go up, costing the team approximately 6.50 points, depending on what level it would have received. They also did a nice step sequence, called Level 3, and solo spins that were called Level 4 but received negative GOEs as they were not in-synch.

Lisa Moore and Justin Gaumond, who work part-time with Delilah Sappenfield, finished 16th in the free skate with 73.97 points and 15th overall with 112.57 points. They completed a triple twist and three lifts: a Group 3 lift called Level 4 and two Group 5 lifts called Level 3. In addition, their two spin elements were called Level 3. Their jump elements were less successful, with a fall on side-by-side double Axel attempts that were downgraded to singles and on a throw triple loop. In addition, their throw triple Salchow earned straight -2 GOEs from all nine judges, and the uneven rotation of their double Lutz-single toe combination also resulted in -2 GOEs. Their back inside death spiral, one of the few in the event, was called level 3, as was their step sequence.

Andrea Best deserves a medal for bravery, skating only 48 hours after a horrible fall by partner Trevor Young on their short program lift resulted in significant bruising and pain for Best. Skating on a knee that was visibly swollen, Best was determined to skate the long program at their first Nationals as a Senior Pair. She accomplished that goal, earning 75.51 points to finish 15th in the free skate, moving them to 16th place overall, with 112.15 points. They opened with a Level 1 double twist before landing side-by-side triple toes with only a slight touchdown. Their next element, a Group 5 Axel lasso, nearly resulted in a fall identical to their short program, as Young fumbled his turns. Thankfully, the pair did not attempt to execute any features on their lift and Young managed to set Best down safely. Their very next element was the difficult and rarely seen Group 5 reverse lasso lift. As the audience held their collective breath, the duo survived the lift without further incident. Best landed a throw triple Salchow, but fell on the landing of their huge throw triple flip and singled their side-by-side double Axels. Both of their spin elements were nicely executed and called Level 4, with their step sequence, death spiral, and Group 3 lift called as Level 3. Best and Young, both full-time students at University of Michigan, have been nominated to compete at the World University Games in Harbin, China, to be held in March. One can only hope that coach Johnny Johns concentrates on improving Young's turns between now and then.

Finishing 18th in the free skate with 63.43 points, Chelsi Guillen and Danny Curzon had a messy first half to their free skate, with touchdowns on their throw triple toe and Salchow, a Group 5 lift that did not go up, a pair spin that failed to change feet and did not receive any points, and an attempt at a side-by-side double Axel-double toe combination in which Guillen completed a single Axel-double toe and Curzon a double Axel-single toe, resulting in the base value of 1A+1T with -2 and -3 GOEs. The second half of their program included two Level 3 lifts, as well as a step sequence and solo spin called Level 3, along with a pretty Level 4 death spiral that demonstrated a strong pivot position. With a total score of 108.06, they finished in 17th place overall.

Jennifer Brunn and Don Baldwin finished 18th overall with 105.99 points, but 19th (62.64) in the free skate after both of their Group 5 lifts failed to go up. Their Group 3 lift was called only Level 2; as lifts and twists are the highest scoring elements in pairs, this was a major blow to their score. They completed the only Level 4 double twist of the event, which earned positive GOEs from 8 of the 9 judges. Their attempts at solo triple toes were downgraded after Brunn completed 2.5 revolutions, and she completed only a single Axel when Baldwin rotated a double, resulting in a call of 1A+seq with -2 and -3 GOEs. In addition, a fall on their throw triple flip resulted in -3 GOEs and a 1.00 deduction for a fall. A nice throw triple Salchow, a level 3 pair combination spin, and a level 4 solo spin were nicely completed.

Kendra Moyle and Steven Pottenger had the unfortunate experience of finishing 18th in the short program and 17th in the free skate (67.12 points), but 19th and last overall with a total of 105.43. Their free skate included two well-executed Level 4 elements, a pair combination spin and a Group 3 lift that begin with Pottenger in a lunge, both of which received positive GOEs. They also completed a Level 3 Group 5 lift and death spiral, along with a step sequence and solo spin called Level 2. Their triple twist had a messy catch, resulting in negative GOEs. In addition, falls on their solo triple Salchows and throw triple Salchow, along with a Group 5 Axel lasso lift that did not go up, cost the duo significant points. They were one of only two teams to attempt a throw double (loop), but it was nicely completed.

(Earlier quick summary, 1/30/09.)

After placing second in the Short Program, the reigning National Champions Keauna McLaughlin & Rockne Brubaker climbed back atop the podium with a victory in the Free Skate driven home by Program Component scores well above those of their nearest rivals.

Most of their elements were well executed, though three were scored negative.  Their excellent opening triple twist was called level three and scored with GoEs from zero through three.  On triple Salchow - double toe loop Brubaker singled the toe loop, so the team got dinged for unequal rotation.  A group four lift followed with GoEs of zero through two.  On triple toe loops McLaughlin then fell.  After that the program was basically clean, except for poor unison on side-by-side spins that resulted in a few minus one GoEs.  Their elements were called levels three and four and overall they were scored second best in elements, 0.69 points behind Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett.

McLaughlin & Brubaker performance to "West Side Story" was typical WSS choreography;  capable, but nothing special or original.  They skated well to the music and told the story, as have an uncountable hoard of skaters before them.  Their Program Component scores were in the mid sevens, with a range of 6.50 to 8.25  We saw nothing to justify world champion marks (8+) for this performance, but then those marks were more the exception than the rule.  Many in the arena were surprised at the end of the event when they were announced as the winners, thinking they had not quite completed enough to overtake Denney & Barrett's lead from the Short Program, but their high component marks put them over the top.

Assessing their performance, McLaughlin said, "I'm really happy with the program. I thought we definitely gave it everything we got to get through it."  Remarked Burbaker, " I think what's hard for us is the skating and the choreography and the transitions that we are trying to add in between those elements I think is what makes it more difficult."

Caydee Denney & Jeremy Barrett skated last giving them the advantage of knowing exactly what they had to deliver to win (and the judges all the information they needed, to know exactly what marks they had to give to make that happen, or not).

Skating to "Spartacus," Denney & Barrett gave a technically secure performance with only a few minor glitches.  They received only a few random GoEs of minus one, and only on their step sequence did they get enough of them (three) to make the element be scored negative (Denney had a minor stumble in the element).  Their best element was the opening triple twist, called at level three, and scored with GoEs of plus one and two.  The no-jump elements were all called level three or four.

Like all overused pieces of music, there was nothing new or original, just your typical pretty movements to pretty music approach.  But it works, and their component marks averaged around seven, which was about a half point each below those of McLaughlin & Brubaker, with interpretation nearly a full point lower than the champions (6.68 vs. 7.50).

After their skate, Denny remarked, "I thought, well first is great but second is like wow, that's awesome, I still can't believe it."  And from Barrett, "We didn't have any expectations coming into nationals, so to skate two programs that we thought were pretty good and to finish second is fantastic.  We're happy with how we did.  I think we fought for everything."

Rena Inoue & John Baldwin started off with three consecutive errors and then pulled their performance together.  On triple toe loops, both skaters stepped out of the landing, and the jump was downgraded.  This was followed by triple twist (level one) which had no real catch to speak of, and that was followed by a double Axel - double Axel sequence in which Baldwin stepped out of the second jump.  The remainder of their elements were clean but undistinguished, except for two nice throws, the best of which was a throw triple loop.  The team did not attempt throw triple Axel, an element they have not landed cleanly for a long time, and instead threw a nice triple Salchow for the second throw element -- a good strategic choice.  Overall their elements were scored fifth best of the group.  Skating to music from "Beethoven's Last Night" Inoue & Baldwin gave a capable but uninspiring performance, which received respectable marks that averaged around seven, with individual component marks ranging from 6.25 through 7.50.

Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig, who placed sixth in the Short Program, pulled up to fourth overall, with a fourth place result in the Free Skate.  Skating to the Pas de Duex from "The Nutcracker," they gave a slightly flawed performance with two major errors, but also some nicely executed aspects.  On side-by-side triple Salchows, Ladwig's jump was under-rotated and Evora may have two footed the landing (we have no access to video replay to verify).  A double Axel sequence was also downgraded, and it again appears that Evora may have two footed the landing.  The other elements, however, were all clean, with no negative GoEs.  Their lifts were particularly well done.  The weak link in this performance was their solo jumping elements.  Their performance had some nicely dramatic moments to it, but also included some sections where the team was hiding behind the music and not really expressing it.  Their component marks averaged around 6.5 except for transitions which were scored at near six.  The judges were not of one mind for this performance, with a spread of individual component marks ranging from 5.25 through 8.00.  Some loved it, as did the audience, and some were lukewarm about it.

The Pairs event (along with the Dance event) was divided into two groups; the morning 'we think you have no chance of medalling and could not care less about you group' and the afternoon 'NBC thinks your good enough to show to the world group.'

It is hard enough for judges to maintain consistent judgment over the course of an event.  Breaking the event in this way only compounds the problem, and destroys the concept of a level playing field.  And to what end?  To make it a little easier for NBC to schedule a broadcast.  Not a good reason to screw over the skaters in our view.

Look over the results for the Free Skate and you will notice a few things.  17 out of 19 teams changed place between the Short Program and the Free Skate, but not one team in the morning session placed ahead of a team in the afternoon session in the Free Skate.  Not One!  For TES, the average difference in score from one team to the next is about 1.3 for both the morning group and the evening group, but between the morning group to the evening group there is a jump of nearly 8 points.  In PCS, there is nearly a 6 point jump from the morning group to the afternoon group.  Marking the skaters in two groups at different times of the day seems to have resulted in two different scoring standards being applied in this event.  This is a fundamentally unfair approach to competition, and no amount TV logic changes that fact.


2009 Pairs Medallists

Evora & Ladwig, Denney & Barrett, McLaughlin & Brubaker, Inoue & Baldwin

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