Ice Network

Newfound consistency sparks Johnson to title

Mature Hong tops ladies; Griffin, Civiello pull out narrow victory in pairs
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Kellen Johnson gave a hair-raising performance in the intermediate men's free skate, jumping from third to first to come away with the gold medal. -Chad Phillips

Intermediate pairs

The intermediate pairs free skate proved to be a tight competition as Megan Griffin and Andrew Civiello outscored Alexandria Schmainda and Matthew Scoralle by just 0.22 points. The duo, which represents the Coyotes Skating Club of Arizona, put out a strong performance, completing two throw double jumps and a Level 4 lift, earning 93.87 points overall.

Despite some technical issues with their side-by-side jumps, the team showed a marked improvement from their performance at the 2013 U.S. Championships, where they placed sixth at the juvenile level.

"Today was a little shaky here and there, but better performance than sectionals, and that's always a plus," their coach, Doug Ladret, said of their performance. "I'm proud of these guys. They moved up a level, and to also move up in the rankings is great. They've got a good future ahead of them, and they are great to work with, and I'm looking forward to a lot of years."

When asked about the team's goals for the coming year, Ladret had just two words: "Novice podium."

Schmainda and Scoralle, the 2013 intermediate pewter medalists, took the silver medal with 93.65 points overall. The intermediate pewter medalists from 2013 stood out from their competitors with an impressive Level 2 double twist and Level 4 combination spin.

Their coaches, Naomi Nari Nam and Themi Leftheris, were also pleased with their hard work and performance at the event.

"They've trained so hard this year," Leftheris said. "They've made a lot of improvements in their skating skills and worked on getting a double twist at intermediate. I think we're all really pleased that they went out there and delivered two clean programs. They've been really consistent in practice, but keeping that as you progress through the levels is what's most important."

In third place were Sophia Pearson and Keenan Prochnow, who, in their third season together, skated a conservative yet solid program. The team completed seven of their major elements in the second half of the program, gaining extra credit on their way to a total of 89.43 total points.

"We've purposely kept the difficulty down and just worked on the quality of everything, and I think they've got a really good base to work from now for the future," coach Chris Howarth said. "We are going to go home and work on the technical stuff and hopefully be back next year."

Siblings Joanna and William Hubbart rebounded from a fifth-place finish in the short program to finish third in the free skate and earn the pewter with 88.88 points.

Intermediate Ladies

Tessa Hong of the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club took home the intermediate ladies gold with a program that showcased both her consistency and maturity on the ice. Only 11 years old, Hong surpassed her competitors with 116.93 points, nine more than the second-place finisher.

"I think I did very well, and I'm very happy," Hong said of her performance.

Frank Carroll, Hong's coach, was also pleased.

"I thought it was great," Carroll said. "She's very consistent in her run-throughs, and she did what she does on a daily basis."

In addition to her exceptional presentation, the promising young skater landed two double Axels, one in combination, and received Level 4's on her layback and combination spin.

Second-place finisher Alexia Paganini, who trains under Michela Boschetto and Gilberto Viadana, had the most technically difficult free skate, landing three triple jumps and two double Axels. She earned 107.63 total points for her efforts.

"We can definitely say that the performance and the competition was good, but it was not just the performance," Viadana said. "That is the result of the way she practiced over the last few months, every single day and every single practice."

"We believe that at this age they have to explore different styles, and so it's a way to help them to grow and to experiment in which way they like to skate," Boschetto added. "One short is more fun and sparkly and the long program is more quiet and romantic. We work through both styles so she will be ready to go through everything when she's older."

Moving up from fifth after the short, Lily Sun claimed the bronze medal. The tiny dynamo looked larger than life during her performance after her coach, Justin Dillon, gave her last-minute advice to "skate big."

"I just told her to skate big because the podium is up high, so she doesn't even meet the boards," Dillon said. "I told her that where the judges are actually sitting is really tough for her because she's so tiny. I was really proud of her."

In addition to this being her first U.S. championships, this was also Sun's first time attempting and landing a triple jump in competition. Although it was downgraded, Sun's efforts on her other technical skills, bubbly presentation and infectious smile aided her in garnering 101.15 points.

Sun's training mate, Jessica Cai, took home the pewter medal with 98.30 points.

Intermediate Men

Broadmoor Skating Club representative Kellen Johnson won the intermediate men's title with a clean performance, after failing to qualify for the Championships last year.

"Last year, I think he was ready to compete in Omaha, but he had a rough skate at sectionals," Johnson's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said. "I think the main thing that he has going for him this year is the confidence in his triples. He was doing them last year but not as consistently, and he didn't get the results he wanted at every competition. He's really matured. Hard work pays off, and it's all coming together."

Johnson's performance, which included a triple toe loop and two triple Salchows, garnered 72.24 points, and she finished the week with 110.11.

Earning the silver was Liam Roumila, who totaled 105.54 points. Roumila, who finished in fifth place at the 2013 U.S. Championships, executed a triple toe-double toe combination and earned 65.63 points for the segment.

Snagging bronze was Justin Wichmann, who earned 101.70, followed by Peter Liu, who finished fourth with 101.20. 

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