Ice Network

Prayer answered: Calalang, Sidhu win short in SLC

Jones, Reagan skate into second; Shaughnessy, Morgan take third
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Jessica Calalang and Zack Sidhu will take a three-point lead into the free skate. -Melissa Majchrzak

Jessica Calalang had a very emotional response to the music that she and partner Zack Sidhu chose for their short program this season, "The Prayer" by Andrea Bocelli and Céline Dion.

"I fell in love with it," Calalang said. "I was listening to it in my car on the way to school, and I was almost in tears. I was like, 'We have to skate to this.'"

Sidhu, however, took a little more convincing.

"We have different opinions in music," Sidhu said. "(Our coaches) Todd [Sand] and Jenni [Meno] told us they thought we could skate this really well. I trust them, and we pushed through it, and it's a great program."

The veteran Southern California team used the program to score 58.74 points and take a three-point lead in the pairs short program at the 2016 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City on Thursday afternoon.

The routine got off to an inauspicious start, with Sidhu popping his triple salchow. The pair recovered nicely, though, performing a Level 3 triple twist, landing their throw triple lutz and concluding the outing with an impressive Level 4 lift.

"We've really been focusing on the connection between us, since it's a very beautiful piece of music," Calalang said. "Other than the jump at the beginning, everything felt great."

Sand noted that he has seen marked improvement in the way his team presents itself on the ice. Now, he said, the skaters just need to fine-tune their elements.

"Everything in the pairs department is right on track. We've just got to get the jumps back on track," Sand said. "They're on the right course, but they're just not quite there yet. We know what we need to do."

Brittany Jones and Joshua Reagan, who finished fourth at this event in 2014, sit second after earning a personal-best 55.64 points for their David Wilson-choreographed program to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge."

"It was a good skate for us. We got all the elements done. The performance was decent," Reagan said. "We must not have gotten all our levels, but overall, we're fine with that (performance)."

The team switched coaches before last season, going from Kristy Sargent to Bryce Davison. In the previous offseason, their focus was on revamping their technique. This past summer, they concentrated on improving their skating skills and performance.

They're happy with the progress they've made.

"For the start of the season, it was a great outing," Jones said. "We can build a lot on that performance."

In third place was Alexandria Shaughnessy and James Morgan, who earned 47.78 points for their sultry program to the Gary Moore song "The Prophet." The Boston-based duo was making its international debut, and they admitted they felt a rush of adrenaline before taking the ice.

"We were so excited and a little nervous...but more excited," said Shaughnessy, who got married to Jonathan Ronzio earlier this month.

Shaughnessy and Morgan were credited with three Level 4 elements -- lift, step sequence and combination spin -- the most of any team in the event. Both skaters fell on their side-by-side triple salchows, however.

"Honestly, we went out just to get that first one done," Morgan said. "Obviously, we can do way better than that, but I'm still proud of what we were able to do."