Ice Network

Nguyen, Annis crowned U.S. juvenile champions

Flaum, Finster gel quickly, win pairs title; Efimova, Zhao lead in dance
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William Annis of the Yarmouth Ice Club got a leg up on his competitors in the juvenile men's division, taking the title with 58.13 points. -Jay Adeff

The first medals of the 2017 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships were awarded Saturday at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, with Madison Nguyen, William Annis, and Sydney Flaum and Chase Finster being crowned juvenile champions in the girls, boys and pairs categories, respectively.

Juvenile girls

Less than half a point separated the top four skaters, but Nguyen ultimately prevailed with a feisty and energetic performance of her tango free. She earned a technical score of 32.00 points en route to winning the girls title with a total mark of 58.95.

"I think my facial expressions make a big difference, but my technical elements set me apart today," Nguyen said. "It was a close one, but I think I was solid, and that made a big difference."

Nguyen led a field of strong competitors and a slew of solid performances, but she held on to the top spot with backloaded elements, as five of her seven doubles were executed in the second half of her program. She notched only three negative Grades of Execution throughout her performance.

The silver medal went to Tamnhi Huynh, who finished with 58.90 points. Huynh also earned bonus points on five of her seven double jumps, including her double axel-double toe combination. Skating to "East West Harmony" by Bijan Mortazavi, she showed flair and finesse on her way to earning the highest program components score (27.90) of the event.

Haley Scott took home the bronze, earning 58.82 points for her performance to music from The Nutcracker. Scott also completed seven double jumps, including a double axel-single loop-double loop worth a performance-high 6.90 points.

Fourth place went to Elise Freezer, who earned 58.49 points for her Star Wars-inspired performance.

Juvenile boys

Annis, who celebrated his 12th birthday Friday, easily topped the podium with a score of 58.13. He opened his program, set to music by the Gipsy Kings, with the highest-scoring element of the event: a double axel-half loop-double flip worth 7.34 points.

"When I ended my program, I was really excited because I knew I had skated well," Annis said. "I thought I would be able to get a medal, but I wasn't really expecting to win. I had hoped that I would because I was so happy with how I skated, so to be a national champion now is really exciting."

Robert Yampolsky nabbed the second spot on the podium with 54.78 points. Skating to "Sikuriadas" by Incantation, he completed each of his five jumping passes in the second half of his program, earning bonus points on all seven of his doubles. He finished less than a point ahead of Kai Kovar, who earned 54.62 points for his performance to music by The Piano Guys. Despite a fall on his double lutz, Kovar earned a technical elements score of 29.92, the second highest of the day.

Liam Kapeikis finished fourth, amassing 53.46 points for his efforts.

Juvenile pairs

Flaum and Finster earned an event-best 46.64 points, made all the more impressive by the fact that their partnership is all of four months old and their hometowns are several states apart.

"We worked really hard and skated together every day we could," Flaum said. "He lives in Kentucky and I live in Colorado, but we've made our time count."

"It's definitely really exciting to be here," Finster added. "The short amount of time we've had together has definitely been exciting, and it's great to be where we are -- on top!"

The duo, who train in Colorado Springs, turned in a clean performance to "Singin' in the Rain" that included side-by-side double lutzes and double flip-double toe combinations.

Josephine Hagan and Evan Whitlow opened their performance with difficult side-by-side, double lutz-double loop combinations. Skating to music from the soundtrack of The Mummy, they earned 45.59 points and the silver medal.

Bronze went to Jasmine Wong and Danylo Siianytsia, who turned in a solid performance worth 44.47 points. Their side-by-side and pairs spins were their highest-scoring elements, earning the pair 3.93 and 3.71 points, respectively. They finished nearly four points clear of Ashley Fletcher and Cayden McKenzie-Cook, who placed fourth with 40.57.

Juvenile pattern dance

Nastia Efimova and Jonathan Zhao lead after the first segment of juvenile ice dance, earning a combined 44.63 points for their two pattern dances. The finish marked a huge improvement for the duo, which placed seventh in juvenile dance at last year's U.S. championships.

"The difference between last year and this year has been a lot of hard work every day," Zhao said. "We've done ballet and ballroom dance, and did a lot of training off ice. We've done some extra classes to really push ourselves harder."

Starting out with the highest-scoring Fourteenstep of the day, the duo took 22.87 points into their Willow Waltz performance, set to "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz. Finishing the day with 44.63 points, Efimova and Zhao head into Sunday's free dance 1.52 points in front of Alice Serbin and Kenan Slevira.

Serbin and Slevira turned in the highest-scoring Willow Waltz of the day, earning 21.78 points for that pattern dance, en route to a combined score of 43.11. They lead Sarah Dutton and Emmett King, who round out the top three with 36.71 points.

Elliana Peal and Ethan Peal are fourth with 35.81 points.