Ice Network

Ciarochi in line for gold at U.S. championships

Malinin sits atop men's leaderboard; Esposito, Jerosch lead pairs field
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U.S. juvenile champion Stephanie Ciarochi is set up for another gold after vaulting to the top of the intermediate ladies field. -Jay Adeff

Coach Olga Ganicheva gives a direct and simple reason for why her pupil, Stephanie Ciarochi, has done so well over the past two seasons.

"She's an amazing work machine," said Ganicheva, who coaches Ciarochi with Aleksey Letov at the Dr. Pepper StarCenter in Plano, Texas. "She's very determined, knows what she wants. She will not leave or stop until she reaches her goals. She takes in every word."

Ciarochi, the 2016 U.S. juvenile champion, showed that her strong work ethic continues to pay dividends by grabbing the intermediate ladies short program lead at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday night. She landed an opening triple toe loop-double toe loop combination, followed by a triple salchow and a pair of Level 4 spins. Her score of 47.55 is 3.51 points clear of Emilia Murdock, who sits in second place entering Sunday's free skate.

"I feel more confident this year because I've had more time to practice and get used to my new jumps, including the triples," Ciarochi, an eighth-grader, said.

Skating to Edvin Marton's Fantasia, Ciarochi said she was most pleased with her footwork sequence, which received a program-best Grade of Execution (GOE) of 1.30.

Christina Lin and Ariela Masarsky are less than two points off the pace for second place.

Intermediate men's

Ilia Malinin, the 2016 U.S. juvenile champion, performed a mistake-free and entertaining short program to take a near three-point advantage heading into Sunday's free skate.

The sixth-grader from Woodbridge, Virginia, began his jazzy short with a triple salchow-double toe loop combination. He added a triple toe loop, double axel and a pair of Level 4 spins en route to a earning a score of 44.85 points.

"He was very comfortable with this program today, and hopefully that will stay the same for tomorrow," said his coach and mother Tatiana Malinin, who coaches Ilia with her husband, Roman Skorniakov, in Reston, Virginia.

Ilia's parents drive him more than one hour to Reston to skate each morning, then back home to attend school. The family is in the process of moving closer to Reston, which will improve his training situation, his mother said.

Daniel Argueta, who also executed a triple salchow-double toe loop, sits second with a score of 41.86 points. Nicholas Hsieh and Philip Baker are within striking distance of the lead as well.

Intermediate pairs

Jade Esposito and Franz-Peter Jerosch united over the summer at a pairs camp and have quickly melded together. The skaters, who competed with different partners at last year's U.S. championships, grabbed the lead after the short program with a score of 34.70 points, less than one point clear of their closest competitors.

"Their parents are friends, and their partnerships had disbanded for different reasons," said Carrie Wall, who coaches the team with Bobby Martin in Boxboro, Massachusetts. "They were a little apprehensive at first because they are a mirror team, meaning they rotate in different directions. Bobby and I, though, saw the potential in them, and they've developed so nicely."

Not far off the lead, Masha Mokhova and Ivan Mokhov stand in second entering Sunday's free skate with 34.40 points, while Altice Sollazo and Paul Yeung are third with 32.30 points.

Intermediate dance

Katarina Wolfkostin and Howard Zhao won both pattern dances -- the European Waltz and Rocker Foxtrot -- early Saturday afternoon and hold a lead of 6.41 points ahead of Sunday's free dance.

Wolfkostin, 12, and Zhao, 14, united after the 2016 U.S. Championships in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They performed the European Waltz to "Moon River," which was music suggested by Zhao's good friend, 81-year-old Ralph David Owen. Their Rocker Foxtrot music was by artist Michael Bublé.

"Both dances felt smooth, and we received all of our key points," Wolfkostin said.

"We spent the whole year just drilling it, drilling it," Zhao said of the pattern dances. "Our coaches made us do double run-throughs back to back, so we are glad it paid off."

Coached by Detroit Skating Club's Angelika Krylova, Pasquale Camerlengo, Natalia Deller and Paul Bellantuono, Wolfkostin and Zhao are prepped and ready for their free dance, which will be set to music from Mary Poppins.

"We've been working hard on it," Zhao said. "We have some nice transitions, and it's a lot of fun to perform."

Layla Karnes and Jeffrey Chen finished second in the pattern dances with 46.40 points, while Washington FSC's Claire Cain and Andrei Davydov sit third with 41.32 points.