Ice Network

Coleman, Griffin blitz past field en route to gold

First-year pair wins title by nearly 14 points; Peterson, Ogren earn silver
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Erin Coleman and Derrick Griffin took a big lead in the short program and never looked back, winning the free skate and the gold medal Tuesday. The first-year pair from Coral Springs, Florida, earned 88.86 points for their program to a medley of Piano Guys songs, and they skated off with the title with a total score of 134.44. -Jay Adeff

Erin Coleman and Derrick Griffin performed a strong free skate Tuesday to build on their short program lead and win the novice pairs title by more than 13 points at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City.

"At nationals, you just want to put everything you've got out there, and that's what we did," Griffin, 20, said. "We didn't want to look back and say, 'We could have done more, we could have trained harder.'"

"It was definitely one of our better programs," Coleman, 15, said.

The skaters, who train in Pembroke Pines, Florida, hit the hardest side-by-side jumps -- double axels -- and the only Level 4 double twist of the event. Skating with speed and attack to "Beethoven's 5 Secrets," they landed two solid double throws as well as a double flip-double toe sequence to earn 88.86 points and win gold with 134.44 total points.

Silvia Fontana choreographed the free skate with another of the team's coaches, John Kerr.

"They liked this music and related to it," Fontana said. "We wanted something that would emphasize their lines and flow. They both are great skaters, and I think that is why they are in this position."

This is both skaters' first trip to the U.S. championships, and neither had any appreciable pairs experience before they were teamed up in December 2015, they said.

"Coming in first after the short, we weren't 100-percent sure Erin and Derrick would handle the pressure," another of their coaches, Jeremy Barrett, said. "They were professionals and handled it very well."

The pair will be eligible to compete on the Junior Grand Prix circuit next season.

"We'd love to get an assignment," Griffin said. "That's our hope."

Ainsley Peterson and Kristofer Ogren, who train in Colorado Springs under Dalilah Sappenfield and Drew Meekins, skated a charming free to music from the The Addams Family, highlighted by solid double throws and side-by-side double flips done on the music's crescendo. It earned 81.19 points, and their 120.86-point total earned them the silver medal.

It was a memorable moment for both, but especially for Ogren, who grew up skating in Kansas City before relocating to Colorado Springs two seasons ago.

"The support was just amazing," he said. "It was a phenomenal feeling, so emotional."

"Kristofer really wanted to skate well in front of his hometown club, so they were a little nervous," Sappenfield said. "They were a little shaky on the final lift, but they got the level. We're very happy."

Sappenfield choreographed the program to have Peterson portray the dour Wednesday Addams, with Ogren as her brother, Pugsley. But Peterson claimed no acting was required.

"I'm not playing a character, I'm always like that," she said. "I'm not the happiest person all the time, so it was pretty easy. It's a good program, so I can be myself."

"Last year at nationals Ainsley came to practice with her hair in braids, and we were all like, 'Wow, she looks like Wednesday,' and that's where the idea came from," Ogren said.

Twin siblings Greta Crafoord and John Crafoord won the bronze medal with a lively and speedy free skate to Aaron Copland's "Rodeo." They were the only pair to try a throw triple -- a salchow -- but Greta turned out of the landing. The program earned 72.89 points, and they finished with a total of 112.03.

"I like having fun programs where I can smile and enjoy it," Crafoord said. "It makes it fun."

"I thought it was really good today," Greta said. "I got a little ahead of myself on the side-by-side spin, but otherwise, I don't think we could have done too much better."

The 16-year-olds are coached by Jenni Meno and Todd Sand in Southern California.

"The beginning of the season, their goal was to try to get to nationals, and they did," Meno said. "They improved a ton this year. We worked on smoothing out their skating, and John was 30 pounds lighter and a foot shorter last year, so they were able to get the big lifts going."

Eliana Secunda and Blade Eisenach, who train under George Selimos and Robyn Sudkamp in Westminster, Colorado, took fourth place with 104.47 points.

Ice chip: Another of Coleman and Griffin's coaches, three-time U.S. pairs champion John Zimmerman, remained in Coral Springs this week to prepare French champions Vanessa James and Morgan Ciprès for the upcoming European Figure Skating Championships in Ostrava, Czech Republic. "Vanessa and Morgan are looking really strong," Fontana said. "They nailed four throw quad salchows today, so we're pretty excited."