Ice Network

Shin takes lead over tightly packed ladies field

Wellman sets men's pace; Chen one-ups sister, sits atop standings
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Audrey Shin holds a slim lead after the junior ladies short program. -Jay Adeff

Audrey Shin and Alex Wellman took the lead in their respective disciplines Saturday at the 2017 U.S. Novice and Junior Challenge Skate in Salt Lake City.

Junior ladies short

Performing to various preludes by George Gershwin, Shin laid down a clean skate to take the lead by less than a point. Just 5.05 points separate the top five ladies, with eight of the 11 competitors turning in a deduction-free performance.

"I've never been in first place at a really big competition before, so it's really exciting for me," said Shin, who finished the day with a score of 58.25. "But I know the short program is just the short and the long program is a different story, so I have to focus on my long starting now."

Of Shin's seven elements, only one, a triple lutz, notched any negative Grades of Execution.

Hanna Harrell put herself in medal position with her short program, for which she earned 57.74 points. Her performance to "Dark Eyes" featured a triple flip-triple toe, triple lutz and two Level 4 spins. She sits less than a point ahead of Alysa Liu, who rounded out the top three with 56.94 points.

Junior men's short

Wellman earned the highest program components score (PCS) by more than two points, showing impressive skating skills in and out of his seven elements. Included in those was an opening triple flip-double toe combination, the second part done with both arms over his head.

"My jumps definitely went really well today," Wellman said. "I really focused on breathing and keeping my composure throughout the program."

Of his 63.32 points, 31.09 came from his PCS.

Kendrick Weston holds the second spot with a mark of 60.93. Skating to "Still Got the Blues" by Gary Moore, Weston opened his performance with an impressive triple toe-triple toe combination -- one of three triple-triples completed in the event.

Paul Yeung rounded out the top three with 53.60 points.

While both Wellman and Weston are accustomed to Salt Lake's 4,637-foot altitude (Wellman trains in Colorado Springs, while Weston is competing on home ice at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex), Yeung trains in Southern California -- or, as he put it, "at exactly zero feet above sea level."

"It was pretty rough, but I got here a week early to adjust," Yeung said. "I was sort of able to do that. It could have been better today, but it also could have been worse."

Junior pairs short

Sarah Feng, a successful singles skater at the junior level, teamed with TJ Nyman, a singles skater and former theatrical skating champion, in April. While Nyman won the 2014 U.S. juvenile pairs bronze with Sarah Rose, Feng had only partnered for ice dance, previously competing at the novice level with Anthony Ponomarenko.

Despite this being just their second competitive outing together, the duo leads the way with 51.93 points.

"Basically, I knew I wasn't going to be the next Nathan Chen," Nyman said. "I wanted to use my abilities in other places. I'm kind of a big guy, so I wanted to do great in a discipline where that's an advantage."

While the top two teams both executed side-by-side double lutzes and a throw double loop, Feng and Nyman had the advantage on the presentation side, amassing a PCS of 24.26 -- a score nearly three points greater than that of their nearest challenger.

"We don't really focus on the podium that much -- we just skate for ourselves," Nyman said. "We did a solid short, and we're happy about that, so going into the long we're just thinking about doing the same thing."

Earning 45.00 points for their effort, Meiryla Findley and Matthew Rounis lead Grace Hanns and Kristofer Ogren, who sit third (42.60).

Junior short dance

Isabella Amoia and Luca Becker, who are in their debut season together, won the junior short dance with 43.74 points.

The duo teamed up in February, giving them just six months of practice prior to this event.

"I think Bella and I have similar personalities and similar work ethics," Becker said. "We came together really well, and I think it all worked out easily."

The duo, who train in Maryland with senior teams Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, and Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, takes a 2.81-point lead into Sunday's free dance, in which they'll perform to a medley of music by The Piano Guys.

"We're pretty confident going in," Amoia said. "We have a pretty strong free dance. Everything is solid, so we're looking forward to it."

Alina Efimova and Alexander Petrov are in second place with a score of 40.93, less than a point ahead of Molly Cesanek and Nikolay Usanov, who earned 40.59 points.

Novice pattern dance

With his sister Karen less than a point off the top spot in senior ladies at the U.S. International Classic, Jeffrey Chen left an impression of his own with partner Gianna Buckley, taking a 3.72-point lead in the novice pattern dance Saturday.

"Today we went out there and did our jobs," Chen said. "We did it just like we practiced."

Chen, who won the 2016 U.S. juvenile title and 2017 U.S. intermediate silver medal with Layla Karnes, and Buckley executed a solid Argentine Tango worth 36.82 points. The duo trains in Canton, Michigan, with Marina Zoueva and Massimo Scali.

"It's so nice to be able to see where we want to be every day in training," said Chen, who teamed with Buckley in May. "We want to be where Maia and Alex [Shibutani] are someday."

"We've learned so much from the coaches but also just from watching the other teams," added Buckley, who won the 2016 U.S. novice pewter medal with J.T. Michel. "It's been really amazing."

In second place are Jordan Lin and Morgan Sletten, who earned 33.10 points for their pattern dance, placing them 1.5 points ahead of Katarina Wolfkostin and Howard Zhao.