Ice Network

Liu rallies for junior ladies gold; Wellman cruises

New teams find success; Chen adds more hardware to family trophy case
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The junior ladies medalists (L-R): Silver medalist Audrey Shin, gold medalist Alysa Liu and bronze medalist Lily Sun. -Sarah Arnold

Champions were crowned in all the junior events as well as novice ice dance on the last day of competition at the 2017 Novice and Junior Challenge Skate in Salt Lake City.

Junior ladies free skate

Sitting in third place after the short program, Alysa Liu ran away with the competition, winning by more than 10 points over short program leader Audrey Shin.

"I thought, 'The short isn't everything. You can still win in the long and win everything overall,'" said Liu, who won the silver medal in her international debut last month at the 2017 Asian Open Figure Skating Trophy.

Representing the St. Moritz ISC, Liu executed a triple lutz-triple toe combination and four additional triple jumps late in her Les Misérables free skate. She also performed three Level 4 spins.

Shin, who trains with coach Rafael Arutunian and alongside 2017 U.S. champion Nathan Chen, won the silver medal with an overall score of 152.37.

Performing the second-best free skate of the day, Lily Sun landed in third place with 150.53 points.

Junior men's free skate

Entering the free skate in the top position, Alex Wellman held onto first place after cruising to a double-digit win in the segment. Skating second to last, he earned a score nearly 11 points higher than that of second-place finisher Kendrick Weston.

"I feel pretty good about it. I really made sure to breathe and perform, which is definitely different from what I've done before," Wellman said.

Despite singling an intended triple salchow, Wellman dominated the event, landing five triples (two in combination) and pulling off two Level 4 spins. His 111.66-point segment score gave him a total of 174.98.

Weston skated a clean program on home ice, for which he earned a total score of 161.84 and the silver medal.

All Year Figure Skating Club's Paul Yeung rounded out the top three with 150.07 points.

Junior pairs free skate

Sarah Feng and TJ Nyman took the ice first in the junior pairs free skate. Then, they waited anxiously for the rest of the event to play out.

"All these skaters here are our teammates. We're all friends, so we just cheer them on, don't really look at the result and look for the skate you want for yourself," Nyman said.

Things went in the new team's favor. Feng and Nyman, who began their partnership in April, won gold by exactly 32 points over silver medalists Grace Hanns and Kristofer Ogren. Feng called a win so early in the couple's career "a boost of confidence."

The duo trains with Dalilah Sappenfield in Colorado Springs, sharing the ice every day with 2015 U.S. champions Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim.

"They're amazing. They're like our mom and dad, always there for us, and we're always there for them," Nyman said. "We love training with them. We wouldn't want to train with anyone else."

Meiryla Findley and Matthew Rounis finished third.

Junior free dance

Isabella Amoia and Luca Becker completed their impressive debut by winning the gold by 3.72 points. With 63.97 points for their free dance, they earned a total of 107.71, giving them the victory over silver medalists Alina Efimova and Alexander Petrov, who collected 103.99 points.

Amoia and Becker teamed up in February and train in Maryland alongside world junior champions Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons as well as 2016 world junior champions Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter.

"I think it's really beneficial for our training because you get to see what the top junior teams train like," Amoia said. "We can improve and learn from them."

It showed in their free dance to music by The Piano Guys, as the duo received positive Grades of Execution for all of their elements as well as Level 4's for their twizzles and two lifts.

"We were happy with the technical and emotional improvement in today's skate," Becker said.

Amioa and Becker's training mates, Molly Cesanek and Nikolay Usanov, joined them on the podium, winning bronze with 103.18 points.

Novice free dance

Though Gianna Buckley and Jeffrey Chen came in second in the free dance, they held onto their lead after the pattern dance to win the novice title.

The Michigan-based team earned a Level 4 for their straight line lift in their 55.47-point free dance to "My Sweet and Tender Beast."

"Overall, we felt we did pretty good," Chen said, before Buckley added, "But lots of room for improvement on consistency, our levels, the performance...just everything."

Buckley and Chen, who teamed up in May and train with Marina Zoueva and Massimo Scali, won gold the morning after another standout performance by a member of the Chen family. U.S. champion Karen Chen is Jeffrey's older sister, and she took home the bronze in the ladies event at the U.S. International Classic on Saturday night.

Katarina Wolfkostin and Howard Zhao pulled up to win the silver medal after placing third in the pattern dance. Jordan Lin and Morgan Sletten (Washington FSC) finished third overall.