Bradley wins third straight U.S. Collegiate Title

Ryan Bradley moved up from second place after the short program and finished with a score of 165.97.
Ryan Bradley moved up from second place after the short program and finished with a score of 165.97. (Ryan Hayward of 5marks)


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By Kelly Hodge and Ashley Korn
(08/14/2007) - Two first-time winners, as well as two skaters who have stood on the podium before, were crowned champions on the final day of competition Tuesday, Aug. 7 at the 2007 U.S. Collegiate Championships in Oxford, Ohio. Reigning U.S. silver medalist Ryan Bradley took home the gold for the third year in a row.

Senior Men's Free Skate
It was another success story for Bradley, who moved up from second place after the short program and finished with a total score of 165.97.

"Today went a lot better than yesterday; I took each (element) one at a time," Bradley said. "I'm not 100 percent yet. I'm still getting back into training."

Bradley, who opened his Charlie Chaplin-themed program with a triple Axel, seems to always find himself in performance-hindering situations. Last year, at the 2006 U.S. Collegiate Championships, he arrived in Anaheim, Calif., without skates, and this year he committed himself to a show that closed late Saturday night. He arrived in Oxford late Sunday and didn't feel mentally prepared for the competition.

"It's mentally wearing - the lack of sleep, preparation, and not being able to practice on the competition ice," he said.

But in the end, Bradley came out on top, completing five triple jumps in his free skate to earn him the highest technical score of the day (61.43) and his third consecutive U.S. Collegiate championship.

In second place was the University of Illinois' Michael Peters. Peters' free skate segment score of 106.10 may have dropped him out of first place, but he still came away feeling positive about his programs.

"This was definitely the best set of programs that I have done at a competition," Peters said. "I'm very pleased with my performance."

Peters might have taken the title from Bradley had he received credit for his last spin - a level-three flying sit spin - which he had already completed once earlier in his program. Peters' free skate may have lacked five triples, but it did include three combination jumps in addition to a nicely executed triple Axel.

"The best part was being on a college campus," Peters remarked. "I thought it was very appropriate to be back at a university."

In third place was Michael Solonoski of Drexel University. Solonski entered the free skate in fourth after the short program, but he moved up to take the bronze medal after skating an almost flawless performance, earning a score of 97.47 in the free skate and 143.49 overall. He opened his free skate with a triple loop-double toe loop combination and later landed back-to-back double Axels and a triple toe loop-double toe loop-double toe loop combination.

Moving up from sixth to fourth was Casey McCraw of Tufts University. McCraw attempted the only quadruple jump of the day but fell just short of the landing.

Senior Ladies Free Skate
Linsey Ann Stucks, Lindsey Weber and Ameena Sheikh concluded the qualifying round on Sunday with a 1-2-3 finish in Group A, finished the short program in that same order and followed suit in the free skate. The sum of those results was a gold medal for Stucks, silver for Weber and bronze for Sheikh.

Stucks had a wonderful evening on Tuesday. The Oklahoma State University freshman gave the best performance she could have hoped for, landing five triple jumps - a toe loop, Lutz, loop, Salchow and a second triple toe loop. Her only mistake was a fall on a double Axel late in the program. It also didn't hurt that she earned level fours on three of her four spin elements.

"I feel great about how I skated," Stucks said. "I think it's just awesome winning the U.S. Collegiate title. My favorite part of the competition is meeting new people, and having the IJS (international judging system) makes it more competitive."

Stucks earned 90.05 points in the free skate, and her total score of 132.33 gave her a 13-point victory.

Weber, an Oakland University student, executed a clean and lovely free skate. She landed a double Axel, and her remaining double jumps where textbook perfect, but she chose not to go for the same difficulty as Stucks.

"It was a great experience," Weber said. "I skated three clean programs, and that was more than I had expected. I think this was my last competition, and I didn't want my program to end. I really wanted to end my career on a fun and good note, and I'm really excited that I was able to do that here." Weber earned 77.61 points for her free skate and 119.82 overall. Though she didn't come close to Stucks in the technical elements score, her program components score (39.82) was the highest of the night.

The bronze medalist was another Oakland University student. Sheikh performed a strong free skate, landing a triple toe loop right off the bat and two double Axels, in addition to several strong double jumps and a level four on her flying spin. Her only obvious mistake was a fall on a triple Salchow.

"The competition was great," Sheikh said. "I was a really different, relaxed atmosphere. I'd heard that about collegiates before, and it was great because I've had an ankle injury, but I was still able to compete and feel good about myself. I did the best that I can, and I'm proud of myself for not getting intimidated with taking off training time."

Sheikh earned 76.32 points for the free skate, giving her a total of 116.60.

University of Illinois skater Lauren Roman held her own in the free skate, in which she finished fourth with a score of 69.54. Roman, the 2004 U.S. Collegiate junior ladies silver medalist, came in fourth overall.

Taylor Toth, who will begin his freshman year at the University of Delaware this fall, cemented his lead by earning 79.07 points in the free skate for a total of 120.33. Toth got off to a strong start in his Cirque du Soleil free skate, nailing three consecutive jump elements - a triple Salchow-double toe loop combination, a triple toe and a double Axel - receiving full credit and positive GOEs for each one.

"Once I get past the three opening jumps, I start to feel comfortable and settle into the program," Toth said. "That really happened this afternoon. I'm really happy with how I skated. I only wish I had completed the triple Lutz and triple flip."

Although Toth doubled those two jumps, the rest of his program was good enough to keep him at the top and help him to win his first U.S. Collegiate junior men's title.

In second place was Pine Kopka-Ross, a student at the University of Michigan. Ross had an overall strong skate, but he struggled early on with his triple loop and later fell on his double Axel. He did receive credit for three additional triple jumps and a well-executed double Axel. Kopka-Ross earned 72.63 points for his free skate and 113.25 overall.

The bronze medal went to Boston University's Schuyler Eldridge, who earned 71.38 points in the free skate and 110.37 overall. Eldridge started his program on a high note, completing a circular step sequence, then land a clean triple Lutz-double toe loop combination, and following it up with a double Axel and a level-three flying camel spin. He struggled late in the program, falling on an intended triple flip and a triple loop, both of which were downgraded to doubles, and his triple Lutz was also downgraded.

In fourth place, with 94.63 points, was UC-Berkley freshman Colin Specht, whose sister, Katherine, is competing in the senior ladies event.

Junior Ladies Free Skate
The junior ladies really stepped up to the plate for their free skate. With so many skaters performing well, the smallest of mistakes could really affect one's placement.

Laura Stefanik of the University of Delaware cemented herself at the top of the standings after the short program, allowing her a little bit of wiggle room in the free skate. She opened her program with a double Lutz-double toe-double loop combination, but she fell on her first attempt at a double Axel. Stefanik was able to pull it together and complete the remainder of her program cleanly, including a second double Axel.

"I'm really happy with how I overcame the nerves," Stefanik said. "I was really happy to keep it together after the fall on the double Axel and do the second one."

Stefanik earned a free skate score of 55.59 points, second best in the segment, but her total score of 86.01 won her the title. This was the second U.S. Collegiate junior ladies title for Stefanik, as she won the first one in 2005, when it was hosted by the Hawaii FSC in Honolulu.

"I really like this competition," Stefanik explained. "I haven't done regionals since I started college because it is in the fall and it is too hard to miss almost a week of school. The timing for collegiates is perfect. I can focus on my training all summer and do my major competition when I'm not in class."

Rachel Nevares, who will begin her second year at Northern Virginia Community College this fall, made a comeback after finishing fourth in Monday's short program. Nevares, skating to Memoirs of a Geisha, chose not to attempt a double Axel, but she still skated a clean program, sailing through her seven jump elements without any mistakes. Nevares also earned the highest program components score of the evening, and her total of 56.38 put her in first place for the free skate. Her 82.99 total points allowed her to slip ahead of Delaware's Jazmyn Manzouri to take home the silver medal.

"I'm very pleased with how I skated," Nevares said. "I really hurt my back last week, and the last time I was able to do a run-through of my free skate was last Wednesday. But I was really trained before that and was able to stay focused and pull it together."

Manzouri, who was in second place after the short program, put out a strong performance, but a few wobbles and consequently negative GOEs on her double loop-double toe combination as well as two spins cost her the silver by less than a point. The Blue Hen earned 54.16 points for the free skate, and her total of 82.45 points left her a half point shy of the silver.

Jamie Darling, who was third after the short program, struggled with several jumps and dropped off the podium with 75.61 total points.