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Wolf, Ainsworth among Day 2 winners in Raleigh

Oi leads junior men; Bailey, Herring top solid junior dancers

Anastasia (left) and Isabella Cannuscio enjoy their sister act in Raleigh, N.C.
Anastasia (left) and Isabella Cannuscio enjoy their sister act in Raleigh, N.C. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/15/2007) - The familiar strains of the "Les Miserables" score helped lift Chloe Wolf (University of Delaware FSC) and Rhys Ainsworth (North Atlantic FSC) to victory in the Eastern Sectionals novice ice dance event, held Thursday morning at the Ice Factory in Wake Forest, N.C.

Inspired by ice dancers at the 2006 Olympics, the couple performed a clean, entertaining free dance, crammed with difficulty. Their 61.01 points, when added to yesterday's compulsory dance total, gave them 110.39, and first place by more than nine points.

"We went to the Olympics in Torino to watch the free dances, and they were all so amazing," Ainsworth said. "Everyone looked so calm; no one made any big mistakes. At the time, I was having a little problem with my nerves, and it was so inspiring to see people just do it under all of that pressure."

Wolf and Ainsworth opened their program with a strong, level four twizzle sequence, gaining a +.63 grade of execution (GOE) from the judges. All of their lifts rated level four, as did an impressive circular step sequence (+1 GOE).

"I have to study the protocols, but I think we got most of our levels," Wolf said. "We had a really good time with it. Our second lift (a curve lift with changes of position) is new, but it felt comfortable."

This is the fifth competition of the season for the couple, who also performed at Skate Wilmington; the Lake Placid; Philadelphia's Challenge Cup; and a developmental event in Toronto.

"It was more competitions than we've ever done before," Wolf said. "It's so good this wasn't the first or second time we've done the free. The experience really helps."

Katie Wyble (Center Ice & Blades of Western Pennsylvania) and Justin Morrow (SC of New York), whose combined total of 101.13 points gave them second place overall, were in the opposite situation. This was the first-ever outing of their free dance to a Russian folk song, and they placed fourth. The couple, who teamed up online via Partnersearch, has skated together for less than six months.

Wyble and Morrow lost ground on their step sequences, falling out of unison at times, but their lifts were solid.

"One of us did an extra twizzle in the first sequence," Wyble said.

"That would be me," Morrow quickly interjected. "We did have a rough start, but it picked up."

Their program featured an inventive spin; Morrow did a flying camel, while Wyble performed a death drop into a back sit spin.

"No one has ever done that type of entrance (to a dance spin) before," Wyble said. "We worried that it was illegal, but there is nothing in the rule books that says you can't do it."

Wyble and Morrow earned 52.15 points for their free program. When added to their compulsory dance total, it gave them 101.13 overall.

There was much jockeying for position among the rest of the couples. Una Donegan and Andrew Korda (SC of Boston) were second in the free dance, with an ethereal routine highlighted by a level four spin (+.25 GOE). Their 55.70 points, added to yesterday's total, gave them 97.55 and third place overall.

Liza Branella (Ice Works SC) and Benjamin Nykiel (Bowie FSC) were sixth in the free skate and fourth in both compulsory dances, and captured the fourth spot with 90.40 points.

These top four teams receive invitations to the 2008 U.S. Championships in Saint Paul, Minn., in January.

Juniors heat things up with the Cha-Cha

The junior ice dance competition at Eastern Sectionals opened with the Cha-Cha Congelado, a challenging compulsory, requiring quick, neat steps and a fun yet sultry Latin attitude.

Of the talented group of six couples, four -- including three teams who train at the University of Delaware -- represented the U.S. on the Junior Grand Prix circuit this fall.

Sara Bailey (Charter Oak FSC) and Kyle Herring (University of Delaware FSC) grabbed the lead with 29.96 points, edging out the field by just .58.

"It went really, really well," Herring said. "Our goal was to have fun out there, because sometimes compulsory dances can be boring."

Bailey agreed, adding, "The crowd was great. They were waving and winking at us. Its fun traveling and competing with the other (University of Delaware) teams. We really push each other, in a good way."

Pilar Bosley (Peninsula SC) and John Corona (Philadelphia Skating and Humane Society) took second place with 29.38 points.

"It felt comfortable and easy," Bosley said. "The ice is good and fast. We tried to be a little playful, and not look like we were struggling."

Another team from the University of Delaware, Anastasia Cannuscio and Dean Copely were third with 27.93 points. Anastasia's younger sister, Isabella, and partner Ian Lorello (University of Delaware FSC) placed fourth with 27.70.

Heard in the stands

Ice dance is a family affair with the Cannuscios, with 16 year-old Isabella squaring off against her 15 year-old sister Anastasia.

"We competed against each other last year, and it was a little weird, but now we're used to it," Isabella said.

The two sisters share coaches, Karen Ludington and Sasha Kirsanov. Both couples train at the University of Delaware in Newark.

"My mom still gets real nervous," Isabella admitted. "Sometimes, she tends not to watch."

The Cannuscios aren't the only family here at two siblings in ice dance. Anastasia's partner, Dean Copely, is brother to Katie, who competes for Lithuania with Deividas Stagniunas.

"They're doing Cup of Russia next week," mom Sandra Copely said. "They just won the bronze medal at Golden Spin (of Zagreb). Going to Russia was a little tough for me, since I'm taking care of my ill mother, so I came here instead."

"Good choice, mom," Dean said with a laugh.

Oi takes lead among Easterns' junior men

Expressive style and solid technique proved a winning combination for Curran Oi (SC of Boston), but the 17-year-old skater wasn't satisfied.

Despite taking first place in the junior men's short program Thursday night, he left the ice disappointed.

"I really wanted to do my triple flip-triple toe," he said. "I hit it in the warm-up, and it was supposed to be there. Otherwise, I thought it was all right."

Oi's short, set to "Phantom of the Opera," did feature a solid triple flip-double toe combo, as well as a huge double Axel and strong triple loop. His step sequence was secure, and he skated with good speed.

Surprisingly, his biggest goof came in a camel spin. Oi failed to properly change feet and received no credit for the maneuver. Still, he earned 53.92 points, staying ahead of the field by more than a point.

"I skated to 'Phantom' because I wanted to do something more dramatic this year," Oi said. "I had seen the movie, but I only got to New York to see the play this September."

In a nod to Andrew Lloyd Webber's title character, Oi wore gloves that were half white, half black.

"When I hold them together in front of my face, they make a mask," he explained.

The skater added that training under Peter Johansson and Mark Mitchell, who also train 2008 Eastern Sectionals novice champ Ross Miner, U.S. silver medalist Emily Hughes, and many other elite competitors, is a huge advantage.

"We do have lots of good skaters right now," Johansson said. "New kids come in, see how hard everyone works and follow the flow. It just happens."

Scott Dyer (Columbia FSC) didn't let an injured right foot hurt his chances. The skater's stylish program to a medley of two Jesse Cook tunes took second place with 52.63 points.

Dyer turned in a solid double Axel and triple Salchow-double toe combo, but doubled his loop. His spins were fast and well-centered, and his step sequences clean and musical.

"I planned a double loop because of the injury," Dyer explained. "On Halloween, I fell on a triple flip in practice, and I still have a hard time putting any weight on my foot."

Third place went to Zachary DeWulf (University of Delaware FSC), who showed a strong triple Lutz-double toe combination but faltered slightly on the landing of his double Axel. He earned 48.49 points.

James Theron (New Haven SC) executed the only successful triple-triple combination of the event, a triple toe-triple toe, in his sultry short to Gershwin's "Summertime." He is in fourth place with 43.79 points. Daniel Raad (Park FSC) sits fifth with 42.54.

Senior dancers perform Waltz

Clare Farrell (St. Louis SC) and Charles Fishpaw (University of Delaware FSC) won the Austrian Waltz compulsory today, taking the lead in senior dance with 24.51 points. Marsha Snyder and Peter Fischl (Pittsburgh FSC) are second with 20.83.

Since there are only two teams competing in the event, both couples are assured of an invitation to the U.S. Championships in St. Paul, Minn.