Miner rises to top of novice men at Easterns

Other action includes novice and junior ladies and junior pairs

Ross Miner won the novice men's competition at the Eastern Sectionals on Thursday.
Ross Miner won the novice men's competition at the Eastern Sectionals on Thursday. (Nate Caulford)


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By Liz Leamy, special to
(11/15/2007) - The novice men rocked the house Thursday afternoon with their stellar free programs, nearly all of which contained triple Lutz's.

The creative quality of all of the routines was exceptional. Many of the skaters selected Latin-oriented pieces as a showcase for their elements. Not surprisingly, most of them wore black.

"I really enjoyed this event; these guys are terrific skaters, and a lot of them are good friends as well," said Scott Cudmore, co-chair of the event.

Ross Miner (SC of Boston) won first place in the free skate, and first overall with his "I've Got Rhythm" program. He flew around the ice with power and flow, and also showed superb musicality.

"I'm done here, now I can go to the office," said Miner after getting off the ice.

Despite a fall on his opening triple Lutz-double toe combination, Miner recovered spectacularly with a triple Lutz; triple flip; triple loop; and triple Salchow, as well as a double Axel.

This win is a huge personal achievement for Miner, who last year just missed qualifying for the U.S. Championships with a fifth-place finish at Easterns.

"It was hard for him this year. He just trained more and got a year of growing up, pretty much," said Peter Johansson, who coaches Miner with Mark Mitchell.

Alexander Aiken's (Atlanta FSC) free skate to "South American Getaways," climbed him from third after his short program to second.

He opened with a soaring triple Lutz-double toe, and followed up with another triple Lutz, two triple toes, a triple Salchow and a double Axel. Despite a fall on a triple loop, the general height and quickness of his jumps warranted high marks.

"He performed well, but he still needs more presentation. He can do this, but right now he's preoccupied with the jumps, especially the triple Axel," said Herbert Wiesinger, Aiken's coach.

Alexander Zahradnicek (Georgia FSC) won third-place honors. Although he dropped one placement from the short program, he skated with wonderful technical and artistic expertise.

Performing to "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," Zahradnicek reeled off a triple Lutz-double toe; triple flip-double toe; triple Lutz; and two triple toes, one with a step out on the landing.

Peter Max Dion (Jamestown SC) made the cut, ending up with the fourth spot. His program to "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" featured a triple Lutz; triple flip; triple toe-double toe-double loop combination; triple loop; two triple Salchows; and a double Axel.

Although he fell on his footwork, Dion showed long lines, fast edges and good air position in his jumps.

Last year, he was seventh at Easterns, so he had made it his goal to make the 2008 U.S.Figure Skating Championships.

"I was really nervous, but I wanted to make nationals," said Dion.

Rizo rises to the top of the junior ladies

Brittany Rizo (SC of Boston) took the lead among the junior ladies Thursday with a breathtaking short program to "The Giving," for which she earned 50.48 points.

Dressed in a chiffon yellow dress, Rizo reeled off a series of challenging jumps with great assurance, height and attack. She did a triple loop, a triple toe-double toe combination, and a double Axel.

"I love to jump. It's my favorite thing," said Rizo.

Rizo's artistry was also exceptional; it was as if she was telling a wonderful story. Her spirals were beautifully extended and featured a left forward, outside catch leg position into a difficult left forward, inside edge. She also did a fast layback spin with beautifully positioned arms.

Jane Ruan (SC of New York) was awarded second with a score of 47.20 for her high-powered rendition of "Rondo Capriccioso."

Ruan, attired in lavender, executed a triple flip-double toe, a triple loop, and a double Axel with confidence, determination and skill.

"I told myself I had to go all out," she said.

Masha Leonov (Tampa Bay SC) came in third with her athletic and artistic take on "The Feeling Begins," for which she earned 39.54 points. She hit a triple Salchow-double toe, but faltered a bit on the landings of her triple loop and double Axel.

"I was pretty proud of how I did, because I was in the hospital yesterday with a bad stomach virus. There were IV's in me and everything, so it was kind of scary," said Leonov, who will also be celebrating her 15th birthday this coming Saturday.

Erika Choi Smith (University of Delaware FSC) was fourth with her program to "Tango de los Exilados" that earned her a score of 39.01.

Smith's triple Salchow-double toe and double loop were strong, but her double Axel was popped into a single. The skater shone in her spins -- especially a fine layback -- and also did her spirals with good extension and speed.

Tight battle in novice ladies short program

Holly Alexander (University of Delaware FSC) rallied to victory in the novice ladies short program at the Eastern Sectionals on Thursday afternoon, earning 40.33 points for her lovely program set to the Beatles' "Yesterday."

The skater had one of the most technically challenging routines of the event, executing a triple Salchow-double toe combination; a triple toe; and a double Axel.

"I was nervous, but I am happy with my skate," said Alexander, who is 13 years old.

Felicia Zhang (SC of New York) was second with 39.27 points, definitely within close range of the leader. Her program to The Last Emperor was rich with artistry and strength, featuring a spread eagle into a textbook double Axel. She also performed a big double Lutz-double toe combo and a double flip. Zhang's spiral sequence was extended and wonderfully reminiscent of the classic style made famous by recent American stars, Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen.

Gretchen Donlan (SC of Boston) edged out third place with her high-energy program to music from "Cirque de Soleil," for which she earned 35.80 points. The petite powerhouse opened with an Ina Bauer into a double Axel, followed by a nice double Lutz-double toe and double flip. Her layback spin was one of the best of the competition, with lovely rounded arms and a beautifully turned-out free leg.

"I was happy with how I skated, but I think I can do even better," said Donlan, who is 13 years old. Samantha Veloso (Washington FSC) wound up fourth with 31.98 points for her program set to the classic disco tune, "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood." She interpreted the music well, and the choreography was interesting from beginning to end.

"I have really enjoyed this program," said Veloso, who selected the music herself.

Tanovich, Chau win junior pairs short program

Tracy Tanovich and Michael Chau (Southwest Florida FSC) took home top honors in the Eastern Sectionals junior pairs short program today.

Tanovich and Chau dominated the competition Thursday with a total point score of 46.81, almost ten points ahead of the second and third-place finishers, Rachel DeRita and Brandon Accardi (University of Delaware FSC), and Meg Byrne and Nathan Bartholomay (University of Delaware).

The winning couple impressed the judges with their poignant rendition to the film score of Harry Potter. They were dressed in navy plaid uniform-type costumes that resembled those worn by the Hogwarts students in the famous Harry Potter novels. They performed a one-handed lasso lift; throw triple toe loop; split double twist; and well-synchronized, side-by-side maneuvers.

"Today's program was good; the goal for us was to try to do our personal best," said Chau, who is 16. His partner, Tanovich, is just 11.

Tanovich and Chau worked hard this year to keep up with the ever-increasing standard of competition.

"This is a tough field, and it makes us go that extra bit more to push to be the best," said Chau.

DeRita and Accardi captured second place with their arresting interpretation of "Madame Butterfly," which earned 36.71 points. They reeled off a big throw triple toe; high split double twist; and good side-by-side spins and jumps.

"This is just the beginning. It was an okay performance, but they can do better in the next one," said Ron Ludington, their coach.

Byrne and Bartholomay wound up third with 36.16 points. Their program to "Earth Dance" was fast and full of great energy. Their side-by-side double loops were standouts.

Lara Shelton (SC of Boston) and Neill Shelton (New England FSC) were fourth with 31.22 points. They skated to "Cirque de Soleil."