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Ruan rocks junior ladies at Easterns

Close finish in junior ladies competition

Eastern Sectionals junior ladies champion Jane Ruan (left) and bronze medalist Masha Leonov.
Eastern Sectionals junior ladies champion Jane Ruan (left) and bronze medalist Masha Leonov. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Liz Leamy, special to icenetwork.com
(11/17/2007) - This afternoon, Jane Ruan (SC of New York) rocked out a first-place finish in the junior ladies free skate at the Eastern Sectionals with a point score of 127.94 and managed to edge out the short program leader, Brittany Rizo (SC of Boston) to clinch the junior ladies crown in one of the closest finishes of the entire competition.

In the final tally, Ruan wound up first, Rizo came up second, Masha Leonov was (Tampa Bay SC) third and Rebecca Stern (University of Delaware FSC) fourth.

In this group, Ruan was the only competitor to do a clean performance. She also skated the most technically comprehensive performance and executed all of the five triples through the Lutz with skill, strength and amazing quickness. The second and third-place skaters also looked exceptional, although there were a few falls and several pops in their jumps.

"I'm ecstatic right now. I was training all year with this in mind-I just wanted to make Nationals-and I really worked harder than I ever have before," Ruan said at the event's conclusion.

Last year, Ruan finished fifth in this event, and missed making U.S. Championships by just one placement.

"It was a hard year, but I think it actually helped motivate me to just get better," said the 15 year-old.

Ruan skated the Spanish violin piece, "Aranjuez Concerto." She wore a sleeveless jeweled-tone red dress with gold accents and had a winning way about her from the moment she started her program. She opened up with a fast and solid triple Lutz, and followed it up with a triple flip, triple loop, triple Salchow-double toe, triple Salchow and double axel.

Her performance was also electric from beginning through the end and was characterized by beautiful edges, nice posture and sophisticated eloquence. Her spiral sequence was a standout move and was all about great turnout and extension. She also did a compelling head-to-foot layback. Ruan trains in Hackensack, New Jersey, with Olga Orlova, whom she credits for her inspiration. Nikolai Morozov choreographed her program.

"I love skating in Hackensack. Miki Ando [the 2007 Ladies World Champion] and [Daisuke] Takahashi [the 2007 Men's World Champion] are there and they really inspire me - when I see them doing triples and quads so well, I want to jump just like them," Ruan said.

Brittany Rizo dropped from first to the second position with her engaging, yet slightly imperfect interpretation to "Malaguena," and was awarded a final score of 127.21. She was dressed in a gorgeous black and red dress and skated with the assurance and confidence of a seasoned top competitor. She did a terrific triple loop, walley-walley into triple Salchow-double toe, triple Salchow and double axel with a slight turnout on the landing. She did fall, however, on a triple toe and doubled a triple toe. Rizo's overall program components were exceptional. She displayed her usual strength and artistry throughout this routine that complemented her elements, especially her fast and well-extended spiral sequence and combination spin.

"It wasn't my best, but I thought I performed well," Rizo said, adding that she is looking forward to going home to work hard in preparation for Nationals.

Masha Leonov claimed the bronze with her high-energy program to "The Dark Angel," and received a final point tally of 103.96. She wore a turquoise dress and was poised and solid. She commenced her program with double three turns inito a triple flip, and then fired out a triple toe, triple Salchow-double toe- and triple toe. She did single a planned double Axel and triple loop. She also did some high-energy spins and flew around the ice with fantastic power.

"I was confident when I went out there and now, I am so excited about going to Nationals. This has been a great competition because I've made a lot of friends that I was able to see here," Leonov said.

Leonov was also excited with the fact that things turned out well due to the fact that today was her 15th birthday. At the event's conclusion, she and her mom headed home to celebrate this occasion with the rest of her family.

"'I can't wait to get home and see them," said Leonov, who is one of four children. She has an older sister and two younger brothers.

"My youngest brother who is four said he would score a goal for me today at his game," she added.

Rebecca Stern staged one of the biggest comebacks of this entire competition and rocketed from an astounding 11th-place finish in the short to fourth overall, climbing seven whole places. She earned a total score of 101.10, coming up more than three points behind Leonov.

"I was really excited. I didn't expect to finish up so well. I can't wait to go to Nationals - it's going to be my first time," Stern said. This also marks her first Sectionals experience as well.

"It's been such a great year so far."

Stern was awarded third in the free skate for her technically and artistically proficient interpretation to "Taras Bulba," a Ukrainian story comparable to "Romeo and Juliet." She skated lyrically and glided around the ice with wonderful power and confidence. She also executed a triple Lutz, triple loop-double toe, triple loop and double flip-double toe-double loop.

Although she fell on a double axel, the flow of her program was exceptional. Her spins in particular were a standout skating skill, especially the layback, which was quick and nicely positioned.

"I tried not to place any expectations on myself, I just tried to stay focused on what I had to do. I was also thinking about selling the program, and tried not to dwell on the jumps," Stern said.