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Hacker reigns supreme at Easterns

17-year-old's consistency earns her senior ladies' gold

Katrina Hacker is icenetwork.com's exclusive backstage reporter in Beijing.
Katrina Hacker is icenetwork.com's exclusive backstage reporter in Beijing. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/17/2007) - Last evening, there were a few surprise leaders in the ladies' short program. But as always in skating, medals go to those who put out solid back-to-back efforts.

That truism was proven again tonight at the 2008 Eastern Sectionals as several competitors fell back, and skaters with more consistent efforts moved up to claim their spots.

Through it all, Katrina Hacker stood tall. The 17 year-old backed up her win in the short with another victory in the free skate, taking home the 2008 Eastern Sectional senior ladies' title.

"I'm really happy with my program," Hacker said. "Just like in the short, my goal was to get the jumps clean, and [gain] high levels on my [other] elements."

Hacker did just that, opening her free to Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" with a superb triple toe-double toe-double loop (+1 GOE), followed by a solid triple Salchow-double loop (+.75 GOE); a triple loop; and a triple toe (+.25 GOE). Three other jump elements were done in the second half of the program, adding valuable bonus points.

Three of Hacker's spins rated level four, including a high flying sit spin, well-centered combination spin and lovely closing layback. Her program component scores outpaced the other leaders' totals by several points.

Hacker earned 103.78 points for the segment, outdistancing the field by nearly 13 points. Her overall total of 156.86 was almost 20 points ahead of second place.

"My coaches told me to skate with passion, and I did," Hacker, who trains in Boston under Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson, said. "I'm happy I stayed on my feet and stayed focused."

Hacker will make her first trip to the U.S. Championships as a senior lady this January. Previously, she competed twice as a novice and once as a junior.

This win is a big improvement for the skater, who placed sixth at this event last season.

"The difference this year is clean jumps and having the mental strength to get through my programs," she said.

Below first place, there were shifts galore as several skaters struggled to stay on their feet. Melissa Bulanhagui took full advantage, rising from fifth in the short to second in the free and second overall with a powerful performance to a tango medley.

"I was kind of in my own little world this time," 17 year-old Bulanhagui said. "I was a little shaky in the short, but the long was much more comfortable."

Bulanhagui opened with a solid double Axel-double Axel sequence (+.75 GOE), followed by a triple Lutz-double toe and a triple Salchow (+.50 GOE). Her triple flip was cited for having an incorrect outside edge take-off, and her second triple Lutz was "downgraded," reducing its value to 1.19 points.

Solid spins, as well as a level four spiral sequence, helped boost her free skate score to 90.81. She ended the competition with 137.73 total.

"I'm so excited about doing my triple Salchow. It's a tough jump for me," Bulanhagui said. "This year I didn't do Regionals, because I was on the Junior Grand Prix circuit. I did my junior programs there, and they seemed a lot harder. The senior program is 30 seconds longer but only has one extra spin. So, there's extra breathing time."

Megan Williams-Stewart was fourth in the short and fourth in the free, but rose to third overall when other short program leaders fell back.

Her program, to an Asian-infused medley choreographed by Tom Dixon last season, featured a clean triple loop-double toe-double loop, as well as a high flying sit spin. Her only glaring error was popping an intended triple loop into a single.

"I'm upset about the single loop at the end of my program," Williams-Stewart said. "There were some strong things, but also a little problem on my triple flip. I fought for those triples. I just thought, no way am I going down."

Williams-Stewart ended the competition with 134.19 points.

Veteran competitor Stephanie Roth grabbed the fourth and final spot for the 2008 U.S. Championships by performing two solid programs.

Skating her free to music from the three "Pirates of the Caribbean" soundtracks, Roth opened with a double toe - double toe -- she had intended to do a single triple toe -- but the rest of her jumps and spins were rock solid.

"I said before I skated, 'Wouldn't it be crazy if I got sixth in the short, fifth in the long and fourth overall?' And that's what happened," Roth said.

The skater, who turns 25 on Friday, made her first trip to the U.S. Championships as a senior lady in 2000. She said this is her last season of competition.

"I want to do ice shows," Roth explained. "2006 was supposed to be my last season, and I got really injured at Nationals. It was not the closing experience I wanted. I took some time off, and then missed the audition process for cruise ship shows. So I started competing again, and one thing led to another."

She didn't make the cut for the 2008 U.S. Championships, but Julianna Cannarozzo fought back to take third place in the free skate with a gutsy performance, rising from 12th in the short to seventh overall.

"I felt good going in to the short. I still don't know what happened," Cannarozzo said. "Today was much better. Again, it was not my best, but I tried real hard. It's been a rough year; I had ankle trouble, and if you can't train [properly], it takes a toll on competitions."