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Wednesday notebook: U.S. Juniors

U.S. Junior Championships kicked off Wednesday in Salt Lake City

Competition Chair Alyse Davis gets interviewed on Wednesday.
Competition Chair Alyse Davis gets interviewed on Wednesday. (Mickey Brown)

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(11/28/2007) - The U.S. Junior Championships kicked off in Salt Lake City, Utah Wednesday and it was clear to see where the future stars of figure skating were getting their inspiration, from Evan Lysacek wannabes to routines set to perennial rock favorites U2 -- our team at Juniors grabbed all the behind the scenes gossip and goodies to keep you up to date on your favorite Junior skaters.

Notes:
-- If the skaters in the intermediate men's qualifying round A are any indication, Evan Lysacek's fashion sense has trickled down into the lower levels of U.S. Figure Skating. At least 75 percent of the skaters wore black as the dominant color in their outfits.

-- Southwest Pacific champ Dustin Perini (Los Angeles FSC) had one of the coolest programs of the day, a U2 medley that included snippets from "I Still Haven't Found What I'm looking For" and "Desire." It was arranged by choreographer Alex Chang.

-- Intermediate men's skater Alex Zadeii (Saint Paul FSC) "raised the roof" as his name was announced and gave his coach two fist bumps before starting his program, proof that the hip-hop culture has even infiltrated the figure skating world.

-- While Zadeii's skate didn't go particularly well, he did manage to leave his mark on the competition. When fellow competitor Maverick Eguia (DuPage FSC) was leaving the ice after his skate, Zadeii threw a football to him, which Eguia dropped. The two know each other from regionals. "I told him not to (throw the ball), but he didn't listen," Eguia said afterwards. Zadeii also tossed the pigskin to Odessa Midland SC's Jonathan Voyles after he finished his program, but this pass, too, fell incomplete.

-- The Skating Club of Boston's Harrison Choate had one of the most unique costumes and program themes of the day. He wore what looked like a baseball uniform, replete with "Choate 18" on his back. He started his program by mimicking a pitcher's windup and later made an "out" gesture (like an umpire) and the motion of a batter swinging. His program included "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and music from "A League of Their Own." His coach, Mark Mitchell, suggested he do a baseball-themed program after noticing that Choate wore his Boston Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka jersey to the rink every day.

-- Andrew Nagode, the U.S. juvenile silver medalist in 2006, finished with the best score (63.61) in Group A of the intermediate men's qualifying round. Nagode is coached by Pam Gregory (better known as Kimmie Meissner's coach) and Jeff DiGregorio. Just don't ask the golden-haired Nagode which music was used in his program -- he doesn't know. He does, however, know it was arranged by famed choreographer Natalia Linichuk. With people of that caliber behind him, it's no wonder Nagode is at the top of the standings.

-- Mark Jahnke (Seattle SC) is no relation to Ryan Jahnke, although, strangely enough, his middle name is Ryan. As Jahnke came off the ice, he sarcastically exclaimed, "Well, it's been a good competition," implying that he didn't think he'd make it out of the qualifying round. Seconds later, it was announced that he sat in seventh place with three skaters remaining in the group, meaning he'd be moving on.

-- Several big-name coaches are in attendance here at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex. Among those spotted on the first day of competition are Mingzhu Li, Mark Mitchell, Shirley Hughes and Jeff DiGregorio. Other notable coaches with skaters competing this week include Rafael Arutunian, Priscilla Hill and Rocky Marval.

-- Hughes is here with Austin Wagner, younger brother of Ashley. Asked what it's like to coach skaters who are at this competition as opposed to some of the world-class athletes who are under her tutelage, she said, "They're more enthusiastic at this age. They're not as uptight. They're always learning. It's really fun at this level."

-- Intermediate men's qualifying round Group B winner Joshua Farris (Broadmoor SC) has had a cold since Sunday, but he didn't want to let it hold him back, so he tried to follow the example set by a couple other skaters to push him through. "I looked at (Evgeny) Plushenko and Evan (Lysacek) at the Olympics. Evan went to the hospital. If he can come back from that, I can overcome this." Farris, the 2006 U.S. juvenile champ, scored 64.96 points, the most of any skater in either group. He attempted four triple jumps - the most of anyone in the competition - but landed only one cleanly, the Salchow at the beginning of his triple Salchow-double toe-double loop combination.

-- Reigning juvenile champ Jason Brown (Skokie Valley SC) had one of the best skates of the day, scoring 62.17 points. However, both he and his coach, Kori Ade, agreed he was not at his best. "It was conservative," Ade said. "I've seen him really 'bring it.' I know there's so much more there." Brown admitted there is more pressure on him this year because "people are expecting me to do well." His goal for the final (besides, of course, winning)? Landing his triple Salchow.

-- Nagode was the only intermediate men's skater in Group A to have two triple jumps awarded non-negative Grades of Execution (GOEs). His triple toe received a 0.20 GOE and his triple Salchow was awarded a GOE of 0.0. Jason Brown joined him (sort of) as the only skater in Group B to accomplish the feat. He landed a triple toe with a GOE of 0.0 and a triple toe-double toe-double loop combo with a 0.40 GOE.

-- The Pham siblings, Danvi and Vu, of the Washington SC finished first in juvenile ice dancing qualifying round Group A with a score of 42.57 points. Madeline Heritage (Portland ISC) and Nathaniel Fast (SC of Oregon), the Pacific Coast Sectional champs, won Group B with 44.44 points.

-- Li, best known as Caroline Zhang's coach, is here with David Allen (juvenile boys), Kristin Lench (juvenile girls) and Roxette Howe (intermediate ladies). She talked about the difference (or lack thereof) between coaching at a Grand Prix Series event as opposed to the U.S. Junior Championships: "International competitions have more pressure, but it's basically the same thing. You make sure they're focused; you prepare them for warmups, prepare them for competition, check their technique. You try to make sure they're at their best to compete."

-- There's no rest for the weary, or, at these U.S. Junior Championships, the Lunsfords. The brother-and-sister team of Alexandra and Andrew Lunsford (Northern Kentucky SC/ Northern Kentucky SC)compete in both intermediate pairs and dance, and he competes in intermediate men's. "It's physically demanding, but it helps build endurance," Andrew said. They say their involvement in ice dancing enhances their performance skills, which helps their presentation in both pairs and singles. "We spend more time working together on different elements, which improves our synchronization," Alexandra said. This is the second year they have pulled double duty (and the third year that he's pulled triple duty) at this competition; their participation in multiple disciplines can cause complications. "You just have to cross your fingers and hope you have practice ice," Andrew said. Making their accomplishment even more amazing is the fact that he's skating with a meniscus that's torn in two places. When Andrew's doctor told him of the injury, and Andrew informed him he was going to the U.S. Junior Championships, his doctor asked him, "How important is this competition?" Important enough for Andrew to hold off on knee surgery until after he gets home from Salt Lake City.

-- Thy-Thy Phan (Dallas FSC) won Group A of the juvenile girls qualifying round with a score of 49.36 points. All three of her spins were graded level fours. Ramona Blue Miller (SC of New York) kept her winning streak going as she finished with the highest score in Group B. Miller won the title at the North Atlantic Regional Championships. She, too, had a trio of level-four spins. Washington FSC's Haley Mulera, the champion out of the South Atlantic region, came out on top in group C, amassing 49.18 points. She was one of only two skaters on the night (along with SC of New York's Katy Wong) to have all her GOEs be zero or higher.

-- Joylyn Yang and Jean-Luc Baker (Seattle SC/ Seattle SC), the 2007 U.S. juvenile champions, paced the field in Group A of the intermediate dance qualifying round. They were one of two teams in their group (the other was the Wisconsin FSC's MacKenzie Reid and Christian Erwin) to not receive a negative GOE from any of the seven judges. 2006 U.S. juvenile bronze medalists Taylor Elliott and Zachary Elliott (Stars FSC of Texas/Stars FSC of Texas) were second in the group.

-- Susan Enright and Michael Bramante (SC of Boston/SC of Boston) finished first in Group B, followed closely by Vanessa Wade and Erik Kaiser (Arctic FSC/Rocky Mountain FSC). Each team received exactly one negative GOE mark from a single judge. Wade and Kaiser also were assessed a one-point deduction for an extended lift, resulting in the Bostonians edging the Midwesterners, 46.14-45.98.