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Thursday notebook: U.S. Juniors

Skaters move through qualifying rounds

Angela Wang shows off her haul of stuffed animals after winning the intermediate ladies qualifying group A on Thursday in Salt Lake City.
Angela Wang shows off her haul of stuffed animals after winning the intermediate ladies qualifying group A on Thursday in Salt Lake City. (Mickey Brown)

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(11/29/2007) - Icenetwork.com has all the news and notes from Thursday at the U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships in Salt Lake City.

Notes

Wang wins very special competition: Skating at the U.S. Junior Championships is an honor, but it means even more to Angela Wang. She is a member of the Salt Lake Figure Skating Club, so she gets to skate on her home ice this week. "It's so exciting skating in my hometown. I know this rink so well. It really gives me confidence."

It showed, too, as Wang scored 65.16 points Thursday to win Group A of the intermediate ladies qualifying round. "[Skating here] gives me the energy to do my best." Wang was clearly the crowd favorite as she hauled away three huge bags of stuffed animals after her dazzling program. Wang's victory was mainly due to the two triples (toe, Salchow) in her program.

Yasmin Siraj (SC of Boston), who totaled 60.68, came in second place and was the only skater in the group without a negative Grade of Execution (GOE). She also received level fours on all three of her spins.

Daniels, Hood wins their intermediate groups: McKinzie Daniels (Springfield FSC) edged Margaret Stevenson (Los Angeles FSC), 60.94-59.09, in intermediate ladies qualifying group B. Daniels skated a clean program, except for a fall on her triple Salchow midway through the program. Stevenson landed her triple Salchow but later fell on her triple toe. Lexie Hood (Stars FSC of Texas) narrowly beat fellow Texan, Nina Jiang (Texas Gulf Coast FSC) to win group C. Each skater had all GOEs of zero or higher and landed nine double jumps.

Trying to stay grounded: After winning the 2007 U.S. juvenile girls championship, the expectations for Nina Jiang (Texas Gulf Coast FSC) are high. At least, the expectations others have for her are high. She's trying to stay grounded.

"I want to skate with my heart, I'd like to land triple Sal, and get a clean program done." She says that competing at the U.S. Junior Championships this time around is exciting but still very nerve-racking. Her profile has been heightened even more by the use of her photo (as well as that of 2007 juvenile boys champion Jason Brown) on the icenetwork.com web banners promoting coverage of the U.S. Junior Championships. In fact, her club printed out that page and used it to persuade club members to purchase a subscription to the web site.

Advice from big sis: Scanning the list of skaters in Group B of the intermediate ladies qualifying round, one name jumps out -- Chelsea Firth. Chelsea's older sister, Taylor, is a member of the U.S. National Reserve Team, having competed at the Finlandia Trophy earlier this season. What did older sis tell younger sis, a member of the Jamestown SC, to help prepare her for this competition? "She told me I need to stay positive, that I can do everything. She just tried to encourage me."

Taylor knows a thing or two about having success at the U.S. Junior Championships. She finished fourth in the intermediate division in 2004, a performance Chelsea watched from home on the Internet.

Listen to your coaches: When intermediate ladies skater Joy Jin (SC of San Francisco) is told to do something by one of her coaches, she better listen. Though she is mainly trained by Julie Lowndes, she also receives instruction from world champion and Olympic bronze medalist Charles Tickner. Jin has watched Tickner's medal-winning performances on YouTube.

"His split jump was really good," Jin said.

"How's my split jump now?" Tickner asked.

"I've never seen it," Jin replied dryly.

Shum, Chen win juvenile boys groups: Kevin Shum (St. Moritz ISC) won group A of the juvenile boys qualifying round. He skated a clean program, executed eight double jumps, and did not have a negative GOE. Local favorite Nathan Chen (Salt Lake Figure Skating) proved to be the class of group B, where his score of 53.24 was almost five points better than anyone else's. Like Shum, he had no major hiccups in his program. His score was fortified by landing three double-double combinations (Lutz-loop, flip-toe, Lutz-toe).

Having a busy week: Yesterday on icenetwork.com, the Lunsford siblings were profiled. (The brother-and-sister team of Alexandra and Andrew Lunsford [Northern Kentucky SC] compete in both intermediate pairs and dance, and he competes in intermediate men's.) Well, Lundfords, meet Olivia Oltmanns (Kansas City FSC) and Tyler Broderick (St. Joseph FSC). Oltmanns and Broderick are pulling off an identical stunt, only on the juvenile level. The pair has an obvious bond.

"They really love skating together," said Oltmanns' mother and their coach, Trudy. "They met at a small non-qualifier in Missouri [two years ago] and became the best of friends. They're great for each other." The 10-year-old Oltmanns and the 11-year-old Broderick contain a boundless reservoir of energy, and they have to with the schedule they're keeping. On Thursday, for example, they had pairs practice at 7:15 a.m. and dance practice at 8:45 a.m. After that, he rushed over to his 9:15 a.m. singles practice, followed by his singles competition (he finished sixth in group B) at 1:55 p.m. They competed in pairs at 4:15 p.m., and their day concluded with compulsory dance practice at 8:15 p.m. I'm tired just writing that. (Addendum: Oltmanns and Broderick won juvenile pairs qualifying group A with a score of 39.70.)

Johnson, Ishler suffer fall on the ice: Juvenile pairs team Brooke Johnson and Brooks Ishler (Los Angeles FSC), which is coached by Peter Oppegard, suffered a fall on a throw Axel about a minute into their program Thursday night.

"We got 'swingy'," Johnson said afterwards. Ishler tried to pick his partner up off the ice, but she was in too much pain. (Upon examining Johnson following the conclusion of their program, the doctor on site said this could have been caused by her patella tendon momentarily pushing into her femur.) After speaking with the referee, Johnson decided she could go on, so they were allowed to pick up the program from the one-minute mark. More problems arose, as it took three tries before they were able to start the music in the right place. Johnson and Ishler finished out their (very eventful) skate without further incident.

One tough little pairs skater: Entered in the juvenile pairs competition is a young man who made a name for himself at last year's State Farm U.S. Championships and hopes to do so again this year. Keegan Messing (Anchorage FSC) became the first novice skater to land a triple Axel en route to winning bronze in Spokane, Wash., last January. He qualified for this year's U.S. Figure Skating Championships as a junior by coming in second at the Pacific Coast Sectional Championships, but his focus Thursday was on his pairs skating.

His partner is clubmate Ellie Gottstein, with whom he first formed a pairs team three years ago. Their original union lasted only one season, but they decided to give it another try. Why, you ask? "I finally got taller than her again," Messing joked.

His real reason for returning to the discipline is the success he has enjoyed in singles, which has meant he has been alone a lot of the time. "He wants to get back with his friends, have fun with everybody," coach Rory Burghart said.

Runaway winners in group B: Caitlin Fields and Max Settlage (Coyotes SC of Arizona), the Pacific Coast Sectional champs, ran away with juvenile pairs qualifying group B title, scoring 41.04 points.

62 years young: There's something amiss about one of the ice sweepers in Salt Lake City. She appears to be a little older than the rest of the lot. Make that a lot older.

Marci Richards is 62 years old. She is a member of the Wisconsin FSC but spends 8-10 weeks during the winter in Utah to enjoy its world-class skiing. She inquired about being an ice sweeper at the U.S. Junior Championships, and after following the proper channels, her proposal was accepted.

"A good place for an adult skater is supervising the kids. I'm the first adult flower sweeper." (This statement could not be verified, as U.S. Figure Skating does not keep records on such things. We'll just have to take Marci's word for it.) Richards started skating 10 years ago, at age 52, and has since medaled at the U.S. Adult Championships.

A multi-purpose facility: The Salt Lake City Sports Complex (SLCSC) is an ideal facility for an event like the U.S. Juniors. It provides everything one could ask for from the host venue -- two adjoining rinks, plenty of seating, and wide concourses for vendor booths.

The SLCSC is not exclusively a skating facility, however, so it is a bit jarring to walk out of the area that houses the two ice sheets -- not to mention a national championship competition -- and into a space where people are working out on treadmills, lifting weights and doing aerobics. Utah is known as "The State of Sport," and nowhere is that more evident than at the SLCSC.