Keiser takes juvenile girls title

California native breaks 50-point barrier to win USJC crown


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By Jared Eborn, special to
(11/30/2007) - SALT LAKE CITY -- As one might expect, even the winner of the juvenile girls free skate found something to improve upon, despite recording a personal best score.

Leah Keiser topped 50 points for the first time, winning the event at the U.S. Junior Championships with a score of 50.01, but she left the ice thinking about what might have been.

"It was a little messed up on the first jump," said Keiser, an 11-year-old representing the All Year Figure Skating Club in Culver City, Calif. "But it was nice."

She scored a 27.13 on her elements and earned a 22.88 compulsory score. Afterwards, she received the usual cascade of stuffed animals and applause from the crowd.

Keiser wasn't too terribly upset with her performance -- she was the winner, after all -- but would have liked a cleaner routine. Still, her first jump -- a double Lutz to a loop -- was rewarded well by the judges, who docked her on only one combination, a double flip-double toe-double loop set near the end of her program.

"I had a feeling I would get one," Keiser said of breaking 50. "At least I was hoping I would."

Rockville, Md.'s Haley Mulera placed second after a long wait to begin her routine. Skating 16th in the 18-girl final, Mulera came out strong despite waiting for so many competitors to take to the ice before her.

The result was a score of 49.38, which left her quite satisfied.

"Yeah," Mulera said, "I'm very satisfied. It was a lot of fun."

Skating for the Washington Figure Skating Club, Mulera was awarded a 27.06 for her element score and 22.32 for her compulsory score, which was almost enough to overtake Keiser.

"Everything went well except my last spin when I went off balance," Mulera said.

Waiting for nearly 90 minutes clearly didn't hurt the youngster.

"It was a little nerve-wracking," she said. "But it felt really good to go out there on the ice and just skate."

Thy-Thy Phan, a Dallas Figure Skating Club skater, placed third with a score of 46.35.

Competing in the first group of athletes, Phan got some excellent scores out of the judges early in her routine but stumbled a little bit on a double Lutz-double loop combination midway through her set.

"It could have been better," she said. "But this is a very exciting experience. I'm very happy."

Local skater Mary Peng had the loudest support group as she took to her home ice in front of dozens of family members and friends. Her score of 40.29 was good enough for 15th.

"It was fun," Peng said after a fairly clean routine that ended with a few bobbles and wobbles on a double Lutz-double toe. "I have a bit of an advantage on my home ice... I guess I needed some more speed on that one. But it's been great."