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Jazz, Colonials advance to world juniors

The Chicago Jazz celebrate their victory.
The Chicago Jazz celebrate their victory. (Kelly Hodge)

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By Kelly Hodge, special to icenetwork.com
(01/13/2008) - Chicago Jazz, skating to music from the motion picture Rudy, went into the free skate with a ten-point lead and more than doubled that in the free skate, winning the event with 116.94 points and 186.14 overall. The team was unstoppable and excelled in nearly every area. Opening with a parallel wheel that received plus-two GOEs from all but two judges, the team sailed through each well-balanced program element, picking up more excitement as the program continued.

The team earned level-four step sequences in two blocks, their line and circle, with their only apparent error being a downgrade to level three in the no-hold step sequence. The technical panel wasn't the only group to reward the team. They received either a plus-one or plus-two from every judge on every element with the exception of three zeros, adding 11.63 points to their base value.

"We were so excited; we wanted it so bad," said high school senior Alyssa Zuro, who will make her third trip with the Jazz to the World Junior Challenge Cup. "Right before the final moves in isolation at the end of the program, I knew we had done it, and our audience started cheering 'Rudy, Rudy, Rudy.'"

The team doesn't want to stop here. After bringing home the bronze the past two years, they are ready to step up to the next level. "We want to win," said Zuro of the goals of the Jazz at junior worlds. "We're ready to move up, and we're going to do whatever it takes training-wise between now and then.

The only team that could have possibly been more excited than Chicago Jazz was the Colonials, who came back from third place in the short to take a solid second in both the free skate and the overall results. The team skated as if it had nothing to lose, attacking every element in the program, starting with an excellent, fast circle that traveled well and contained a strong level-four step sequence. The moves-in-the-field was another highlight, showcasing change-edge spirals, spread eagles and Ina Bauers. Each element seemed to build on the one preceding it, with a highlight near the end being a strong level-four, no-hold step sequence comprised of difficult turns executed with flow and clear edges.

Just over a week ago, a berth on the World Junior Team seemed unlikely, as the team struggled in early events to get credit for their step sequences.

"It seems amazing to me that we could pull this off. There was a lot of doubt that we could even come in the top three," said senior Justine Ray. "We just got to work, understood what we needed to do and worked so hard to make the necessary improvements over the past couple weeks. There was so much tension, and we wanted it so badly. We decided tonight that we had nothing to lose, and we went out there and focused on our edges and steps."

While Jazz and the Colonials may be rivals on the ice, they really respect each other off the ice. "We are really happy to be going to Rouen with Chicago Jazz," said Ray. "We're friends, and we get along with them really well. We can't wait."

Miami University overall skated very well, but their free skate didn't have quite the spark and excitement of their short program. Three step sequences were downgraded from level-four to either two or three, and a few minor errors caused some reductions in their GOEs. They earned 93.24 points in the free skate, which put them in fourth, but their total score of 154.38 kept them in third place overall.

Team Braemar, which ended up in sixth place after a serious fall in the short program, made up for it in the free skate by putting out a beautiful program which received full credit for every element attempted. They earned 99.83 points, which was good enough for a solid third in the free skate but only fourth overall with a total score of 152.35.

Chicago Jazz and the Colonials will leave for the World Junior Challenge Cup in Rouen, France on March 4th.