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First day belongs to O'Shea

O'Shea leads competitive novice men's field

Danny O'Shea from Gurnee, Ill. leads after the novice men's short program.
Danny O'Shea from Gurnee, Ill. leads after the novice men's short program. (Paul Harvath )

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By Liz Leamy, special to icenetwork.com
(01/21/2008) - The novice men staged a good, solid short program competition tonight with the top four finishers making for an extremely tight medal race.

In the final short program tally, Daniel O'Shea (Skokie Valley SC) slid into the top spot, Alexander Zahradnicek (Georgia FSC) claimed second, David Wang (All Year FSC) came up third and Ross Miner (SC of Boston) was fourth.

All of the top four finishers were within little more than two points of one another, which should make for a competitive free skate tomorrow.

"It's been a really good competition --everyone is good and the marks among the top four are close. I'm looking forward to skating tomorrow," said Daniel O'Shea, who was first at the 2008 Midwesterns and eighth at last year's Nationals in the same group.

The top four finishers represent three different U.S. Figure Skating qualifying competitive sections, with O'Shea hailing from the Midwest, Zahradnicek and Miner skating out of Easterns and Wang coming out of Pacific Coasts.

"It's pretty cool that we're all from different areas," said O'Shea, adding that he thinks all of the skaters in this event "are good."

O'Shea was the first to skate in the 12-member flight and earned a score of 46.89, which held up for the lead throughout the remainder of the competition.

His program to "Spanish Caravan", by George Winston, was compelling and defined by powerful edges, rock-solid jumps, complex footwork and high-accelerated spins. He opened up with a well-extended spread eagle into a double Axel, then did a nice triple toe-double toe and triple Salchow.

Zahradnicek staked out second with his powerful performance to "Exodus" by Ernest Gold, which netted him 46.59 points. He opened his program with an impressive triple Lutz-double toe and followed it up with a triple flip from bracket turns and a nice double Axel. Although he had a small slip on a connecting bracket step midway through his performance, Zahradnicek commanded the ice with the confidence and expertise of a seasoned competitive veteran.

"My goal was to come here and skate clean. I just tried to do all my elements as best as I could and I felt good out there," said Zahradnicek, who was third at Easterns in November.

Wang racked up the third-best tally for the event with his clean and high-energy short program performance to "Sing, Sing, Sing."

As one of the youngest competitors of the night, the 13-year-old California native reeled off a triple Salchow-double toe, triple toe from a lunge entry and a high double Axel with a nice, fast takeoff. His program also featured fluid, high-energy footwork and some nicely-formed, quick spins.

"My jumps have felt pretty good to me since I've been here," said Wang, who is also a Rubik's Cube whiz and is able to figure out this challenging toy practically without looking, explained his coach, Tammy Gambill.

"All the kids were watching him figure it out, and they were all having just a really fun time," said Gambill.

Miner skated away with a score of 44.85 for his arresting program to "Hawaii Five-O" and "Wipe Out." Miner's characteristic high-powered performance style was apparent once more tonight. He executed a triple Lutz-double toe in which he touched down on the landing of the first jump, a triple flip from a stag jump and choctaw-step entry and a big double Axel from a spread eagle.

His footwork was exceptional and was defined by ongoing upper-body and arm movement, counters, rockers and brackets.

Victor Travis (SC of Cleveland Heights) was awarded the fifth-highest score, a 40.77, for his engaging interpretation of "Montserrat-Orquesta Del Plata" by Bajofondo Tango Club.

He rocked out a nice triple toe-double toe, a triple Lutz with a touchdown on the landing and a double Axel from a difficult backward power-pull entry.