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Carman, Knierim charm their way to title

Couple erases small deficit to win novice pairs crown

Brynn Carman and Christopher Knierim won the novice pairs title after a 83.52-point free skate.
Brynn Carman and Christopher Knierim won the novice pairs title after a 83.52-point free skate. (Paul Harvath)

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By Becca Staed, special to icenetwork.com
(01/21/2008) - Novice pairs skater Brynn Carman (Broadmoor FSC) knowingly blew the audience a kiss after she and partner Christopher Knierim (Broadmoor FSC) landed a double Lutz-twist combination jump, the first element in their free skate, as if to say the title at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships was in the bag.

In a scenario reminiscent of the 2008 Midwestern Sectional Championships, the couple shot past Brittany Chase and Andrew Speroff, also of the Broadmoor FSC, who entered the final in first after a 37.35-point short program with a lead of just 0.34 points.

Carman and Knierim, who finished fourth at last year's U.S. Championships, preceded their training partners with a flirty performance to the City Slickers theme without any major blunders, earning 83.52 points in their free skate and bringing their total to 120.53 overall.

"We chose the theme because it plays off of our strengths," said Carman. "We are a very fun team, and it's fun to have an interesting program that plays to the audience."

"We just wanted to skate our best and take it a step up from yesterday, not paying attention to scores or placements," added Knierim.

They then stepped away from the kiss and cry to watch Chase and Speroff perform their free skate to the Addams Family soundtrack.

But their dreams for gold slipped away when Chase fell on a throw double loop, sending her crashing to the boards. Despite this fall, their stylish and graceful routine made it hard to believe that Chase and Speroff have been together less than six months, not to mention that it is Chase's first year in pairs. The team finished with a 116.99 two-day total, 3.54 points shy of the lead, but they were still cheery afterwards.

"Gold wasn't our goal here," Speroff said. "We are so new that we are trying to get comfortable skating with each other and enjoy [Brittany's] first nationals and her first couple months doing pairs. Honestly, I think we achieved our goal. We had fun, and went out strong."

Marissa Castelli (Smithfield FSC) and Simon Shnapir (Colonial FSC) moved up from fourth place, taking the bronze with their Gladiator routine, which featured a flawless group 5 Axel lasso lift. With a total score of 116.42, they improved upon their ninth-place finish at nationals last year.

In fourth place, but earning the loudest applause and the audience's heart, were Kloe Bautista (All Year FSC) and Galvani Hopson (Los Angeles FSC).

The couple skated strong through the end of their free skate, which earned them additional points, adding a 77.87-point free skate to their 35.93-point short program for a total of 113.80 overall. They ended in fourth place, rising up from last year's tenth-place finish.

"One of our best elements this year was our full triple loop, which we added right before sectionals," Bautista said. "We landed it here. We were the only ones to land it here at nationals, so we are pretty glad about that."

All four pairs said they had plans to return home for some much needed rest and then begin training again to move up to the junior level next year.