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Hubbells waltz to lead

Siblings gain 3.64 points on field

Madison and Keiffer Hubbell sit in first place.
Madison and Keiffer Hubbell sit in first place. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/21/2008) - Watching elegantly clad couples whirling around the ice to three-quarters time, most observers can't imagine their seemingly effortless movements come only after years of blood, sweat and sequins.

Today's junior compulsory ice dance, the Viennese Waltz, is no exception. Just consider the checklist über-coach Igor Shpilband keeps in his mind when he trains his students.

"First of all, it has to have that waltz feeling," he said. "The timing has to be correct, the pattern needs to be big, and the knees must be soft.

"They have to finish all of their glides, and also the edges, and many other things. Actually, more things than I have time to say just now."

Shpilband can be forgiven for rushing off; he had three couples competing in the event. All skated well, but the top spot went to Madison and Keiffer Hubbell, the brother-and-sister duo who won the silver medal in this event last season. They earned 34.61 points to step out to a substantial 3.64 point lead.

"We did as well as we could hope for," 19-year-old Keiffer said. "Since we train in an Olympic-sized rink at home, it's always harder to fit our [compulsory] patterns into an NHL-sized rink, but we handled it more gracefully than in previous years."

Compulsories haven't exactly been the Hubbells' strong suit. At the world junior championships last season, they took a tumble on the Silver Samba.

"It just wasn't a good week," 16-year-old Madison admitted. "We're still age eligible for juniors, so maybe we'll have a few more chances."

The tall, blonde Ohioans, who train in Ann Arbor, Mich. under former Russian and Latvian competitors Iouri Tchesnitchenko and Yaroslava Netchaeva, have had more than compulsory dances to deal with lately. A hip injury suffered by Keiffer last summer kept them out of the Junior Grand Prix series. They returned to action at the 2008 Midwestern Sectionals, placing first to earn their trip to Saint Paul.

"My hip is much better," Keiffer said. "I can't even remember what the diagnosis was; multiple muscles were damaged, and that created a kind of domino effect. I started acupuncture and have had good results."

Piper Gilles and Timothy McKernan sit in second place with 30.97 points.

The Colorado Springs-based couple, who train under Patti Gottwein, were fourth in junior dance last season.

"It felt really good, maybe a little cautious," the 18-year-old McKernan said. "By the time we skated, the ice was a little rough, which always happens in a waltz. Everyone is doing the same pattern."

Gilles and McKernan competed at two Junior Grand Prix events this season, in Great Britain and Austria. Although they didn't medal, they gained valuable international experience.

"We didn't skate as well as we had wanted, which helped us learn from our mistakes," the 16-year-old Gilles said. "International events have a different vibe; the locker room is quiet, because not everyone speaks English."

Pilar Bosley and John Corona placed third with 30.07 points. The team was sixth in this event in 2007, and won the bronze medal at the Junior Grand Prix in Lake Placid earlier this season.

Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, who train in Shpilband's school in Canton, Mich., were fourth with 29.92 points. Sara Bailey and Kyle Herring, winners of 2008 Eastern Sectionals, placed fifth with 29.29 points.