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Gilles jumps her way to junior title

Triples and combinations rule the day

Alexe Gilles shows off her gold medal.
Alexe Gilles shows off her gold medal. (Paul Harvath)

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By Liz Leamy, special to icenetwork.com
(01/23/2008) - The best jumpers prevailed in the junior ladies free skate event at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, with Alexe Gilles (Broadmoor SC) reigning supreme.

Gilles won gold with her fresh and fluid rendition of "Oceanic" by Vangelis. She earned an impressive 103.54 for the free skate, and 156.17 total-- more than six points ahead of the second-place finisher.

The 16-year-old jumped with amazing lift and energy, knocking out an explosive triple Lutz-double toe combination; triple Lutz from footwork; triple loop; triple Salchow-double toe; and a triple toe-double toe-double loop.

For her jumping efforts, Gilles earned a + .86 grade of execution (GOE) for both her triple Lutz-double toe combination and her double Axel. Due to the high technical quality of her free skate, Gilles pulled up from third in the short.

"It's a good feeling to be a champion," Gilles said. "My brother was a really good junior, too.

"Going into the free skate, I told myself I wasn't far behind; two points was just a double toe or so. I told myself I can do it and I will do it." (Todd Gilles was the 2005 U.S. junior dance champion with Trina Pratt.)

Angela Maxwell (Dallas FSC) captured the silver medal with a total score of 150.11.

The petite Texas powerhouse commanded the ice with the energy of a giant in her poignant program to music from the Finding Nemo film score.

Maxwell executed some fine jumps, including a giant double Axel; triple toe-triple toe; triple Salchow-double toe; and triple loop-double toe-double loop. She did have a slight fallout on the landing of a triple flip, as well as a touchdown at the finish of her triple loop. Those errors cost her valuable technical points.

"It's my first season as a junior and it's a great feeling to get second," Maxwell said.

Brittney Rizo (SC of Boston) racked up a third-place finish with her dramatic interpretation of "Malaguena." Her final tally of 149.60 put her less than four-tenths of a point behind Maxwell.

Still, Rizo was thrilled with her bronze.

"I am really happy and it has been so much fun being part of such a great group of skaters," Rizo said.

Rizo rocked out a terrific triple loop; triple toe-double toe-double toe; spread eagle into double Axel; triple Salchow-double toe; triple toe; and walley-half loop-triple Salchow.

"I skated two solid programs here, and that's all I could ask for," Rizo said.

Kristine Musademba (Washington FSC) edged out fourth place with her enthralling take to Duke Ellington's "Caravan." She ended the competition with 143.86 points.

Musademba's program included two triple loops from running three turns, one in combination with a double toe. She touched down on the landing of her triple Lutz and triple flip-double toe, and popped a planned triple Salchow.

"I felt pretty good," she said. "It's a lot of pressure and I think I handled it well.

"I am very happy and I feel like it's a great accomplishment to have come this far. It's an honor to be part of the top group of skaters here."