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Guillen, Curzon take lead after junior pairs short

Chelsi Guillen and Danny Curzon carry a slight lead over the rest of the junior pairs field into the free skate.
Chelsi Guillen and Danny Curzon carry a slight lead over the rest of the junior pairs field into the free skate. (Paul Harvath)

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By Becca Staed, special to icenetwork.com
(01/24/2008) - When Chelsi Guillen and Danny Curzon (Coyotes SC of Arizona) chose "Adagio for Strings" from the Platoon soundtrack for their short program, they were aiming for something a bit mature, something they could build on. The commanding, yet haunting piece has a way of pleasantly surprising listeners, in the same way that Guillen and Curzon did in taking first place after tonight's short program at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

"We really wanted to go for a mature, elegant look this year," Curzon said. "So we picked this piece, knowing that at the beginning of the year, it might not fit, but we would grow into it. And luckily, our work paid off here."

If battling a torn posterior cruciate ligament in Guillen's right knee and finishing ninth and tenth place in two Junior Grand Prix events this year once worried the pair, it doesn't show. In fact, it seems to have made them stronger.

Their short program earned a total score of 53.65. They got a level-three on their first element -- a double Lutz twist -- and deductions on their next two, a double Axel and triple toe loop. Their Group 5 lift received a level-three. They brought in a level-three and a level-two with their final step sequence and death spiral, respectively.

Most noticeable, however, was the incredible harmony of their spins, both of which gained level-fours.

"We've had pretty good luck with our spins from the beginning," Curzon said. "We just understand that we don't have to be the best spinners out there to get high marks. You just have to be together, and if that means slowing down, you slow down."

In no way is slowing down on the agenda for Jessica Rose Paetsch and Jon Nuss (Broadmoor SC). Their 52.13-point short program is close enough to give the leaders something to worry about. With no more than doubles throughout their short program, the pair has yet to bring out their bag of tricks.

"Our triple throw just hasn't gotten strong enough yet, so we couldn't put it in," Paetscsh said. "This is our first year doing double Axels, so we just wanted to focus on getting the double Axel going."

Instead, they played it safe, earning a level-three on their double Lutz twist, which featured a footwork entrance, a split by Paetsch and Nuss' catch at the hips. Next was a clean double toe loop, a double Axel and a Group 5 lift well worthy of level-five. Their side-by-side combo spin got off when Nuss lost his position, giving them only a level-two. But their final three elements were all level-threes and enough for second place.

"Our experience at the Junior Grand Prix helped us work harder for here," said Paestch.

The couple will be eligible for the Grand Prix series next year, which they said they hope to attend.

The crowd went wild for third-place pair Tracy Tanovich and Michael Chau (Southwest Florida FSC). They finished strong in their Harry Potter short program with superior side-by-side combo spins and a Group 5 lift, which earned a level-four.

"We were pretty pleased," said Chau, a Minnesota-native. "It was probably one of the best short performances we've done all year. There were a few little hiccups here and there, but we covered them over pretty well. It was really nice to have the crowd behind us, so I am pretty happy with it."

It's the pair's first year at the junior level, but they are not unfamiliar with the top of the leaderboard. Last year, they took home gold in novice pairs at this event.

"It's nice, because we kind of have no pressure [since] we won last year," Chau said. "That's a big deal, but it's a new slate at the junior level. I think we are ready with the long. It's a program we are pretty comfortable with, and I think we are ready to go."

With that attitude, Tanovich and Chau could easily add another medal to their collection. Their 50.83-point short program puts them more than three-and-a-half points ahead of the rest of the field.

In fourth are Lisa Moore and Justin Gaumond (ISC of Fort Collins/All Year FSC) after their "Nights in White Satin" short program that brought in 47.14 points.

This year's junior pairs national champions will be determined after Friday's free skate competition.