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Haydenettes take commanding lead

16-time US champions poised to win again

The Haydenettes have a commanding lead after the short program.
The Haydenettes have a commanding lead after the short program. (Paul Harvath)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(02/21/2008) - The Haydenettes took a commanding lead on the rest of the senior teams after their stellar short program on Thursday night at the 2008 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships.

The 16-time U.S. champions scored 76.94 points for their Mr. and Mrs. Smith program, putting them ahead of Miami University (70.34), California Gold (67.93) and the Crystallettes (67.88).

"Our goal is perfection, but we're happy with excellence, and there was wonderful excellence tonight," said Ron Kravette, one of the Haydenettes' coaches.

While the up-tempo music pounded through the arena, every member of the team played the role of Angelina Jolie's femme fatale character perfectly.

"We've been working on facial expressions and presentation," head coach Saga Krantz said. "We've done so many run-throughs. Under my coaching career, the Haydenettes have never worked so hard."

The Haydenettes' no-hold step sequence earned a Level 4, and their moves-in-the-field sequence included all Level 3 free-skating moves. Their total Grade of Execution earned them 10 points over the base value.

While the Haydenettes have put themselves in excellent position to capture title No. 17, the success of their season hinges on their (likely) performance next month in Budapest, Hungary, the site of this year's World Synchronized Skating Championships.

"We're close, but we're still not there -- and being close is not good enough," Krantz said. "We want to be there someday. Hopefully, that day will be this year.

Miami head coach Vicki Korn described her team's performance as "electrifying," and the judges concurred. The piece of music Miami skated to is Eartha Kitt's "My Discarded Men," a sultry, brassy number that, Korn said, "makes you want to get down on your knees." It's a song you can picture being played the first time a Bond girl walks across the screen.

"We actually used [the music] for tryouts and didn't tell anybody that that was the music," Korn said. "Once they found out, they were excited."

Dressed in varying shades of pink, the RedHawks displayed good speed, outward emotion and their trademark unison en route to their second-place standing. They earned Level 4 scores on both step sequences -- their block and their no-hold step sequence. Their only glaring mistake was on their first point of intersection, the level of which was downgraded from four to two.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the performance of California Gold to Natalie Cole's jazzy "Orange Colored Sky." The team is in just its third season on the senior level, coming in seventh two years ago at the U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships and fourth last season.

But even head coach Jillian Janik Cipresso didn't see this type of performance coming.

"Each year we've made improvements and climbed up the ladder," Cipresso said. "These skaters have trained themselves into elite skaters. We believe in what we can accomplish, and it's showing."

They received some outside assistance this season from former NHL player Daryl Evans, who works at the same rink at which they train. Evans has coached the team in the areas of power, strength and mental training.

"We have a secret weapon this year," Cipresso said wryly.

The Crystallettes skated their program, set to Martina McBride's inspiring "Anyway," cleanly except for a fall just before their no-hold step sequence. Still, their score of 67.88 was just 0.16 points off the short program mark they achieved last month at the Prague Cup, where they took the bronze.

"They recovered nicely," head coach Shannon Peterson said. "If you came in before or after that and didn't see that section, you wouldn't know there'd been a mistake."