The competition got serious at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships
Wednesday night with U.S. senior-level couples vying for a chance to enter Skate America
which will take place in Everett, Wash., Oct. 23-26.
The third U.S. and first reserve spots for the prestigious international event will be decided here on the best results of the Americans in this grueling and unique contest.
Instead of just the usual one compulsory, competitors did two on Wednesday night and will repeat one -- the Viennese Waltz -- on Saturday. In a reverse scheduling to the norm, they will execute their free dance Thursday night and their original dance on Friday.
In the lead at this early stage are Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles
. They finished sixth at the 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships
"We were pleased with our Paso [Doble]," said Gilles. "I think it was the best Paso we've ever done. Since the steps are the same for everyone, we have to make our dance unique. We do that by stressing the performance aspect. We've been working on that for weeks.
"We define a character. When I'm doing this dance, I'm a famous toreador and Jane is my cape. The adrenalin really kicked in so much; the music seemed slower than normal. We like the Paso best. It's more fun to do than the Viennese."
The Viennese Waltz has many more steps than the fast-paced Paso Doble and takes much longer to perform.
After the Paso, they trailed the leaders, Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier
, who were fourth in the 2008 Canadian Championships
These two teams were the last two couples to skate the Viennese Waltz. The Americans pulled ahead and go into Thursday's free dance with a significant lead of 1.92.
Climbing from fifth after the Paso Doble to third with a third ranking in the Viennese Waltz were Charlotte Maxwell and Nick Traxler.
They sit only 0.11 points ahead of Canadians Andrea Chong and Guillaume Gfeller, who dropped from third after the Paso Doble to fourth with a Viennese Waltz which was rated only seventh best.
Another Canadian couple, Mylene Lamoureux and Michael Mee, who were fourth in both compulsories, are fifth.
Lynn Kriengkrairut and Logan Giulietti-Schmitt
are sixth of 12 couples, less than half a point (0.48) ahead of Clair Farrell and Chase Fishpaw.
Former U.S. silver medalists Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov
who were both injured last year when a lift went awry at Skate Canada, were expected to compete but did not enter. When asked recently if they intended to compete again -- Gregory remained vague -- saying they had not had enough training.
Jennifer Wester and Daniil Barantsev
withdrew from the competition.
NOVICE FREE DANCE
Earlier Wednesday the novice couples executed their free dances. The 33 entries were divided into two groups.
Moriah Tabon and Matt Kieffman, pupils of Patti Gottwein, gave a mature showing to win 'A' group with 54.64 points with a fiery performance to "Black Eyes," 4.73 ahead of Lauri Bonacorsi and Travis Mager, who were second.
Only 0.87 behind them in third were the fast improving Joylyn Yang and Jean-Luc Baker, 14, who are the 2008 intermediate and 2007 juvenile champions.
Despite a fall on their twizzles, Anastasia Olson and Jordan Cowan won the 'B' group performing to a Latin-flavored vocal by Santana. They scored 48.36 points, 1.32 more than runners-up Gabrielle Friedenberg and Benjamin Nykiel.
Susan Enright slashed the fourth finger of her right hand while holding her blade during twizzles in the warm-up but bravely continued and, with her partner Michael Bramante, won the bronze medal. Afterwards, she was taken to the hospital to see if stitches were needed.