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Collegiates open with senior ladies qualifying

Czisny impresses the crowd and the field with her free skate

Lindsey Wilson, Janey Jackson and Kimmi Jeffers -- friends and competitors for 10 years -- reunite at the 2008 U.S. Collegiate Championships.
Lindsey Wilson, Janey Jackson and Kimmi Jeffers -- friends and competitors for 10 years -- reunite at the 2008 U.S. Collegiate Championships. (Kelly Hodge)

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By Kelly Hodge, special to icenetwork.com
(08/08/2008) - Skaters from 42 different colleges and universities around the country have come together in Arvada, Colo., to compete in the 2008 U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating Championships, which started on Thursday with the senior ladies qualifying round.

While the competition is tough at this event, it is the love of skating that has brought these athletes to this event. The majority of the participants here have been in the sport for more than a decade. And, for some, it is a chance to renew friendships that have endured that long.

Janey Jackson, Kimmi Jeffers and Lindsey Wilson grew up competing together, starting 10 years ago as juvenile girls at the Northwest Pacific Regionals. Though they now attend different schools -- Montana State University, the University of Utah and the University of Colorado, respectively -- they have remained friends through skating.

"I did this competition to renew my love of skating and to make competing fun again," said Jeffers, who finished fourth in group B. "It is great to compete in an atmosphere where everyone is so nice and supportive. This is my first collegiates, and so far it has been a great experience."

Wilson, a junior psychology major who won group B, echoed Jeffers' sentiments, "It is a different type of competition, but everyone has perspective and knows how hard it is to balance school and skating. The only reason we are still here is because we love skating. You have to. You couldn't do this if you didn't."

While all of the athletes seem to agree that skating has been a wonderful addition to their college experience, the competitive aspect of the event has provided some stiff competition.

Alissa Czisny, the 2007 U.S. bronze medalist, mesmerized both the audience and the officials with her lyrical free skate early in the day, easily capturing the lead in group A. Czisny collected 97.44 points for her program, which opened right away with a triple Lutz-double toe combination. She went on to successfully complete a few more triple jumps, but fell on her second attempt at a triple Lutz.

"I feel like I did a pretty good program, and my goal is to stay focused and improve throughout the week," said Czisny, who is beginning her senior year at Bowling Green State University. "This competition is important to me because I need more practice getting my programs out there and competing, so it was a good opportunity."

Amy Nunn, from the Metropolitan State College of Denver, took second place in group A with 73.07 points, the second-highest score of any lady on Thursday. Jackson took third after a 60.66-point performance.

In group B, Wilson earned 63.46 points for her program to "Puttin' on the Ritz," highlighted by a nicely executed double Axel-double toe combination. In second place was Shanda DeWitt from Grand Valley State University. DeWitt's total segment score was 60.84, thanks to two successfully landed double Axels. She was also rewarded with Level 3s on her spiral step sequence and combination spin. The University of Illinois' Lauren Roman, who was fourth in this championship last year, finished just a hair behind, with 60.53 points.

Abigail Legg, a freshman at Indiana University studying broadcast journalism, took the lead in group C. Skating to the motion picture soundtrack Requiem for a Dream, she earned 71.42 points, just edging out the University of Utah's Kristina Struthwolf, who earned 70.87.

"My program felt really good," said Legg. "It was comfortable to be out there today. This is a really supportive atmosphere, and it helped me."

Erin Reed, also of the University of Utah, finished in third with 65.40 points.