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Wingle, McKernan prep for new season together

Duo heads to Czech Republic for first JGP assignment

Shannon Wingle and Tim McKernan are ready for the JGP Czech Republic after practicing for just about two and a half months.
Shannon Wingle and Tim McKernan are ready for the JGP Czech Republic after practicing for just about two and a half months. (courtesy of Shannon Wingle)

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By Todd Hinckley
(09/17/2008) - At the 2006 State Farm U.S. Championships, Shannon Wingle was competing in her first national championship with partner Ryan Devereaux. Timothy McKernan was also in St. Louis, skating in the novice ice dancing event with his partner, Piper Gilles. Wingle and McKernan met then as competitors, but a lot has changed in two and a half years.

After their previous partnerships ended following the 2007-08 season, Wingle and McKernan decided to try skating together at the end of June. The chemistry was evident right off the bat.

"When we skated together for the first time, we knew we were right for one another, so we then set our sights on receiving JGP assignments," McKernan said. "In order to get these, we had to compete an [original dance, free dance] and compulsories [at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships], which was only four weeks away. We started choreography the next day and never looked back."

Wingle, 18, Devereaux and their coaches made the tough decision at the beginning of the summer to end their relationship. The two friends had differing body styles and knew the clock was ticking on their career together. The 2008 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, where they finished fifth in the junior ice dance division, proved to be their last event together.

McKernan, 19, skated with Gilles for five years. Their peak came this past January, when they earned the junior ice dancing silver medal at nationals. They were also the 2005 U.S. intermediate ice dancing champions.

Now, McKernan and Wingle hope to win new medals. Their first chance will be at the JGP Czech Republic.

In getting acclimated to his new teammate, McKernan said that there was one thing he had to focus on most: "The main thing for me would have to be getting used to Shannon's timing. Timing is one thing that only gets better with [practice]."

Also, both skaters had to get their skating styles in sync. This was no small issue as they both ended their previous partnerships because of, in part, differing skating styles.

The new team has not been without its own setbacks. After winning their group's compulsories event at Lake Placid, they received their JGP placement, but practice has been slowed recently by some medical issues. Wingle returned to the ice with only a week's worth of preparation till the team was to compete in Ostrava.

Nevertheless, McKernan is not apprehensive about their performance. "There will always be nerves," he said, "especially under our circumstances, but you must be confident in your ability to skate the best that you possibly can and leave the adversity behind."

The duo is excited about its new programs. "Our original dance is skated to the tunes of the Foxtrot and Charleston with music from the Chicago soundtrack," McKernan explained. "Igor Shpilband choreographed [it]. Our free dance has a slightly different feeling. It is skated to pieces from Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo and Psycho. Tom Dickson choreographed [it]."

Ironically, McKernan will see a familiar face in the Czech Republic -- Gilles, who will be there competing in her first Junior Grand Prix with her new partner, Zach Donohue.

McKernan quickly dismissed this as an issue, saying, "After skating with Piper for five years, it will certainly be a strange feeling to be competing against her. However, I wish her the best of luck with her skating, not only because she is a fellow American, but because without her, I wouldn't be half the skater I am today. And for that, I thank her."