The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew

Catching up after a fruitful visit to Colorado

Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker gossip while stretching.
Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker gossip while stretching. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(09/19/2008) - It's time for another edition of The Inside Edge with our behind-the-scenes reporters Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins.

Coffee Talk
Things are on the lively side at the Colonial FSC at the moment with the qualifying season looming. The club is one of the biggest in the country, and they're going to send between forty and fifty skaters to the 2009 New England Regional Championships.

Last week, Marissa Castelli bounced by, sparkling and excited about heading to the JGP event in Ostrava with her partner Simon Shnapir. Simon, usually very relaxed and friendly, was looking intense and focused, which is, we think, a good sign.

Celebri-coaches Christine "Tuffy" Hough and Paul Wylie were on the ice giving back to the sport with their superstar powers. Tuffy was working with a new novice pair, who only teamed up in July and are looking forward to performing for the first time at "An Evening with Champions" at Harvard University in October. (By the way, Jessica and Drew will be performing in the show too).

Paul was in Massachusetts for a week's vacation with his wife and three kids ("That's it! We're done!"), and he dropped by to offer his wisdom.

"I just called and told them I was in the area," said Paul. "I felt like I should work one day this week!" We sat down on the bleachers in Rink One to catch up.

"This place hasn't changed a bit," said Paul, who represented the club as an eligible skater. He used to practice there when he was competing in pairs.

"I like coming in and meeting new people," he said, "And I feel like I can do something in 45 minutes or an hour. It's different than having a regular student that you're working a trajectory with. I won't delve into somebody's Axel, trying to get them to skid their takeoff or whatever! Well maybe I will... I try not to mess anybody up though."

However, Paul wondered if the younger students had any idea who he was.

"I think their parents tell them that I was in the Olympics, way before they were born," said Paul. "They weren't even born during Salt Lake City!"

Either way, Paul is still one of the most elegant and stylish skaters on and off the ice. He worked tirelessly all day, energetic but relaxed. At the end of the day, his only complaint was the lack of any coffee, or food, in the rink. A note to his future students: Get the Olympic medalist some freakin' coffee!

Tennis, Anyone?
Since figure skating is still in pre-season mode, we've been filling the void with grand slam tennis, and we have been glued to the U.S. Open this month. Although we love Wimbledon best, for the pretty green grass and elegant tennis whites, we do appreciate the rowdy New York crowd.

Scott Smith is equally addicted to tennis-watching, and he actually plays quite well! Since he lives in Salt Lake City now, we couldn't watch together, but we shared our thoughts about the exciting matches online, IMing with each other.

Scott was just back from the 2008 Golden West Championships, where he placed second in the free skate and third overall, the highest finish by a U.S. man. We heard that his triple Axels were to die for, and he admitted that they weren't half bad at all.

When the Captain's away, the pair skaters play...
Coach Dalilah Sappenfield, aka "Captain Blood," was away in Mexico City last weekend with some of her students who were competing in the Junior Grand Prix event there event there. Sarah, making her first trip to the Springs, was sorry not to see her in action.

The party was also slightly dampened by one of Drew's less graceful moments, which left him with a tremendous black eye. Jessica Rose made the best of the situation, commenting that the purple color brought out the color of his eyes. "It really makes them pop!" Eventually, the bruise made him feel like a tough guy, once he returned from the emergency room.

We went out to dinner that night and then moved on to the Melting Pot for chocolate fondue, the perfect treatment for bruises of all kinds.

Despite the injury, Drew was on the ice with all the pairs on Saturday morning, for what they call "Disco Saturdays." The skaters warmed up with a variety of complicated crunches, involving some very interesting positions, before skating away to a variety of disco hits.

Rockne Brubaker and John Coughlin are both sporting beards at the moment, although we've heard they'll be gone by their international competitions. Beards are quite unusual in international competition. Some kinds, anyway. As usual, when the Captain is away, the pair skaters play. Some of the boys plotted to throw Jessica Rose over the wall next to the rink in an effort to show off all their macho manliness. So far, their dream remains just that. However, John threw Stephen Elefante into a huge double Axel. Send them to a Senior B!

Battle Gear
As the pair skaters practiced on one rink last Saturday, Brandon Mroz was running his short program, in costume, on the other. This is a weekly ritual for students of Tom Zakrajsek, so they become accustomed to the feel of their program in full battle gear. In Brandon's case, battle gear with a chiffon ruffle running down the leg.

"We're getting a new costume, actually," he said. "But my long program outfit has ruffles everywhere, down the leg, and a cape!" Brandon, 17, is getting ready for his first senior season, which starts with Skate Canada.

"I've been in the Junior Grand Prix for two seasons and kind of got the experience under my belt, so I'm looking forward to stepping it up a notch and being in the Senior Grand Prix. I know Vancouver is not that far away, so I want to get some experience and get ready for the Olympic year."

He will be competing as a senior at nationals this year. Everybody better watch out, huh?

"I know, right? Hopefully I'll pack a punch."

Brandon is working on quads, of course, and he says the quad toe is good and getting consistent, and he's working on quad Salchow too. He hopes to have at least one quad in his program at Skate Canada.

Choose your utensil
After skating, we adjourned to a funky little café for lunch. We met up with coach and aspiring choreographer Kate McSwain. Kate is doing a thesis project that involves surveying everyone she knows (and doesn't) with this question: "If you were a kitchen utensil, which one would you be?"


Some highlights include John as an Easy-Bake-Oven, Caitlin Yankowskas as a microwave, Drew as a whisk, and Jeremy Abbott as a spork.

Jeremy's mom, Allison Scott, was watching on Saturday, with a big bandage on her face. Obviously, we had to ask.

"I had surgery for cancer on Monday," she said. "I actually had a melanoma on my cheek. This is the second skin cancer I've had; I had a carcinoma on my nose twelve years ago."

The surgery is done in layers to minimize the scarring. Allison has thirty stitches on her nose and chin on the outer layer of skin, and another thirty on the inside. Allison and Jeremy are going to be taking up the cause of warning skaters about skin cancer.

"Skaters think they are immune to it because they spend all their time in the rink. But I worry about some of the skaters who go to tanning salons or lie out in the sun before a competition, because this is not a joke!"

Suncreen, everybody. Seriously.

Out and about
On Sunday, John at the wheel and Stephanie Kuban riding shotgun, we finally found a good place for brunch. John warned us at great length that he was going to eat more food than imaginable, and he kept his word. He ordered a burrito with, basically, everything on the menu in it, and a full order of French toast as well. John's a big guy. We headed out to the Garden of the Gods after brunch, to check out the red rock formations. We convinced Jeremy to play "America's Next Top Model" with us, and he was quite adventurous, climbing up rock faces and into crevices, all while managing to look "fierce!"

We also stopped by the Olympic Training Center to soak up some Olympic spirit. It was poignant to see Diana Golden's photo in the Hall of Fame, as she was a friend of ours for many years before she died of cancer. Diana was a 10-time world champion and 1988 Olympic champion in skiing, despite having lost a leg at the age of 12. She'll always be an inspiration. Since the Paralympics were ongoing while we were there, the torch, only lit during Olympic competitions, was flickering palely overhead, providing further inspiration to all.

True Olympic greatness
Back to practice on Monday morning, where the presence of the legendary Christopher Dean on the ice was a slight distraction to the spectator. He was working with senior dance team Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles., and can we just say he's still got it. We could watch him all day. It was a great weekend! Pikes Peak was dusted with the first snow of the season, as you see in the photo gallery. Summer is over -- bring on the season!!

Sarah and Drew
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