The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew

It's all about sectionals this week!

Co-author Drew Meekins did get in some skating in Boston. He and partner Jessica Rose Paetsch qualified for nationals in senior pairs.
Co-author Drew Meekins did get in some skating in Boston. He and partner Jessica Rose Paetsch qualified for nationals in senior pairs. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(11/17/2008) - For U.S. skaters, last week was very important as competitors from the juvenile-through-senior levels were vying for spots to the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships or the 2009 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships. We asked our friends for news from the 2009 Midwestern Sectional Championships and the 2009 Pacific Coast Sectional Championships, but they did not send us back much -- just one silly story about a pair skater being thrown into a pool by her training mates.

The East

As for us, we were back in Boston for the 2009 Eastern Sectional Championships, hosted by the venerable, and small, Skating Club of Boston. To make room for the event, the club set up a big tent in the parking lot. Being November, rain was present, and the combination of the white tent and wet floor made us think of walking down the aisle more than skating a long program.

Inside, plenty of our friends were competing, as was co-author Drew Meekins. Since his coach was at Mids this weekend, Christine "Tuffy" Hough put him and Jessica Rose Paetsch on the ice. Jess said Tuffy was just like her (little, blonde, cute, perky), and we have to agree.

On Thursday, we watched Tuffy coach a new team, Olivia Gibbons and Tyler Harris, to victory in the novice pairs event. Novice pairs is really the first time some of the harder lifts and twists come in to play on the ice, and for a developing team, this can be tricky -- even scary. One coach persisted in calling it the "nervous" pairs. They're certainly young!

Things started rolling very, very early on Friday morning. Ross Miner got up at 4:30 to be ready for his 9 a.m. competition. We sat with him as he put his skates on -- Ross is always pretty relaxed -- and he showed us his pink and lime green skate-guards.

"I had to borrow Brittney [Rizo]'s guards 'cause I was an airhead and forgot mine this morning," he said. "I think the color suits me."

Ross nailed his hilarious, cowboy-themed short program and won the junior men's event. He also won the "Did Not Wear Black" Award for the men. Tommy Steenberg gave him a little competition in the senior men's short program, wearing a brown-green-sparkle "Dralion" costume, but he caved in to the dark side in the free.

Later, we tried to do an impromptu photo shoot with the very handsome Mark Mitchell, the famous coach at the SC of Boston, but he felt insufficiently attired and declined.

"I've been here since six this morning!" he protested. "I'm still wearing my pajamas!" Hmm, we didn't know Prada made PJ's.

Priscilla Hill, who was pretty in pink with a fur-trimmed magenta coat and highlights in her hair to match, had a big stable of students at the event. Shaun Rogers moved from his longtime residence at the University of Delaware rink to work with Priscilla just three weeks ago. It seems to be working out well, as he nailed a beautiful quad and won the senior men's free skate.

The senior men's event had all the drama on Saturday. Robbie Crowley almost exploded with joy after nailing every jump in a clean program.

Jason Wong was the highlight of the weekend though. He had quit skating a couple of years ago and only returned to the ice for rehab after surgery on his knee. But as he watched skating on TV, he reconsidered his retirement and started the long process back.

Jason trains with Suna Murray at the Skating Club of Boston, and the cheers were absolutely deafening as he landed jump after beautiful jump and qualified for nationals with the bronze medal.

The tent was schmooze central all day on Saturday. We hung out with Morgan Matthews and Leif Gislason for a while, who were stunning on their way to victory in the senior dance event.

"For some reason, at every competition, there always seems to be a fire alarm while I'm in the shower," said Leif. "And yesterday, there was a fire alarm, and yep, I was in the shower!"

Also spotted at the event were: a very blonde Elaine Zayak, whose student Joelle Forte won the senior ladies event; Ann Patrice McDonough, also blonde, also coaching; Jonathon Hunt; Stephen Carriere; and Tenley Albright, who stopped in to watch the senior singles events.

On to nationals! And early Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Sarah and Drew