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Denney and Barrett give it another try

Rising Florida pair's technical prowess yields good results

Jeremy Barrett and Caydee Denney, with their coach Jim Peterson, who was just named Developmental Coach of the Year at the PSA Conference.
Jeremy Barrett and Caydee Denney, with their coach Jim Peterson, who was just named Developmental Coach of the Year at the PSA Conference. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(11/22/2008) - Some things are better the second time around. Just ask Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett, who won the 2009 Eastern Sectionals senior pairs title in Boston last weekend, earning their first trip to the U.S. Championships as a team.

The Florida-based duo skated together for four months in 2006. After they competed that summer at the Liberty Open and Indy Pairs Challenge, Denney's singles' career beckoned, and she and her mother moved to Colorado Springs so Caydee could train under Tom Zakrajsek and Becky Calvin. But while she enjoyed her on-ice experience, the move didn't work out as well off the ice.

"My dad was still in Florida, and we were in Colorado," the 15-year-old said. "Being away from my dad and everything, we just figured it wasn't the best thing for the family. Florida is our home. Plus, I really wanted to do singles and pairs."

So Denney embarked on a series of tryouts, hoping to find the right fit closer to home. Meanwhile, her mother remembered the steady Barrett and wondered if he was still available.

"I got the call from Caydee's mom, and I said Jeremy is still skating, and they just re-teamed right away," Jim Peterson, the couple's primary coach, said.

"Caydee and Jeremy were just built to skate together. Their bodies match, their lines match, the timing on the jumps match. Caydee learned a lot in Colorado -- it's a great school there -- but I think separating the family was challenging, and I think she wanted to skate pairs."

For Denney, who continues her singles career, returning to Florida may have been the biggest move she's made since giving up roller skating after winning the juvenile national title at age 9 to take to the ice full-time.

"I had an opportunity to skate pairs with Jeremy, and I'm just very glad I made that decision," she said.

The 24-year-old Barrett showed his own brand of special dedication. In 2004, he won the U.S. junior pair title with Shantel Jordan, but the team wasn't able to compete at the world junior championships or other international events, because Jordan was too young. In 2006, they split up. Then came the four months with Denney, and Barrett was partner-less again.

In the interim, he worked around the clock at Ellenton's Ice and Sports Complex rink to support his skating.

"I coach; I drive the Zamboni, I run the snack bar. I'm a personal trainer, so I work up at the gym -- I have about four or five jobs I do," he said. "Anything so I can skate."

"Our arena is great, there are always jobs available for the skaters if they need them," Peterson added.

After re-teaming in June, the two again competed at the Liberty Open and 2008 Indy Pairs Challenge. Their solid throw triples, strong lifts and consistent side-by-side jumps impressed U.S. Skating officials, and they won a coveted assignment to Germany's Nebelhorn Trophy in late September, where they placed fourth overall and third in the free skate.

"It was our first international, and we got to skate with the world champions [Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy], the Ukrainian team [Tatiana Volosozhar and Stanislav Morozov] and the Russians [Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov]," Barrett said.

"It was very good field, and we were just happy to be there. For our first time out, it was a great experience. We actually beat the Ukrainians in the long program."

"Oh my God, it was so much fun," Denney added. "Being on the same ice as those teams, I was extremely motivated and very excited. It was like, 'Hey look at me; I can do this too.'"

According to Peterson, who coaches the team with Alison Smith and Lyndon Johnson, their strong performances at Nebelhorn were an eye-opener that may serve them well at the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January.

"Germany really had a Grand Prix-level field," he said. "They went out and skated second in the first group in the short program, skated clean and found themselves in the final warm-up. It gave them a perspective that their options are a lot more open than they perhaps thought.

"I feel looking at what's happening, it's anybody's game. Certainly a fresh team like this that really attacks the elements and truly has a very strong athletic perspective about their skating is going to be well received."

At home in Ellenton, Denney and Barrett share the ice not only with Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig, who recently placed fourth at Cup of China, but other pairs from the intermediate through novice level.

"We all skate on same ice," Barrett said. "We really push each other to do run-throughs every day. Normally we do our programs back-to-back with Amanda and Mark and kind of use each day as a competition. It definitely helps."

At sectionals, Denney and Barrett gained a Level 3 on their triple twist, one of their last technical goals for the season. Now, the focus is on improving their program components score, especially their skating skills.

"That's where we can improve a little bit more, our lines and speed," Barrett said. "That's what we're going to be working on the next two months, before nationals. Once we get to Cleveland, our goal is to skate two solid programs, and whatever happens after that with the results happens."

Next season, they have another goal: adding a throw quad Salchow or Lutz to their repertoire. When told its bad luck to talk about quads before they're ready, Peterson just laughed.

"We'll stop talking about it then, and next season we'll show it to you," he said.