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Kendall Wyckoff: Just add ice

The author has fun at the U.S. Junior Championships

Luke West (left) and Ethan Amaral (right) are having a great time competing at home.
Luke West (left) and Ethan Amaral (right) are having a great time competing at home. (Kendall Wyckoff)

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By Kendall Wyckoff, special to icenetwork.com
(12/12/2008) - At noon on Wednesday, five intermediate men took the ice, and this year's U.S. Junior Championships were underway. I'm Kendall Wyckoff, and I'm a national junior ladies competitor (she will compete at the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland in January).

I had the pleasure of attending junior nationals myself once, and I know from experience that it can be the beginning of friendships with people from around the nation. I am extremely excited that junior nationals is held in my stomping grounds, Lake Placid, N.Y., this year. I'm also thrilled to reunite with old friends and coaches, whom I have formed relationships with over the years. It's also a real treat to get a sneak peek at the next generation of legendary coaches, which include Jason Wong and Matt Lind.

Outside, the sky was gray with falling snowflakes, and skaters were pushing PT Cruisers without snow tires up slight inclines (I actually witnessed this). Inside, competition was in the air, even amongst the enthusiastic ice sweepers, who entertained viewers and raced to the stuffed bears and elephants.

The fun continued as the competitors skated one after another, stepping off the ice with either ecstasy or disappointment written on their faces. Those who skated well and made the top ten in their group will compete in the final rounds, starting Friday.

Among those hitting the ice in the qualifying rounds were two locals -- Ethan Amaral, an intermediate man who came in 4th in his qualifier, and Luke West, a juvenile boy who finished 10th in his. Both Amaral and West train here in Lake Placid with former Italian Olympian, Gilberto Viadana, and his wife, Michela Boschetto.

I would like to take a pause here to give out some special recognition for Wednesday's and Thursday's competitions. First, I would like to give the Coolest Spin Award to Molly Crawford, an intermediate lady with the body of a contortionist. The Best Sportsmanship Award goes to Miles Addison, who high-fived his opponents and cheered on the competition. He placed fifth in his group of intermediate men's qualifying group. The Best Overall Presence Award goes out to Cale Ambroz, who was a lot of fun to watch in finishing second in his intermediate men's group. Emmanuel Savary, who beat Ambroz in intermediate men's group A, receives the Widest Range of Consistent Triples Award. Last but not least, there's a three-way tie in the big, flowy jumps category -- Courtney Hicks, Jordan King and Shotaro Omori.

There are smiles and laughter everywhere as everyone seems to be enjoying themselves in this scenic tourist town. Michelle Parece, an intermediate ladies skater, exclaimed that she was having fun in Lake Placid and was looking forward to a long-awaited game of Laser Tag.

Upon hearing that from his pupil, coach Matt Lind playfully responded, "She's been waiting all week for a chance to shoot me and get even with her coaches."

Overall, the qualifying stage of junior nationals has been fun and exciting for everyone!