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Prescott wins U.S. juvenile girls gold medal

Californian joined on podium by McGill, Pfund and Shpilband

Silver medalist Ainsley McGill gathers herself by the boards before starting her program.
Silver medalist Ainsley McGill gathers herself by the boards before starting her program. (Kathleen Hurley)

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By Becca Staed, special to icenetwork.com
(12/12/2008) - Juvenile girls competitor Gwendolyn Prescott was without primary coach Lynn Smith for the 2009 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships, her first junior nationals, but she was still in good hands.

"Gwendolyn is very talented," said stand-in coach Todd Sand, who worked with Prescott over the summer. "She has really worked hard this past year. Getting with Lynn has really helped her because now she has got a beautiful double Axel."

Smith was unable to join her pupil in Lake Placid, N.Y., this week due to family reasons, but that didn't break Prescott's focus. The 11-year-old from Fremont, Calif., earned 55.01 points for her free skate, good enough for the juvenile girls gold medal.

"I was shocked when I found out she couldn't be here, but then I knew I had to do my best for her," she said.

Prescott displayed unmitigated resolve, landing nine clean double jumps and opening with a Level 4 flying camel spin. She earned the highest Grades of Execution (GOE) for her double Axels, one in combination, which she said is her favorite jump.

Tears flowed freely after silver medalist Ainsley McGill finished her free skate program to music from Narnia and "Lord of the Dance," and most of them were from her "Aunta" Lisa McGill, who was celebrating her 50th birthday.

"When she came off the ice, she said, 'Happy Birthday, Aunta,'" said a teary-eyed Lisa McGill.

McGill, who comes from a very athletic family of swimmers, hockey players and recreational figure skaters, first stepped on her ice when she was just 20 months old.

She landed nine clean double jumps but said that her favorite element is the "powerful" footwork in her program. She also earned Level 4s for flying sit and combo spins and received a 53.26 free skate score.

"I felt like I could do it," said McGill, who is coached by Elena and Vladimir Petrenko. "Maybe I was nervous before my double Axel, but I knew I could do it, so I just told myself to breathe."

Taking third with a competition mark of 51.46 was 10-year-old Jessica Pfund of Colorado Springs, Colo.

"I was nervous before I skated, but I always get a little nervous before I skate," said Pfund. "My coach [Becky Calvin] just told me to have command of the ice from the first note to the last note of the music and to trust my training."

Pfund nailed nine double jumps, with just slight difficulty on her double Lutz-double loop-single loop combination. She was unable to gain many points in her GOEs, but, according to Calvin, is always very consistent in her skating.

"Jessica skates clean programs almost every day," Calvin said. "Since she's been here, she's been skating clean programs. She works very hard, so I felt really strong for her going into this."

Pfund said that losing the 6,035-foot altitude of Colorado Springs was an added bonus to helping her get through her free skate.

Katia Shpilband came in fourth place with 51.25. She ran into some difficulty on her jumps.

"I wasn't expecting to do such a good double Axel in the beginning, but it was supposed to be a double Axel-double toe, and I forgot the double toe," she said. "And on my second double Axel, I touched down, so I wasn't too happy about that."

But the rest of her program was solid, including her three spins, which earned Level 4s and a Level 3.