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Baga takes novice ladies gold medal

Marley grabs silver; Wang places third; Jiang finishes fourth

Angela Wang placed third in the novice ladies event at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Championships.
Angela Wang placed third in the novice ladies event at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Championships. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(01/20/2009) - Kiri Baga's coach, Lori Charbonneau, does not stand along the boards while her skater performs, instead choosing to stand well back from the ice and out of sight of her protégé.

"I don't want her to look at me; I want her to do her own thing," Charbonneau said.

Baga did her thing just fine, finishing second in Tuesday's free skate en route to winning the novice ladies title at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Mary Beth Marley (DuPage FSC) placed third in the free skate and held on to second place overall, while Angela Wang (Salt Lake FS) pulled up from fifth to claim the bronze on the strength of her first-place free skate.

"(Being the U.S. champion) is so amazing to think about," Baga said. "Last year if I'd heard that, I would have been like, 'Yeah, right.'"

Baga's Chaplin free skate did not start promising, as she popped her opening double Axel. She regrouped and landed every one of her remaining jumps cleanly, including a triple toe-double toe combination, triple Salchow, triple Salchow-double toe and triple toe-double toe-double loop. She also showed good flexibility on her spins.

Baga said, "(Missing my first jump) really spooked me. I thought, 'Man, I've got to focus.' I kept going after that, and it worked out really well."

This is the second year Baga, who represents the Figure Skating Club of Bloomington in Minnesota, has used this program, which allows her to show her lighthearted, playful side.

"It's fun to perform and smile," she said.

Except for a fall out on the landing of her triple Salchow, Marley's "Leyenda" free skate was free of errors. The aspect of her skating that stood out the most was the speed she exhibited throughout.

"I go pretty fast in the program," Marley said. "One of my challenges this year is to stay under control."

She opened with a double Axel, followed it with a triple Salchow, and later added a triple toe.

"It's really rewarding because I worked really hard to get my triples and compete against girls who have had triples longer," Marley said.

Wang's showing mimicked that of her performance at the 2008 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships, where she came in eighth in the short program and fifth in the free skate to place fourth overall. Here, though, she leapt onto the podium with the day's best free skate.

"I usually use the short as to learn from and the long to improve on it," Wang said. Then, in a moment of clarity, she added, "I think I need to change that and do well in the short and the long."

Skating to Dvorak's powerful "New World Concerto," Wang landed three triples -- two in combination -- including a triple Salchow-double toe-double loop that netted her 8.46 points, the most of any element in the segment. Her litheness was evident in her tight, fast spins.

"I was pretty disappointed after the short," Wang said. "I told myself, 'It's going to be the last program you do all season, so make it good.'"

Nina Jiang (Texas Gulf Coast FSC), last year's U.S. intermediate champion, dropped from third to fourth after placing fourth in the free skate.