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Day Two with Sarah and Drew

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Junior ice dancers Dean Copely (left), Greg Zuerlein (center) and Tim McKernan (right) goof around.
Junior ice dancers Dean Copely (left), Greg Zuerlein (center) and Tim McKernan (right) goof around. (Sarah S. Brannen)

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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to icenetwork.com
(01/20/2009) - Many of the monitors backstage at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships were tuned to the inauguration of President Obama on Tuesday, as our thoughts turned from the figure skating bubble we're living in to the world outside. Novice skater John McKenna had just finished his free skate as the new President took the oath of office.

The novice men's champion, Joshua Farris, had to stop watching the inauguration to get on the ice for his warm-up. "We told him he was more important than the President-elect," said his coach, Tom Zakrajsek.

Pair skaters Rockne Brubaker and Steven Elefante ran laps and worked out backstage, cheering each other on the way they do every day on the ice.

Late Night

Ashley Wagner's flight from Philadelphia, already scheduled to arrive quite late, was delayed, and she didn't arrive at the hotel until 3 a.m., Tuesday morning. On her flight was 1999 national junior ladies champion Sara Wheat. The next morning, bleary but valiant, Sara headed out to watch the novice men's and ladies free skates.

Sara told us she had just gotten her college diploma in the mail; she has a degree in elementary education and plans to teach, "As soon as someone hires me!" she said. She still does a bit of coaching and mentioned that she had to choreograph a program for an intermediate ladies skater when she got home.

"I don't really follow skating any more," she said. "I don't understand the judging system, although I should, since I have to do a program next week!"

We asked her if she would be rooting for anyone, and she said she always supports Johnny Weir, whom she knew well in their junior days, but otherwise she just wants everyone to skate well!

Hoover and Naomi

We hauled ourselves over to the secondary rink, the Hoover Arena, this afternoon for junior dance and senior pairs practice. Dean Copely and Tim McKernan were full of plans for some kind of top-secret cheer at the senior pair short program, so look for them on Thursday in the front row -- if they can pull it off.

Speaking of pairs, we know lots of fans are very disappointed not to be seeing Naomi Nari Nam and Themi Leftheris this week, as are we. A persistent injury to Naomi's hip finally put an end to her blossoming pairs career last fall. We asked her how she's doing. "I am doing well," she wrote. "As for my hip, I still have pain when I walk for a long period of time. Shopping during Christmas was a nightmare! I am currently going to school full-time and coaching skating at East West Ice Palace [in Artesia, Calif.]."

Will she be following the U.S. Championships?

"I will be watching nationals on TV. I really want to see skate well, and I am definitely rooting for Keauna [McLaughlin] and Rockne [Brubaker] to defend their title. Not being at nationals is always hard. It's my favorite competition of the season, and you get to see all your friends from all over the nation. So, yes, it's going to be hard to watch and hear about, but I'm definitely cheering everyone on from home!"

Enjoy watching the inaugural balls tonight, and we'll be back tomorrow!

Sarah and Drew