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Andrews, Anderson win novice pairs title

Haven Denney and Daniel Raad grab silver

Cassie Andrews and Nicholas Anderson are golden in Cleveland.
Cassie Andrews and Nicholas Anderson are golden in Cleveland. (Paul Harvath)

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By Becca Staed, special to icenetwork.com
(01/20/2009) - Cassie Andrews and Nicholas Anderson maintained their winning streak, garnering gold in novice pairs at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships with a 116.20-point competition mark.

In their five years together, during which they have accrued both the 2007 intermediate and 2006 juvenile titles, the pair are just beginning to hit their stride, according to coach Serguei Zaitsev.

"This year, they were maturing and growing, which affected their balance on the jumps," he said. "But the kids are very well managed and focused under pressure. Five years together, and it shows to me."

In their free skate to Bond's "Scorchio," the duo opened with a double Lutz twist lift, a throw double loop and a Group 5 Axel lift that earned a 1.29 Grade of Execution -- their highest. It also featured a Group 3 lift that earned a Level 4, a throw triple flip and a well-executed Level 4 pairs combination spin to finish.

"We worked on getting more speed, confidence, freedom and polish to the elements -- the second marks -- and it seemed to be accomplished," Zaitsev said, referring to their 39.15 program component score; the field's second highest.

The program did not go down with a hitch, however. Each took turns singling a planned double jump in their program -- Andrews a double Lutz and Anderson later on a double flip-double toe combination.

"We had a good skate," Anderson said. "We went out and went for it and had nothing to lose.

"We had a little difficulty with the jumps -- a mental lapse -- and we have a lot more work to do."

In a close second place was the newly-paired team of Haven Denney and Daniel Raad, whose 79.34-point free skate [won] the segment but wasn't enough to overcome Andrews and Anderson's early lead. Finishing with a total of 115.09, they missed gold by only 1.11 points.

"It was a little rough," said Raad, referring to a fall on their crossovers that cost them a two-point deduction.

"I think it was a little adrenaline that led to silly mistakes -- costly, silly mistakes."

Yet, the rest of their free skate to "Hernandos Hideaway" was nearly flawless, receiving less than half a point in negative GOEs combined, and it featured a double Lutz twist lift, a throw triple Salchow, a Group 5 Axel lift and a Group 3 lift that earned a Level 4.

They plan to move up to the junior level next year.

In third place, with 110.35 points, was the also new team of Olivia Gibbons and Tyler Harris.

"We have only been together for six months, so this is so surreal. We just wanted to come out and do what we have been training, so to be on the podium is something extra," said Gibbons, who, at 15, acts well beyond her years -- a plus for Harris.

"It feels like she is more my age, and that made it easier to get along with her right off the bat," said Harris, who will turn 21 in less than a week. "Normally, a pairs team has that getting-to-know-each-other stage; whereas, we didn't have time to, and it conveniently worked out that we got along."

The duo displayed excellent energy and lifts -- a Group 4 Axel lift and a Group 3 lift. They also landed clean side-by-side double Lutz-double toe loops that earlier had been giving them trouble, but lost points after a not-so-stellar side-by-side double flip.

"I got a little ahead of myself because I was just so happy that I landed the double Lutz-double loop," Harris said. "I rushed into a little bit. In midair, I felt it was off and had to save it the best I could."

Now, they look forward to next year, with the added bonus of having a full year to train, instead of a few months.

"It will be nice to go home and actually have a whole season to work and not be rushed to put together programs," Gibbons said. "Hopefully, we can go home and try new things."

In fourth place, with a competition mark of 106.67 points, was Lauren Gifford and Carson Bodnarek.