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U.S. Adult Champs wrapped up last weekend

Championship pairs, dance and junior-senior ladies earn medals

Amy Entwistle (second from left) stands atop the championship masters junior-senior ladies podium on Saturday at the U.S. Adult Championships.
Amy Entwistle (second from left) stands atop the championship masters junior-senior ladies podium on Saturday at the U.S. Adult Championships. (Terryl Allen)

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By Becca Staed and Lynne Kuechle, special to icenetwork.com
(04/25/2009) - The 2009 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships concluded on Saturday, with medals awarded in championship masters junior-senior ladies, championship pairs and championship ice dancing.

Championship ice dancing: Keith, Ricigliano win seventh straight

Julie Keith and Michael Ricigliano added a seventh consecutive championship adult ice dancing title to their résumé Saturday night, but they faced tough competition from 2008 silver medalists Anna Li and William Eastler.

Having competed in two events earlier in the day -- both of which they won -- Keith and Ricigliano were drained, but they were not tired enough to let go of their championship.

"Our masters [open dance] event was beautiful today, and with this one, we came together in some parts, but we could still feel a little bit of fatigue. But we executed all the elements," Ricigliano said.

They revamped last year's "Gypsy Fiddler" original dance into this season's free dance, which was highlighted by a wonderful opening diagonal step sequence, followed by a well-executed rotational lift into a straight line lift. Combined with their 19.29- and 18.45-point compulsory dances, their free dance mark of 35.54 gave them a total score of 73.28.

"This is our second year with this program, but this year we really worked on doing more difficult elements, which was a lot more challenging," Ricigliano said. "But it gave us something to work toward and pushed us a little."

Li and Eastler made their second appearance together at the U.S. Adult Championships, performing a graceful free dance to a Josh Groban song. They nipped at the heels of the winners with a 70.08 competition mark.

"It was our first year together last year, and like every team, you learn each day," Li said. "We trained really hard this year to be able to learn the free dance, a longer program than last year. We are working on trying to express ourselves as one."

Their hard work paid off as they displayed a beautiful spin that garnered a 0.50 Grade of Execution, followed by a good Level 2 curve lift into a rotational lift.

Debra and David Gaultier moved up from fourth place after the compulsories to place third overall with a 60.67-point final score, garnering their first-ever medal in this event.

"We were happy with how we skated," Debra said. "We had good energy and got the levels we expected and had worked so hard for all year. The crowd really liked our choreography and really supported us."

Performing to music from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, their free dance featured a nice opening curve lift.

With a 57.75-point final score, fourth place went to Barbara Walker and Timothy Bookwalter, who opened with a solid, Level 2 straight line lift.

Championship pairs: Sargent, Joeright reclaim title

In just their second year together, championship adult pair Judy Sargent and Craig Joeright reclaimed their title in dominating fashion, winning the competition by more than 15 points.

Just four months ago, the team decided to scrap their classical Beethoven program for a jazzier, more upbeat routine in an attempt to improve upon last year's program component score.

"We went for a little bit more artistic value while maintaining what we had technically," said Joeright. "So we were happy with the results."

They raked in a 30.12 program component score for their free skate to Joplin's "The Entertainer," The Sting theme song and the "Charleston." Their routine opened with an impressive backward outside death spiral and also featured a giant throw loop, a Level 2 Lutz twist lift and a Group 3 lift, which was awarded a Level 3.

Their only lament was the noticeably pared down number of entries in the championship pairs event -- it consists of the championship gold and championship masters levels -- down to only five teams compared to last year's eight.

"I hope that more people will come back," Sargent said. "I think some had injuries, and the economy has a lot to do with it."

Moving up from their sixth-place finish last year was the two-year-old team of Tara Cioppa and Stephen Trzaska, a championship gold team who earned 43.31 points to beat out two championships masters teams for the silver medal.

The pair attributes its improvement to being a more seasoned team this year.

"We had a whole summer to sit down and say, 'OK, what are we doing? What are our goals? Can we do harder things? Can we garner more points?'" said Cioppa.

Cioppa and Trzaska are coached by retired U.S. pair skater Jonathon Hunt, who was the 2003 world junior pairs bronze medalist with Jennifer Don.

"Jonathon knows how things should look and is very good at smoothing out the edges," Trzsaka said. "We have a lot of things to work on, and we are anxious to get Jonathon's help next year."

Trzaska choreographed the team's Spartacus routine, which opened with a solid forward inside death spiral and was highlighted by a throw Salchow, a side-by-side flip and a Level 3 spin sequence.

Bronze medalists Joy Dubost and Jason Spicer managed to skate through their nerves after nearly colliding with another pairs team while attempting a throw Axel during their warm-up.

"It shook me up a lot," said Dubost. "We have never had that happen before. I heard the crowd scream and saw [the other team] coming from the corner of my eye, so it unnerved me."

Playing it safe, the team made a last-minute decision to replace the throw Axel with a simpler throw Salchow.

"When you see that type of danger, your body doesn't want to commit to the technique you have trained, and you bail on your technique," Spicer said. "We used to do a throw double Salchow, but the problem is we haven't practiced it in months."

Nonetheless, the couple improved upon last year's fourth-place finish with its recycled French can-can routine, which featured a nice throw Salchow, a side-by-side Salchow, two Level 3 spins and a solid Level 2 combination pairs spin. They earned a total score of 42.78 for third.

Fourth place went to Heather Hilger and Martin Romanik, whose routine featured a forward inside death spiral and a Group 3 lift. They earned a competition mark of 39.42.

Championship masters junior-senior ladies: Entwistle's win a long time coming

Amy Enwistle's gold medal at the championship masters level has been a long time coming -- six years exactly. Other than beaming from ear to ear after learning she'd won, with fans in the stands going wild, she appeared as cool as a cucumber.

"It's cool," Entwistle said of her victory.

"This is always a very competitive group of skaters, and I come like any with the possibility of winning the event," she continued. "So you have to just enjoy the crowd, skate your program and see what happens."

Since 2004, Entwistle, a managing consultant in the pharmaceutical industry, has accumulated every color medal -- two pewters, one silver, a bronze, and now the most coveted of them all.

The 34-year-old recycled her 2008 tribal-themed program, created by her and coach Mary Jo Bullin after taking an African dance class together, and wore the same unitard with various tri-colored symbols and trimming.

"With every program, it takes two years for me to feel the choreography the way I want to feel it," Entwistle said.

"There will always be a few areas that don't quite flow," said Bullin. "We will work on them or play, and I will see something and say, 'Oh, keep that,' or, 'Get rid of that!'"

Though shaky on a few jumps, Entwistle displayed excellent footwork and spins, receiving a Level 3 for her flying camel combo spin and a Level 4 for the following combination spin. In all, she attempted seven double jumps and four singles; seven of the jumps she landed cleanly. Her 23.33-point program component score was the highest of the group, giving her a competition mark of 48.88 en route to gold.

Silver went to 2006 championship masters champion Natalie Shaby, whose program, though nearly flawless, lacked the difficulty to defeat Entwistle. It still proved to be just as rewarding for the 45-year-old mother of three, after her disappointing ninth-place finish in 2008.

"It was good," said Shaby of her Scheherazade free skate. "I just wanted to stand up and not fall this year. Last year was a disaster. It happens; it's skating. I just didn't skate well for myself. The placement was irrelevant."

The former Canadian junior silver medalist displayed beautiful lines and nailed six lofty double jumps and two of three singles, wavering only on a single Axel. Two of her spins earned Level 4s. She collected a 22.36-point program component score for a second-place mark of 48.09.

With a final score of 44.19, Alexandra Dunne-Bryant improved one spot from last year to collect the bronze medal.

"I tried to change my mindset this year and concentrate on being the best skater I can be every day and taking steps toward where I want my skating to be," said Dunne-Bryant, 27. "I am definitely closer to that this year than I was last year."

Though disappointed in her overall performance, she was happy to successfully skate through a chronic hip injury that's caused her boots to break down, leading to an ankle, knee and hip injury on her landing side.

"I've had such an outstanding week, especially in my interpretive and open events," she said. "So this week is very satisfying regardless of what happens."

Dunne-Bryant opened with a nice single Axel and performed two Level 3 spins and a Level 4 combination spin for third place.

Fourth place went to Sara Robertson, who landed four clean double jumps and three spotless singles. She received an equal number of Level 3s and 4s for four of five spins. She finished with a free skate mark of 43.75.

Becca Staed

Intermediate-Novice events bring championship skating to a new level

The 2009 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships included two new championship men's and ladies events -- masters intermediate-novice (I-N).

Event scores show that the new level did what it was intended to do, providing a bridge between gold and masters. Previously, skaters who had passed the intermediate free skating test or above were grouped in championship masters.

"Having the new category is great," said Ted Gradman, men's I-N pewter medalist. "It's a pleasure to be part of a group that's appropriate to my skating level. Combining four test levels into one was too great a spread."

Lexi Rohner, chair of the Adult Skating Committee, agreed. She noted that the committee continually reviews rules affecting adult skating. "Adding Championship I-N has been a good move," she said. "By spreading out the skaters, we've offered a more competitive opportunity to more competitors."

Championship I-N Ladies

Championship I-N Ladies was tightly contested. Only .07 points separated the gold and silver medalists, and just 1.02 points separated the third- through sixth-place finishers.

Gold medalist Beth Delano, 42, garnered the event's highest presentation score -- 20.61 -- for her program to "Another Cha Cha." In addition, all but two of her grade-of-execution (GOE) marks were 0 or higher. Her program included the three double jumps allowed at the I-N level and a layback spin that received three plus-one GOEs.

"I was pleased to land my double loop from running threes, with my hands over my head," said Delano, a veteran competitor who has missed only one Adult Championships. "I was glad to get to the end though. There's no slow cut in my program, and three minutes 10 seconds can be tough at age 42."

Silver medalist Melinda Speer, 23, achieved Level 3 on her spiral sequence and her change of foot combination spin. Combined with a Level 4 combination spin, she finished just behind Delano with her program to "Bach's Adagio G Minor."

Though bronze medalist Julie Gidlow, 40, did not attempt a double jump, all the spins in her program to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg achieved Level 3. A news editor, Gidlow has battled injuries -- including a herniated disc -- over the years.

"A few years ago, I decided to compete in freestyle again, just not with double jumps, which would cause too much back strain," she said. This year, Gidlow also contracted chicken pox five weeks before the competition. "I thought I was way out of my league in doing championship events with only single jumps," she said. "Once the masters category was split, however, I thought I'd give it a shot, and I'm really glad I did. I feel like I belong."

Pewter medalist Elizabeth McGlauflin, 43, says that -- in addition to starting a new job as vice president of a software company -- she concentrated last year on improving her overall level of skating. "I worked on transitions, introduced more difficult spins into my programs, and of course worked on jump consistency," she said. "I am totally psyched that my new spin -- a butterfly into back sit -- didn't get any negative GOEs!" Skating to the soundtracks from Alexander and The Last Temptation of Christ, McGlauflin received all plus-one GOEs for her Level 2 layback spin.

Championship I-N Men
Championship I-N Men drew a combination of skaters with experience in Championship Gold and/or Championship Masters.

Gold medalist John Weinstein's positive GOEs brought him more than base value for five of his 11 elements. Skating to "Sleepwalk," the college professor also achieved his first Level 2s: one for his change-foot sit spin and one for his circular step sequence. His element (technical) score of 17.22 was nearly four points above that of silver medalist Christopher Williams.

Weinstein, 38, competed in Championship Masters in 2007. "While I was honored to be part of that group, I felt really out of my league in terms of jumps," said Weinstein, whose championship performance included two Axels and a double Salchow/single toe loop, all with 0 or positive GOEs.

"My coach focused on GOE this year, especially on hitting the proper spin positions," he added. "Given how close the scores were this week, her homework definitely paid off."

Williams, a Championship Gold competitor since 2001 and a former champion in that event, passed his intermediate free-skating test last year to move up to the new level. "It did feel a little strange watching the Championship Gold men from the stands," said the pediatrician, "but it was good to have a new challenge without worrying about double Axels flying over my head in the warm-ups."

Williams' performance to a jazz/blues compilation earned the event's highest composition score: 19.61 points. In addition, several elements earned more than base value. "I like the extra 30 seconds allowed in I-N, because I can relax and actually enjoy my own program!" Williams said. "John Weinstein's performance set the tone for the rest of us. There was no pressure, no shaky legs, no shoulders up to my ears -- just nice, smooth, funky-good-time skating!"

Bronze medalist Burton Powley, 51, is a five-time Championship Gold champion who has an extensive competitive resume. He moved up to masters in 2007 and was the Championship Masters bronze medalist that year. His performance to waiting for this included a double toe loop and an Axel jump, each of which earned more than base value.

This year a back injury hampered his ability to train. "I had to scale back several elements that aggravated my back," he explains. But the injury didn't affect his desire to compete.

"I love to skate in competition," he said. "What I like most is the camaraderie between skaters and time with my friends. I always leave the Adult Championships having made new friends and become reacquainted with old ones."

Gradman, 50, earned the pewter medal for his performance to Francis Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos. The clinical psychologist has competed in Championship Masters for the past few years.

"In my performance, the spins came out better than I'd anticipated and the footwork was the best I'd performed in competition," he said. "Despite having trouble with the double jumps, I'm pleased that I went on to perform the remaining elements in a reasonably relaxed, and hopefully entertaining way."

He adds that he barely noticed the thunder that shook the building in the middle of his program.

"The audience support was tremendous," he adds.

Lynne Kuechle