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Khazova, Wong lead senior fields at Collegiates

Audrey Winter leads junior ladies after short program

Jason Wong leads the senior men after the short program at the 2009 U.S. Collegiate Championships.
Jason Wong leads the senior men after the short program at the 2009 U.S. Collegiate Championships. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Kelly Hodge, special to icenetwork.com
(07/31/2009) - The junior ladies kicked off the 2009 U.S. Collegiate Championships Friday, with Audrey Winter a freshman year at Cornerstone University (Grand Rapids, Mich.) taking a decisive lead with 39.68 points.

Decked out in a bright yellow dress, Winter selected a fun, light piece of music from the motion picture soundtrack of Office Space.

"I used this music for a show program once and really liked it," said Winter. "It was fun and easy to get into. I really like the choreography, too."

Winter skated a strong program, landing a double flip but stepped out of a double Lutz-double loop combination. She earned Level 4s on all three spins, and on the spiral step sequence.

Another freshman, Leah Barsanti, sits in second place with 35.00 points. Barsanti will attend Washington University in St. Louis this fall, but will continue to train in the suburbs of Chicago. Barsanti also chose unusual music; a selection from the rock opera Quadrophenia by The Who.

"The Who is my favorite band, and I have been wanting to skate to their music forever," explained Barsanti. "I skated to it for a show once and finally convinced my coach to let me use it for competition."

Barsanti opened with a strong double flip, and though her double Axel was downgraded to a single, she earned points with a double Lutz-double loop combination and a Level 4 combination spin.

"I've been having a lot of fun at this competition, said Barsanti. "Philadelphia's a great historic city."

In third place -- but less than one point behind with 34.40 points -- is sophomore Irene Pullum. Skating to music from the soundtrack of Slumdog Millionaire, Pullum was happy to put out a clean program.

"My program is only four weeks old," she explained. "I've only trained it for about two-and-a-half weeks. I could have done my double flip a little better, but overall I'm pretty happy with it. Tomorrow, I just want to put out a clean program with no major errors.

In fourth place with 32.30 points, was Alicia Warren from North Lake College in Dallas.

Senior men's short program

While there were only three men in the senior field, the quality of skating was very high. Jason Wong, the 2008 U.S. Collegiate champion is on his way to defending his title. Wong earned 55.02 points for his short program but made two major mistakes -- a fall on a triple Lutz and a stumble on the triple Axel.

"I had hoped for a clean short," explained Wong, "I didn't get there, but my biggest problem has been popping or giving up. ...I did neither, so I'm happy with that."

Wong graduated from Emmanuel College this May with a degree in graphic design, and since competing in the World University Games in Harbin, China, this past January, his training took a back seat to completing his senior thesis.

"I've really only been training, in fact I've only had six lessons, since June 22, my 23rd birthday," explained Wong. "I'm getting back into training for one more season. I really love skating, and I've been doing well, so there's no reason to not give it another try."

In second place is Osadolo Irowa, who is in his second year at the College of DuPage, near Chicago. Irowa earned 44.97 points for his performance, and though it wasn't his strongest, he was pleased.

"Since I've gotten here, I really haven't practiced well," said Irowa. "I'm really glad I went for the triple Axel, though, and tomorrow I really want to go for both of them in my free skate."

Irowa, who is deciding between aerospace engineering and architecture as a major, started strong -- landing a triple flip-double toe combination. But, he popped his intended triple Lutz into a single.

Skating to Santana's "Black Magic Woman," Michael Solonoski rounded out the group in third place with 40.98 points. Solonoski struggled with his jumps, popping his combination and doubling both the triple Axel and triple Loop.

Senior Ladies short program

After the qualifying round, it appeared that Chelsea Morrow was the clear favorite heading into the short program with her decisive victory in qualifying group C, but after tonight's short program the fight for gold is going to be much tighter.

After finishing just third in qualifying round A, Tatyana Khazova executed the short program of the evening capturing the first spot with 46.87. Khazova, dressed in an elegant black dress with white lace gloves, didn't waste any time with her jump elements. She hit a solid double Axel and followed it up with a triple Lutz-double toe combination. Her only error was choosing to do a double rather than triple flip.

Khazova, a member of the Broadmoor Skating Club in Colorado Springs, Colo., is staying close to home. She will continue her training when she begins her freshman year at Colorado College, a private liberal arts school.

Morrow is hardly out of the competition. She is just .47-points out of first place. She had the higher program components mark in her short program set to the motion soundtrack Elizabeth, with 19.85 to Khazova's 19.55. Morrow opened with a solid triple toe loop followed by a double Axel. Her only error was singling the double-toe loop in her intended triple Salchow-double toe combination -- an error that kept her out of the lead.

"I feel pretty good about how I skated," said Morrow, "I'm really happy that I tried all the triples, but I just didn't have enough speed to pull the double toe out after the triple Salchow. Tomorrow, I'm hoping to skate my best and do everything I can do."

In third place, with 41.36 points is Mirielle Chambers, who attends the University of Central Oklahoma. Chambers won group A in yesterday's qualifying round. She opened her program with a strong double Axel and double flip-double toe combination but singled her Lutz. Level 4s on two of her spins kept her in the top group.

Lynzee Broussard, of Aquinas College and the winner of qualifying group B, sits just below Chambers with 40.57.