Simpson, Miller top Indy junior ranks

Colorado Springs team wins short program and free skate

Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller topped the juniors at the 2009 Indy Pair Challenge.
Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller topped the juniors at the 2009 Indy Pair Challenge. (Sarah S. Brannen)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(08/02/2009) - In their second season together, Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller defeated a large field of junior pairs to come up winners in Indy's short program and free skate events.

Miller hopes it's the start of something big.

"This was a good way to begin," the 21-year-old skater said. "We're competing at the Lake Placid Junior Grand Prix [Sept. 2-6] and our goal is to do well there, get a second Grand Prix assignment, and make the Junior Grand Prix final."

Lake Placid will be their first international event. Last season, the 13-year-old Simpson was too young to be considered for the Junior Grand Prix.

The team's coach, Dalilah Sappenfield, chose an Asian medley with a martial arts feel for the pair's short program. Clean double Axels, plus a throw triple Salchow, earned them the win with 46.99 points.

"Her face is very intense at times; when she gets mad, she can look like a little tiger," Sappenfield laughed. "So, I thought we should really use some strong music."

In their free skate, choreographed by former Polish champion Zuzanna Szwed to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, the pair opened with a triple twist and throw triple Salchow, and gained Level 4 on two lifts as well as their combination spin and spiral sequence. They ended with 85.04 points.

Canadian junior champions Brittany Jones and Kurtis Gaskell, who train in Kitchener, Ontario, under former Canadian pair champions Kris and Kristy Wirtz, placed second in both the short and free skate events.

The Canadians showed a fine double twist in their short and upped the ante to a triple twist in their free. Their throw triple Salchow was solid in both of their programs.

"It was a good start for us," Gaskell, 19, said. "Our presentation was better here than it was last week at Skate Detroit."

This will be the pair's first season on the Junior Grand Prix circuit; last year, the 13-year-old Jones was not age eligible. Skate Canada has not yet announced their assignment.

"Our philosophy is to get the programs out there as much as we can early in the season," said Kris Wirtz, who brought five teams to Indy. "It doesn't matter so much what you're score is in August. It matters what it is in January and February."

"It's been great coming to Indy and competing with so many different teams," Kristy Wirtz added. "We're getting a lot of feedback."

Another of Sappenfield's pairs, Carolyn Ann Alba and Christopher Knierim, placed third in the short and sixth in the free skate.

Alba, who also competes in singles, is new to pairs; she has been training with Knierim for just three months. Knierim won the 2008 novice title and 2009 junior silver medal with his previous partner, Brynn Carman.

"We had a tryout after nationals," Sappenfield said. "Carolyn is a very mature, elegant skater, obviously with good jumps. Chris can also do some of the bigger jumps, the double Axel and triples."

Sappenfield said that the addition of her son, Larry Ibarra, to her training staff at Colorado Springs' World Arena has been a big benefit. (Ibarra, who skated with Meeran Trombley for several seasons, recently retired from competition).

"He brings a fresh motivation and energy to the training sessions," she said.

Ukrainians Andrty Deputat and Vladyslava Rybka were third in the free with a clean, entertaining skate to Bizet's Carmen that featured a high double twist and two Level 4 lifts. They placed fifth in the short.

The skaters, who are training in Ashburn, Va., this summer, are not eligible for the Junior Grand Prix (Rybka is just turning 12) but are competing in several U.S. non-qualifying events.

"They just don't have competitions like this in Ukraine so this is a good experience for them," their coach, Rashid Kadyrkaev, said.