The Inside Edge with Sarah and Drew - Nov. 30

Kansas, Paris and points in between

Eliot Halverson and Alexa Scimeca at the Midwestern Sectional Championships.
Eliot Halverson and Alexa Scimeca at the Midwestern Sectional Championships. (courtesy of Alexa Scimeca)


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By Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins, special to
(11/30/2009) - Sarah S. Brannen and Drew Meekins cover all the bases in the latest version of The Inside Edge.

Drew competed at the Midwestern Sectional Championships last month, so he'll write this part of the blog:

I got on the road on Nov. 19, and pointed John Coughlin's car toward Kansas. John and I switched cars for the week, since he was at Skate Canada in Ontario, and I felt the need to have four-wheel drive for the journey. John's car, a Smurf-blue Saturn SUV, came equipped with a baseball bat and a bible -- which oddly enough turned out to be the perfect accessories for every outfit I wore in Kansas.

Due to various complications, I ended up driving by myself. I was worried about dying from boredom on the way, particularly because Sarah was away and in the wrong time zone to keep me company during the eight-hour drive. So, I resorted to a combination of Lady Gaga's new album and the recently released soundtrack from Glee. Oh, and Whitney and Mariah also came along for the ride.

Here are the Google directions from Colorado Springs to Wichita, Kansas.

US 24 east for 65.1 miles.
Turn right on I-70 east for 340 miles.
Turn right on I-135 south for 88.8 miles.

It's literally, like, three roads from start to finish. That 340-mile stretch east is completely straight for most of the way and completely flat the whole way. In the dark, I felt as if I were in a surreal dream -- driving into a tunnel that never ended.

When I finally arrived, checked in, and went in my room I immediately had a feeling that my room was haunted. Later, Jon Felder told me that he read that our hotel actually was haunted. The local legend was that a guest at the hotel discovered his wife cheating on him and murdered her and the other man on the third floor. Afterwards, he ran to the seventh floor, where he then killed himself. Now, I'm not sure whether we can believe this story or not, but later in the week Piper Gilles told me that her room was on the seventh floor, and that the hotel bricked the room up a room there and wallpapered over it -- so there's just a blank place on the wall. Creepy!

As far as rest and relaxation goes, to be honest, there didn't seem to be a lot to do in Wichita. We had a lot of down time and mostly spent it trying to find something to do. A lot of activity revolved around Starbucks, naturally. I did go out for ice cream with Alex Johnson and Alexa Scimeca. We found a cute café that served gelato, and Alex and I shared a half-mint half-cinnamon one. It seemed unexpected to find gelato in Kansas, but it was delicious!

On Friday, all the skaters from Colorado got the horrible news that our training mate Haley Gans had been killed in a skiing accident. Haley was fourteen, and she had been training with us for the past two years. She was learning pairs with Larry Ibarra who was hoping to find a partner for her.

Haley was a wonderful, sweet, girl, who supported everyone. Her love for skating was evident in the beautiful smile she always wore on the ice. She was deaf, but it never got in the way of her passion for skating, and she could read lips incredibly well.

Our coach Dalilah (Sappenfield), who of course was also Haley's coach, texted her group Friday night and asked us all to say a prayer for Haley. She reminded us of Haley's joy for skating, and told us to remember why we skate, and why we compete -- because we love it. Nearly all of De's teams competed on Saturday, whether at Coasts, Mids, or Skate Canada, and she asked us to dedicate our skating in memory of Haley. I know Haley helped give us all strength that day. We will miss her greatly.

I watched the senior men's free skates on Saturday. The absolute highlight was Jonathan Cassar's Schindler's List program. It's my favorite men's program this season (Sarah concurs). When he hits his amazing inside spread eagle during a silent place in the music, it takes your breath away.

Junior lady Agnes Zawadzki was fantastic as well. She's sixteen and her jumps are humongous! With just one minor mistake the whole competition, she easily took the title. Watch out, world!

Jessica and I were very excited to skate well and qualify for nationals again. After having to overcome several training obstacles in recent months, we focused on selling our programs, improving our components and completing planned elements with positive GOE.

We had a lot of fun and it was great to compete again!

Where was Dorothy?
I started back for the Springs around noon on Sunday. I'm pretty sure Kansas is the flattest place in the universe, by the way. There are no hills, no trees and it really is kind of gray like at the beginning of The Wizard of Oz. I did get to see a very cool windmill farm at one point.

When I crossed into Colorado, I got pulled over for speeding. Although I regret this (sorry mom!) it was in a way totally worth it, as it gave me a chance to stop and take in the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. The orange and pink sky, with the Rockies backlit on the horizon, provided a gorgeous end to my trip.

Meanwhile, Sarah was in Paris. Yes, we know. Here's her report:

I was lucky enough to take a semi-work-related trip to Paris in mid-November. Don't hate me! It was slightly disappointing that the Grand Prix schedule changed this year, because normally I would have been able to see Trophée Bompard while I was in town. I went five years ago and had a fabulous time.

I ended up at the Palais Omnisport de Bercy anyway, at the quarterfinals of the Paris Masters ATP tennis tournament. The eventual champion, Novak Djokovic, played a drama-laden match with Robin Soderling, including a level four tantrum in which he punished the net and smashed his racket. Then Rafael Nadal played home favorite Jo-Wilfrid Tsonga, and the French crowd was revved up with excitement. A besotted Spanish Rafa fan behind me cheered each point his favorite won at the top of his lungs and moaned O! Mio nino! Every time Nadal hit a good shot.

I had heard that there was a skating rink on the Eiffel Tower, so I went up to try and get a picture to show you. Now, if you read our Halloween blog, you will recall that I am afraid of heights. Make that really afraid of heights. I looked at the elevator for a while and decided to tackle the stairs, so I could chicken out and go back down at any point.

It was terrifying. I made it to the first floor OK and looked everywhere for the skating rink, but apparently it wasn't up yet. The climb to the second floor was so much worse that my trip ended there. Yes, yes, the view was amazing. I prefer it from ground-level.

Bits and Pieces
You may have noticed a notable absence at sectionals: Scott Smith. Scott has been struggling with a groin injury and he had surgery earlier this fall.

"I am not competing this season and may never compete again," he wrote, "But I have not announced retirement just yet. I really want to see if I can get my body healthy and leave my options open. I have my hip surgery scheduled for the second week of December. The surgeon is optimistic that I will feel 100% again but we will see. My future really depends on how I feel after this surgery."

Good luck, Scott!

Favorite invisible accessory from Skate Canada: the coin Daisuke Takahashi did tricks with; we also loved the tightrope he walked on, but we're not sure it counts as an accessory. We'll have an invisible prop-off in our next blog and choose an overall winner from the Grand Prix.

Until then,
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