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2010 U.S. Junior Championships gets underway

Phengsy, Prescott win first qualifying rounds

Hannah Miller placed second in the intermediate ladies group A qualifying round.
Hannah Miller placed second in the intermediate ladies group A qualifying round. (Becca Staed Bishop)

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By Becca Staed Bishop, special to icenetwork.com
(12/16/2009) - The 2010 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships got underway Wednesday at the Hoover Arena in Strongsville, Ohio. In today's qualifying rounds, 41 intermediate ladies and 43 intermediate men took to the ice, vying for 20 spots in each division's championship event.

Intermediate men's Group A
In group A of the intermediate men's qualifying rounds, 14-year-old Nix Phengsy captured a slim 0.16-point lead over 2008 juvenile boys' champion Kevin Shum in second. Finishing third was Jordan Moeller with 61.63 points, while B.J. Conrad came in fourth with 59.00.

Phengsy scored only the fourth-highest component mark of 28.54, but what he lacked in performance, he made up for in technicality. A downgraded opening triple loop was his only error. He proceeded to land a clean triple Salchow, followed by a stunning double Axel that earned a 1.14 Grade of Execution (GOE). He landed seven more clean doubles, all in combination, and displayed two Level 4 spins for a 65.33 qualifying mark.

Shum, 12, had trouble on his jumps, popping an intended triple Salchow and losing points on his double Lutz-double loop-double loop combination. His program was highlighted by two clean double Axels, one in combination, a triple toe and two Level 4 spins. He posted the highest program component score of 30.11 for a qualifying score of 65.17. Shum is looking for a comeback after finishing seventh in this event last year.

Moeller's program had the group's highest start value of 36.08, which dropped more than two points after he fell on his triple toe and lost significant points on his triple Salchow. However, the 14-year-old remained composed throughout the rest of his program, which featured a strong double Axel-double Axel sequence, a clean triple toe-double toe and two Level 4 spins.

Other qualifiers include J. Daniel Vallecilla, Lawrence Lung, Ryan Otto, Jack Newberry, Alexander Bjelde and Timothy Sterbenz.

Intermediate men's Group B
Group B of the intermediate men's qualifying rounds topped out nearly three points below the first group of competitors, as Alex Benoit won the event with 62.50 points. Last year's juvenile boys' champion, Nicholas Vrdoljak, finished second with a 59.20 qualifying mark, while a scant 0.03 points separated the third- and fourth-place finishers, Spencer Howe and Othniel Chan, respectively.

The 14-year-old Benoit hit nearly everything apart from falling on a downgraded triple loop and a losing 0.57 points for a shaky double Axel, which brought his element start value down 0.06 points to 31.88. Yet, he led the field in components by more than three points, showed excellent control on his spins -- two of which earned Level 4s -- and landed seven clean double jumps. Vrdoljak, 13, lost ground with his 26.19 component mark -- only the 10th highest -- but relied on the strength of his technique, posting the highest element mark of 33.01. The reigning juvenile boys' champion opened with a clean triple toe-double toe, landed another triple toe as well as six more double jumps, including a double Axel-double Axel sequence. His spins earned two Level 3s and a Level 4.

Howe, last year's juvenile boys' silver medalist, landed two triples -- a toe and Salchow -- and four doubles, two of which were Axels. The 13-year-old fell on a triple Salchow sequence, the first of two jumps downgraded in his program. He recorded the third-best component score of 28.61 for a 58.07 qualifying mark.

The remaining qualifiers for the intermediate men's championship event are Jimmy Ma, Kyle Shropshire, James Schetelich, Ben Jalovick, Jordan Pordash and Chase Belmontes.

Intermediate Ladies Group A
Last year's juvenile girls champion Gwendolyn Prescott grabbed a more than three-and-a-half-point lead over the field in group A of the intermediate ladies qualifying rounds. The 13-year-old Hannah Miller posted a 63.98 score for second place, while Mariah Bell, 13, and Jessica Pfund, 11, collected 61.55 and 60.63 for third and fourth place, respectively.

Prescott had only the third-best component score but shined on her jumps and spins and displayed elegant, long lines, collecting a 39.89 element mark. The 11-year-old opened strong with a double Axel-double Axel sequence, followed by two strong triples back-to-back. She made minor mistakes on her double flip and the subsequent double jump combination but finished with a well-executed triple Salchow-double toe-double loop jump combination and a Level 4 change-foot combination spin. She finished with 67.49 points.

With 29.54 points, Miller recorded the highest component score but fell on her double Axel, losing more than three points as a result. She was one of only two ladies to earn Level 4s on all of her spins and displayed excellent footwork, which received a Level 3. She landed a clean triple Salchow and seven more clean doubles, including a double Axel sequence.

Bell lost minor points after trouble on her double jump combinations, but she landed seven clean doubles, two of which were Axels. Her spins and step sequences earned Level 3s. With 29.05 points, she had the second-highest component score.

Others who qualified for the championship event are Margaret Hausmann, Rachel Chang, Maria Fu, Eve Agler, Jorie Singer and Antonia Rusetskaya.

Intermediate Ladies Group B
A day before her 12th birthday, Avery Kurtz delivered her own birthday present -- a spectacular free skate in the second intermediate ladies qualifying round that put her at the top of that field with 63.69 points. The 13-year-old Katia Shpilband finished close behind in second with 62.71 points, while 12-year-olds Ysabel Tran and Jordan Bauth rounded out the top four spots.

Last year, Kurtz won Southwestern Regionals at the juvenile level but was forced to withdraw from U.S. Junior Championships due to injury and failed to qualify for this event two years ago. She opened her free skate with a clean triple Salchow and landed more seven double jumps, two of which were Axels, en route to first place. Her second triple Salchow was downgraded and she lost less than a point combined in GOEs on her jumps, but she displayed a quality circular step sequence and a Level 4 change-foot combination spin.

Shpilband displayed beautiful spins and an excellent Level 3 circular step sequence. She landed two clean doubles, including an Axel, before nailing a triple loop-double toe combination and her first Level 4 spin. Her second triple loop was downgraded, but she landed four more clean doubles and earned the second-highest component mark. Shpilband is looking for a spot on the medal podium after finishing fourth last year in juvenile girls.

Tran earned the highest component mark of 29.29 and had a nearly flawless program but fell on her first triple, a downgraded toe. Yet, in the rest of her spotless free skate, she landed eight doubles, including two Axels, and exhibited two gorgeous Level 4 spins. She finished with a 61.27 free skate mark.

Others who qualified for the intermediate ladies championship event are Bauth, Madison DeLuca, Barbie Long, Ana Draovitch, Kristin Lench, Gabbie Blount and Adrianna Gonera.