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Parsons, MacMillan back on top at U.S. Juniors

Championship events set for juvenile girls and boys

Reigning juvenile ice dance champions Rachel Parsons and Kyle MacMillan are off to a strong start in the intermediate dance competition.
Reigning juvenile ice dance champions Rachel Parsons and Kyle MacMillan are off to a strong start in the intermediate dance competition. (Bob Ewell)

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By Becca Staed Bishop, special to icenetwork.com
(12/17/2009) - In day two of the 2010 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships at the Hoover Arena in Strongsville, Ohio, 42 juvenile girls and 38 juvenile boys vied for 20 championship spots in their respective categories, while 16 intermediate ice dancing teams performed their best Foxtrot and American Waltz in the compulsory dance events, the first championship events to take place at the competition.

Juvenile Girls Qualifying Round A
In the first juvenile girls' qualifying round, a mere 0.10 points separated first-place finisher Franchesca Chiera, 12, and Dyllan McIntee, 11. Nine-year-old Ellie Min came in third place with 46.98 points, and Karen Chen, 10, trailed close behind with a 46.91 qualifying mark.

Despite the higher start value of McIntee's free skate, Chiera pulled ahead after a flawless performance that earned her a 52.50 qualifying score. She landed eight clean doubles and two singles, including a solid Axel at the onset. All of her spin and step sequences earned Level 3s, and she recorded the second-highest component mark.

McIntee earned the highest component mark of 23.94, but lost valuable points after falling on her double flip sequence and taking off of the wrong edge on both her double Lutz jumps. However, her spins earned Level 4s and her remaining five double jumps, including the only clean Axel of just three attempted in the field were well-executed and offer gold-medal potential if performed within a clean program. She finished with 52.40 points.

Min had only the ninth-best component mark of 19.09 but skated a nearly spotless free skate with only a wrong take-off edge on her double flip-double loop. She landed an Axel and seven clean double jumps - five in combination, and displayed excellent control on three Level 4 spins.

Chen, Maria Yang, Emma Oleck, Brynne McIsaac, Anjing Fu, Charmaine Au and Maria Minaeva also qualified for the championship round.

Juvenile Boys Qualifying Round A
More than 11 points separated third and first place in the first qualifying round of juvenile boys, as 11-year-old Tony Lu set himself apart from the pack with a 56.13 free skate score. Daniel Samohin trailed nearly six points behind in second place with 50.92 points, while Val Katsman, 10, and Vincent Zhou, 9, finished a stride apart with qualifying marks of 44.69 and 44.24, respectively.

Lu jumped ahead after delivering the field's only flawless performance, highlighted by extraordinary showmanship. He opened with a clean Axel, followed by eight well-executed double jumps, two Level 4 spins and the second-highest component mark of 24.87, which bested the field by nearly five points.

Skating second, Samohin appeared the early victor, but two falls on his double Lutz and flying sit spin cost him significant points to Lu's precision. However, the 11-year-old earned the highest component score of 24.97 and landed two double Axels of only three in the field, as well as seven additional double jumps, displaying the ability to top the medal podium.

Katsman lost less than a point for careless mistakes on his jumps and spins but landed a double flip-double loop-loop that received the highest GOE, a solid single Axel and a clean double Lutz-double loop. His component mark of 19.96 was the third highest.

Others who qualified for the championship event are Zhou, Eric Stinehart, Mitchell Freiss, Paolo Borromeo, Ryan Nguyen, Kevin Lee and Jun-Hong Chen.

Intermediate Compulsory Dance
Last year's U.S. juvenile ice dancing champions Rachel Parsons and Kyle MacMillan grabbed the lead after Thursday's compulsory dance events, earning 25.36 points in the Foxtrot and 26.29 points for their American Waltz, going into Friday's free dance with a nearly three-and-a-half-point lead over second-place team Jessica DeMaria and Dean Miller.

The juvenile champions displayed excellent technique and performance skills as well as clean, sharp edges, receiving nary a negative mark form the judges and edging out DeMaria and Miller 51.65-48.38.

Holly Moore and Daniel Klaber placed fourth in both their compulsories but came out third overall with 46.70 points, while local favorites Greta Riebe and Jacob Jaffe moved up three spots from sixth the Foxtrot into third in the American Waltz to sit fourth with 45.25 points. However, only 0.07 points separates fifth-place team Elliana Pogrebinsky and Ross Gudis from the Ohio natives.

Juvenile Girls Qualifying Round B
The second qualifying group of juvenile girls was just as crowded at the top as the first round as 12-year-old Tiffany Vanta led the way with 50.86 points. Olivia Yao followed close behind with a 49.01 qualifying mark, and 1.04 points separated third- and fourth-place finishers Tiana Lee and Gretta Gast, respectively.

Vanta opened with a solid double Axel before landing eight more double jumps, two of which cost her 0.47 GOE points; yet, she made up for it in spins, receiving two Level 4s and a Level 3 flying combination spin that brought in the program's highest GOE of 0.50 points.

The 11-year-old Yao lost more than a point combined on her jumps but stayed upright for all eight doubles and two singles, including an Axel in combination. Her free skate was highlighted by beautiful spins and a quick opening straight line step sequence that received a Level 3.

In addition to recording the second-highest component mark, 12-year-old Lee was also one of only two competitors to skate a spotless routine, highlighted by a nice opening double Lutz-double toe and a double Salchow that earned the most GOE points -- 0.57. Though her spins weren't consistent, she finished strong with a Level 4 combination spin.

Also moving on to Saturday's juvenile girls' championship event are Gast, Brianna Laxson, Kirstyn Nanista, Bradie Tennell, Theodora Gherman, Nadine Orellana and Kathryn Albaugh.

Juvenile Boys Qualifying Round B
The event's tiniest competitor, 9-year-old Tomoki Hiwatashi, became the field's biggest threat after garnering 53.59 points in the second qualifying round of juvenile boys -- the second-highest score out of both rounds Thursday. Finishing second with 51.59 points was Jason Cohn, 12, while Bennett Gottlieb and Graham Newberry trailed close behind with 50.45 and 50.03 qualifying marks, respectively.

Hiwatashi, one of the field's youngest competitors, had a nearly flawless performance that opened with three double jumps in a row, including a powerful Axel that earned the most GOE points (0.57) of the entire program. He had a bad takeoff on his double Lutz-double toe-double loop but displayed three excellent Level 4 spins and two more jump combinations, including a single Axel-double toe. His program component mark of 23.81 topped the field by nearly a point.

Cohn landed eight double jumps and two clean single Axels and earned impressive GOEs on his spins and step sequence, the latter of which he was the only competitor to earn a Level 3. His program component mark of 22.91 was the second highest.

The 12-year-old Gottlieb landed eight doubles, including a double Axel, and performed two Level 4 spins. He also had a faulty take-off on his double Lutz-double loop but landed a beautiful double flip-double toe immediately following the gaffe. His 22.41 component mark was the field's third best.

Moving on to the championship round are Newberry, Albert Zeng, Sam Anderson, Yamato Rowe, Steven Rossi, Remington Burghart and Anthony Boucher.