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Shpilband, Moeller win top honors at U.S. Juniors

McIntee wins gold medal in juvenile girls division

Jordan Moeller won the gold medal in the intermediate men's class.
Jordan Moeller won the gold medal in the intermediate men's class. (Becca Staed Bishop)

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By Becca Staed Bishop, special to icenetwork.com
(12/20/2009) - The 2010 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships wrapped up Sunday with Katia Shpilband and Jordan Moeller among the big winners.

Intermediate Ladies free skate
After Gwendolyn Prescott delivered a crowd-roaring free skate that shot her from sixth in the short program to first in the free skate for a 106.01 competition mark, short-program winner Shpilband suddenly had something to worry about.

Seven skaters separated the girls, and Shpilband needed 68.21 or better to win. With ease, she garnered 69.83 free skate mark for 107.64 and the gold -- a sweet victory after finishing fourth to just miss the juvenile girls podium last year.

"This was the best program I did all year," the 13-year-old said. "I just wanted to skate my best and get on the podium this year."

Shpilband, landed two beautiful double Axels in her program and five more doubles as well as two triple loops, one of which was downgraded and the other that lost 0.71 points in GOEs. However, she delivered a beautiful routine to a Russian Waltz, highlighted by a Level 4 change-foot combination spin and a Level 3 circular step sequence set by her father, world-renowned ice dancing coach Igor Shpilband.

"I work with him everyday for about a half hour before school, and we run through it with the music over and over, working on my value movement and edges," Shpilband said.

Her 33.91 component mark was the field's highest by 1.31 points.

Last year's juvenile girls' champion Prescott might have been disappointed with silver, but tried not to let it show after making such a laudable recovery after the short.

"I'm happy with it, and I will try hard again next year," she said. "It was OK because I did my best."

Her free skate, set to Japanese music, opened with a beautiful double Axel-double Axel sequence, followed by two soaring triples -- a Salchow and a toe. She landed one more triple Salchow and five clean doubles, received a Level 4 for her flying change-foot combination spin and a Level 3 for her straight line step sequence.

The 13-year-old Barbie Long earned the bronze medal with a 102.85 final mark.

"I tried my best and tried to land my jumps as best as I could and not get too nervous," said Long.

Skating to "Hungarian Dance No. 6," Long landed two triple Salchows and seven double jumps but lost two points on her first double toe for putting her foot down on the landing. She displayed excellent skill on two Level 4 spins and was thrilled to receive a Level 3 for her straight line step sequence.

"On my footwork, I've been working on that a lot because I usually don't get threes," she Long. "And we've been working on it so I don't get dizzy because I usually do, so I was happy about that."

The pewter medal went to Avery Kurtz, who was second in the short program and fourth in the free skate after earning a 65.15 segment mark that gave her 100.76 overall.

Juvenile Girls free skate
Dylan McIntee, 11, won the juvenile girls title Saturday with a stunning free skate program to a compilation of music by Bond, which garnered a 56.25 segment mark.

Upon hearing her marks, both McIntee and her coach, Bridget Dunn-Kaus, gasped and broke into tears of joy.

"I was really excited," said McIntee. "It was the best score I have gotten in my whole skating career. I was not expecting to get that. I think it was all the mental and physical training I've had before this helped me through it."

McIntee landed eight doubles, including a beautiful double Axle-double toe and a powerful double Lutz-loop-loop, and displayed three perfect Level 4 spins. Her 31.81 element score carried her to the top, even though she received only the second-best component mark of 24.44.

The silver medal went to Franchesca Chiera, 12, who delivered a tango-themed free skate that received 54.11 points.

She opened strong with a double Lutz-double toe, followed by a lofty single Axel. She landed four more double jumps and, except for a Level 4 flying change-foot combination spin, received Level 3s on most of her spins and her step sequence. Her double flip-loop-double loop received a -0.17 GOE from the judges, and she lost 0.30 points after stepping out of her double flip-double toe, but her 24.46 component mark was the field's highest.

"It was a good program, said Chiera. "I could have done better because I stepped out of my flip-toe loop but it was pretty good other than that. My spins could have been longer and better. I was a bit nervous because I was competing against a lot of girls. I have done it before but this is a national competition, and this is my first time here."

She skated to music from Little Women, bronze medalist Anjing Fu, 12, improved upon an eighth-place qualifying-round finish.

"I wanted to skate my best and I stayed focus and took it one element at a time," Fu said.

"Anjing brought her A-game today," said her coach, Cindy Larson-Sullivan. "She took every element and performed it. She smiled and performed and improved on her performance from qualifying round to final round."

Fu skated a nearly flawless program, losing only 0.17 points on her double Lutz-double loop at the end. She opened with a clean Axel, followed by a double flip and a double Lutz-double toe. She landed three more double jumps and had a nice Level 4 change-foot combination spin. Her 24.01 component mark was the third highest and led the rest of the field by 1.30 points. Fourth place went to Karen Chen, who earned a 48.80 free skate score.

Intermediate men's free skate
A patchy free skate sent intermediate men's short program leader Alex Benoit into fourth place in the segment and third overall, while Shpilband wins intermediate ladies title; Moeller captures gold in intermediate men's.

Moeller skated a season's best free skate to rise from third after the short to win gold and his first U.S. title. The silver medal went to Nix Phengsy, who won the free skate with 68.20 points.

Benoit, 14, started clean with a double Lutz, double Axel-double toe but then, despite performing a clean triple loop, got off balance on the landing and fell. His next spin earned a Level 4 and his step sequence a Level 3, but he stepped out of his double flip-loop-double loop, recovered to land a clean double Axel and double Lutz-double toe, but then fell out of his second-to-last spin.

"It was not my best performance, but I am happy because I was able to keep it consistent," said Benoit about also placing third last year as a juvenile. "I am looking forward to moving up next year. I think it was more components that I worked on this year that helped."

With 34.05, Benoit had the highest component mark by 2.28 points, which helped him earn his second bronze medal in as many years at this event and recorded a 100.17 competition mark.

Gold medalist Moeller, 14, made a nice recovery after his third-place short program performance. Skating to Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto No. 1," he gave a nearly spotless performance, landing a double flip, double Axel-double Axel sequence, and delivering a beautiful Level 4 flying change-foot combination spin. He landed two more doubles and a triple Salchow, followed by a triple toe and delivered another Level 4 spin.

"I was thinking that if I did everything like how we had practiced it would be close, but I just wanted to do my best and see how it worked out," Moeller said.

His only gaffe was missing his double Lutz, resulting in a 0.09 deduction.

"It was really unexpected," he said of the jump. "I thought it was going to be an easy jump, so I didn't really think through it much. I was just like OK, let's recover from this and get through it."

Moeller earned 68.05 points for his free skate for a 103.23 final score.

Not far behind, Phengsy, 14, finished with 102.91 points after turning out a strong free skate to music from JFK that was highlighted by an opening triple loop and eight clean double jumps -- two of which were Axels. He received Level 3s and a 4 for his spins. His biggest mistake was a sloppy triple Salchow that resulted in a two-point deduction.

"I didn't expect to be on the medal podium," Phengsy said. "It's been difficult to learn how not to be nervous. I was 14th last year in intermediate, and I had to not think about that."

Fourth place went to J. Daniel Vallecilla, who was second in the short program and third in the free, but finished with only 99.52 points for his Addams Family-themed free skate.

Intermediate pairs free skate
Skating third, Brianna de la Mora and Taylor Wilson grabbed an early lead in the intermediate pairs free skate with a 61.21 segment mark for the gold medal. Silver went to Audrey Goldberg and Joseph Dolkiewicz with 59.93 points, while bronze medalists Kay Bergdolt and Miles Addison trailed close behind with 57.99 points.

Though together only six months, de la Mora and Wilson previously competed with different partners at the 2007 U.S. Junior Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah, and partnered up after his former relationship fizzled following sectionals last season and her partner quit skating.

Skating to "Hall of the Mountain King," 10-year-old de la Mora and 18-year-old Wilson had only one mistake when de la Mora fell on a double Lutz but displayed height, control and synchronization on the rest of their program, highlighted by a throw double Salchow, a Group 4 Level 2 lift and a lofty throw double loop. They had one Level 4 pairs spin and received a one-point GOE for their forward inside death spiral.

Wilson will attend college next year but decided to stay close to home and attend the University of Houston to keep skating with de la Mora.

"It was a hard decision because at first I wanted to go far away, but I decided to stay here since we are doing so well," said Wilson.

Silver medalists Audrey Goldberg, 13, and Joseph Dolkiewicz, 17, had a few mistakes littered throughout their program, including a wrong take-off edge on their double Lutz that resulted in a -1.00 GOE. But they performed a strong Group 4 Level 2 lift, followed by a Level 3 forward inside death spiral. They also landed clean side-by-side double flips and garnered the second-highest component mark of 30.92.

Kay Bergdolt and Miles Addision earned the bronze medal. Though they did not have any falls, they lost nearly a point on a shaky Lutz-double loop, followed by a 0.17 deduction for their subsequent change-foot combination spins. Their program was highlighted by a solid Group 4 opening lift, a strong throw double loop and a Level 2 forward inside death spiral.

The pewter medal went to Maggie Gibson and David Botero of the Indiana World Skating Academy Figure Skating Club for their 55.48 competition mark.

Juvenile free dance
The juvenile free dance was more like a celebration than a competition, with upbeat music and cheery costumes all around. The sleuthy Pink Panther routine of energetic duo Angelina Giordano and Christopher Davis took gold with 82.56 points.

"We liked all the teams' free dances," said Davis. "They just fit them like ours fit us. They looked great."

After placing 17th at sectionals last year, the team worked four to five hours every day over the summer to improve and make it to the championships.

They received nary a negative mark from the judges and Level 4s for their two opening elements, their synchronized twizzles and rotational lift, as well as for their final curve lift. After losing two points in deductions for extended lifts, their placement was a testament to the strength of their skating and performance skills.

Silver medalists Whitney Miller and Grant Lorello have been together the shortest time of the medaling pairs, almost eight months since teaming up in May. But with two older brothers who compete national and internationally in ice dancing for the United States, the sport seems to run in Lorello's blood.

"It started with my oldest brother, Alex, who is allergic to pollen," Lorello said. "It was bad to do an outside sport, and he also has asthma and the cold didn't trigger his asthma, so he got into ice skating and then Ian wanted to and then I did."

Skating a Latin-themed program, Miller and Lorello finished third in the free dance, but the early lead from their compulsories put them second overall. They lost a fraction of a point on their step sequence and combination spin but received Level 4s on both lifts and their opening twizzles, the latter of which received a Level 3. They finished with 81.44 points.

The bronze medal went to Sierra Chadwick and Alexander Martin, who skated to the Russian piece, "Bublitschki." The team returned this year to improve upon last year's eighth-place finish in this event.

"We are really pumped," said Martin. "We like the story of our routine. She is like a doll, and I bring her to life through dancing."

The team received Level 4s for their two lifts and for their synchronize twizzles, which lost nearly a point in the GOE. Their opening combination spin was graded a Level 3. They earned the third-highest component mark of 22.53.

Fourth place went to Hannah Pfeifer and Alexander Petrov, who delivered one of the field's cleanest free dances and earned the second-highest component mark of 23.32 despite finishing fifth in the segment. They earned an 80.54 competition mark.

Juvenile boys free skate
After three years competing as a juvenile boy at U.S. Junior Championships, 11-year-old Daniel Samohin finally arrived, winning gold in the event with 54.20 points -- a three-and-a-half point lead over his competitors.

"I was kind of nervous at first when I got on because I fell on my warmup, but it was OK. I did everything," said Samohin. "When I finished I kind of teared up because I did a clean program and was happy."

Skating to a musical blend of violin and guitar mixed by his dad and coach, Igor Samohin, Daniel landed seven double jumps, including two clean Axels, and displayed two Level 3 spins. His technical element score was only the fourth-highest, but he made up for it with his artistry on the ice, collecting a 28.22 component mark that led by 3.22 points.

Samohin said he looks up to his brother, Stanislav Samohin, who also skates and competes internationally.

"I want to be like him when I am older because he is really good at skating," he said.

The silver medal went to Tony Lu, 11, who is coached by Priscilla Hill at the Skating Club of Wilmington in Delaware, where he said he looks up to training mate and 2008 U.S. bronze medalist Ashley Wagner.

Lu said he knew he would medal here -- no doubt. He finished first in his qualifying round earlier in the week after scoring a personal best 56.13 score.

"I had the second highest score at regionals, so I was sure I was gonna get a medal here," said Lu. "Usually I don't get nervous [about competitors]."

He earned 50.87 for his Star Wars-themed free skate, in which he landed a solid single Axel and six clean doubles. He gained too much speed going into his double flip and fell, losing two points in GOEs and deductions combined, but displayed excellent control on his three Level 4 spins. His 24.90 component mark was the second highest in the field.

Skating second, Bennett Gottlieb, 12, held the top spot through 10 skaters but, with 48.39 points, eventually fell to third place, which he also finished his qualifying round.

"For the first 10 skaters, I thought I was doing really well, but the judges were really hard this year," he said. "On qualifiers I got 50.45, and I thought I did a better program today than in qualifiers but only got 48. I was really excited, but a lot of really tough skaters came in and I just sort of got bumped to third."

Gottlieb, in his second year as a juvenile boy at this event, landed eight double jumps, including a clean double Axel, in his free skate to a compilation of songs from National Treasure. He fell on his first double Axel, losing 2.11 points in GOEs as well as a one-point deduction. He received a Level 4 on his flying camel sit spin.

Fourth place went to Graham Newberry, who earned 48.36 points for his free skate.