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Zhang, Toth survive scary collision to grab lead

Delaware team lead favorites Miller, Simpson

Felicia Zhang and Taylor Toth will face their first senior international test.
Felicia Zhang and Taylor Toth will face their first senior international test. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/17/2010) - Felicia Zhang and Taylor Toth has never been much of a speller, and it almost cost him and his partner, Felicia Zhang, a shot at the U.S. junior pair title.

In the pair's short program warm-up, Toth and Zhang collided with fellow competitors Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff, with Toth's head slamming down on the ice.

"All I know is we were going into a back press [lift]," Toth said. "The next thing I remember is being on the ice; they made me sit there for a while, and I really wanted to get off, because I felt like I was making a scene."

Toth was checked by Dr. Ed Reisman, the event's medical director, who gave the skater five stitches to the back of his head. Dr. Reisman also asked a few questions to make sure Toth's mind was clear.

"I did feel a little out of it when they gave me the stitches," Toth admitted. "They kept asking me a lot of spelling questions, and just generally, I didn't know the answers. My dad had to explain I just couldn't spell."

Dr. Reisman advised Toth to withdraw, but the skater wouldn't hear of it.

"If it had happened to someone else, and he withdrew, I would have been the first to call him out or not skating," Toth said.

That turned out to be a good decision: Zhang and Taylor, who began skating together last May, earned 57.16 points and sit first after a clean, well-paced program to chamber music, highlighted by strong side-by-side double Axels.

"I'd never done pairs before," Zhang, who is also skating in the junior ladies event here, said. "Our first competition was Liberty this summer, and then we went to two Junior Grand Prix, and it's gone on from there."

"I'm proud of Felicia," Toth added. "She didn't let the accident throw her off. She did everything out there tonight."

Pre-event favorites Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller, who placed sixth at the Junior Grand Prix Final in December, sit second with 56.74 points after a fast, energetic program to Asian fusion music.

"They had a level down on the death spiral, and the throw was a little two-footed," Larry Ibarra, who coaches the team with Dalilah Sappenfield in Colorado Springs, said. "That's what cost them tonight."

"We're going to attack everything in our long program, and hope for a personal best score and to make the junior world team," Simpson said.

Carolyn-Ann Alba and Chris Knierem are third with 52.43 points.

"We skated pretty well; we had a little bobble on the throw triple," Knierem said. "That's the first time we've put [a triple throw] into the program."

Zhang and Toth train at the University of Delaware under Ron Ludington and Jeff DiGregorio. Alba and Knierem also work with Dalilah Sappenfield's group in Colorado Springs.