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Cain edges Kulgeyko in novice ladies short

Coaching a family affair for Texans

Ashley Cain holds a narrow lead over the field entering the novice ladies free skate.
Ashley Cain holds a narrow lead over the field entering the novice ladies free skate. (Paul Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/18/2010) - Not every family can work together all day, every day, and still get along over the dinner table, but the Cains of Coppell, Texas, wouldn't have it any other way.

"I love being coached by my parents," 14-year-old Ashley Cain, the novice ladies leader after the short, said. "I can't imagine ever changing."

"With Ashley, it's pretty easy," agreed mom Darlene Cain, who runs the skating program at the Dr. Pepper Star Center with husband Peter.

"Our relationship on the ice is coach and student. The relationship off the ice is mom, dad, daughter. We don't take what happens on the ice home with us each night. The big thing is she pushes herself. She's the tough one, and we're just here to help."

Ashley looked pretty tough in her short, hitting a triple Salchow, double toe combination and double Axel in an elegant program to Debussy's "Claire de Lune." She earned 45.03 points, edging Katarina Kulgeyko by less than a point.

"It felt great," Ashley said. "I did the program I've been practicing, I did all my stuff. I've been doing the triple Sal, double toe all season."

Darlene and Peter, who met while skating in Holiday on Ice in the '80s, split coaching duties. Darlene focuses on choreography, spins and "making things look pretty," while Peter is more of a technical coach. The couple's son, 15-year-old Brenden, competes on a midget AAA hockey team.

Since 2007, Ashley has done double duty, also competing in pairs. Now partnered with Joshua Reagan, she's slated to skate in the final pairs free skate warm-up group here, just hours after her ladies' short program.

"I don't feel any pressure," the skater said. "I love skating both singles and pairs a lot, and I love skating in the final group. I've gotten used to it."

Kulgeyko, the 2009 U.S. intermediate champion who trains in California under Anna Baram, also hit a triple Salchow, double toe and double Axel in her short to "Love Story," although she stepped out of the landing of a triple toe. She enters the free skate with 44.61 points.

Leah Keiser, 12, hit the most difficult combination of the event, a triple Lutz, double toe, but had so much speed she collided with the boards. She sits third with 44.59.

"I was focusing on my jump, and my pattern got switched around," Keiser said. "I thought it was a really nice jump."

"She had beautiful flow going into the Lutz, and I became a bit concerned about that extra flow," Peter Oppegard, who coaches Keiser in Los Angeles, added. "I'm so proud of the way she handled herself after that."

For her free tomorrow, Keiser has a challenging program including two triple Lutzes, a triple flip and two triple Salchows.

"There's nothing in that program that Leah hasn't done before, and does every day in practice," Oppegard, who has coached Keiser since last summer, said. "She has an opportunity to do really well and put out a nice performance."

The event's youngest competitor, 11-year-old Polina Edmunds, sits fourth with 40.07.