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Sargent, Joeright earn championship pairs crown

More medals handed out in Bloomington

Judy Sargent and Craig Joeright came away with the championship pairs gold.
Judy Sargent and Craig Joeright came away with the championship pairs gold. (Becca Staed Bishop)

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By Becca Staed Bishop, special to icenetwork.com
(04/18/2010) - In championship adult dance, Dianna-lynne Wells and Justin Ly maintained their lead following the compulsories, becoming the newest titleholders since the seven-year reign of top team Michael Ricigliano and Julie Keith, not in attendance this year.

Wells and Ly, who have only been together six months, earned 37.32 points for their free dance to Michael Buble's "Feeling Good," collecting a 66.47 competition mark and their first gold medal in this event. The silver went to Laura-Rose Lewis and Anthony Darnell, who trailed close behind with 64.64 points, while April Chiang and Gilbert Chiang made a successful comeback after a seven-year hiatus from U.S. Adult Championships, coming in third with 60.63 points.

The champions' routine featured an opening Level 4 synchronized twizzle that earned a 0.50-point GOE, a Level 2 curve lift and a Level 3 rotational lift. Their 15.31-point program component mark was 1.67 points higher than the field.

"We were kind of surprised [to win] because we had a very rough warm-up because I dropped her for the first time in a lift, so we weren't sure what was going to happen, but we held it together," Ly said.

Lewis and Darnell had a very strong program with a technical element score of 24.03, more than two points higher than that of Wells and Ly. They displayed three Level 4 elements, including a rotational lift, synchronized twizzles and a curve lift. Their first curve lift and spin were Level 2s.

Yet, their 13.64-point component mark could not overcome the gold medalists', and they lost one point for an extended lift.

Bronze medalists Chiang and Chiang were thrilled to be back in the adult competitive scene but worried about competing under the international judging system (IJS).

"The last year we competed was in 2002, which was not IJS," Gilbert said. "All things considered, I think [our free dance] went very well. After sectionals we changed some of the lifts and step sequences because we got comments back from the judges that the lifts were too long or something didn't work with IJS."

The Chiangs displayed Level 4 synchronized twizzles and a Level 4 straight-line lift. They lost 1.25 points in GOEs but earned a 13.22 program component mark for their "Viennese Waltz."

Fourth place went to Rhonda Workman and Andrew Arnold, who collected 55.50 points.

Championships Adult Pairs
Craig Joeright and Judy Sargent won their third championship adult pairs title with a 56.90-point free skate score for their tribal/jungle-themed routine, while Kimberly Sailer and David Garber collected their second silver medal with 52.87 points. Bronze went to first-timers Laurie Webb and Diego Heminway, who skated silver pairs last year.

The event's field has dwindled over the last couple years to only four teams this year, something Sargent hopes will change soon.

"I would like to encourage more people to come out," she said. "It's difficult with injuries, and some of the people we competed against previously are getting older, but I hope there will be some younger people interested in skating coming along soon."

Since last year, Sargent quit her job as a nurse to coach skating full time and is looking forward to her on-ice marriage to former partner and skater Paul Mata, which is set to take place September 10, 2010 (10/10/10).

"Wedding planning has been busy," Sargent said. "After nationals, we are going to settle down and work on that. I keep saying there is lots of time left, but there isn't." Joeright and Sargent said they look forward to continue competing in this event and improving every year.

Their routine featured an opening Level 3 spin sequence and two giant lifts, including a Level 3 Group 3 lift that earned 0.63 GOE points. They landed three jumps in all, including side-by-side double Salchows, and also performed a nice Level 2 Lutz twist lift. They earned 1.80 points in GOEs and a giant 27.87-point program component mark that topped the field by 4.04 points.

"I still love to compete," said Joeright, who is the 2000 U.S. pairs bronze medalist with then partner-now wife Larisa. "I think that is my biggest thing -- that and the victories that we accomplish and see where we've grown through the years. I think it's the biggest goal for us to see if we can improve from the year before."

Sailer and Garber, the 2007 silver medalists, skated a sultry free skate to a Santana medley, landing three clean jumps and displaying a Level 4 spin sequence and a nice throw Axel.

Last year Sailer tore the cartilage in her hip for which she underwent surgery in February 2009, taking the team out of last year's competition.

"They went in and dislocated my hip and were hoping to be able to sew it back on, but it was too shredded," explained Sailer. "My landing leg has about half the cartilage it should."

As a result, Sailer only gets 10 landings a day. "Once we do 10, it doesn't matter if the last one was crappy," she said. "That's it; we are done. Otherwise I pay for it."

In addition, Garber's job as a physician's assistant in cardiac surgery keeps him in the operating room sometimes 12-16 hours a day, which limits the flexibility of scheduling practice time together. Three weeks prior to the U.S. Adult Championships, they only skated two hours together total due to Garber's schedule.

"As soon as I am done in the OR I let her know I am done and on my way," he said.

Bronze medalists Webb and Heminway moved up to championship adult gold pairs at the behest of their coach, Lloyd Eisler, two-time Olympic pairs bronze medalist with partner Isabelle Brasseur.

"We didn't have anything to lose," said Webb.

Though the couple wasn't completely satisfied with their routine, they landed a clean side-by-side loop-loop and a clean throw loop. The duo also attempted two Group 5 lifts, received only minimal GOE deductions.

"It felt shaky," Webb said. "There were some things I was very happy with. We added an extra lift that we haven't done in our program, which went well, but then we had little bobbles along the way."

Fourth place went to Tara Cioppa and Stephen Trzaska, who collected 39.33 points for their free skate to music from Pearl Harbor.

"We have cut our practice time in half and have been injured at one time or another," Trzaska said. "I had swine flu at the beginning of the year. We had a lot of challenges."

"Thank god we have been together for a long time because we were able to go back to our comfort level with each other every time we were on the ice," Cioppa said.

Despite it all, the team was just happy to achieve their main goal -- winning the gold pairs event earlier in the week.

Championship Masters Intermediate-Novice Ladies
Beth Delano defended her title in the championship masters intermediate-novice ladies event, in only its second year since championship masters ladies was split into two.

Delano is a veteran of this event when it was combined, having finished second in 1997 and third in 1998. She collected 41.62 points en route to another gold medal, while Colleen Bloom won silver, her best finish having last competed in this category in 2008, when she came in 11th.

Julie Gidlow, one of only nine adult skaters who have attended every U.S. Adult Championships since its inaugural event in 1995 in Wilmington, Del., finished third with 37.23.

"I felt confident that I engaged the audience and judges and made eye contact with them, which I sometimes lack," said Delano of her "Take Five" free skate.

The two-time champion landed nine clean jumps, including two Axels and three doubles. She also received Level 3s for two of her spins and a 22.89 program component mark -- the field's highest.

"I felt the spins were very strong and double loop with hands overhead were strong," she said.

Bloom experienced almost an out of body experience in her free skate, she said.

"I was pleased with the program," she said. "It felt like someone else was skating for me. It was an amazing experience. My jumps were huge. With the adrenaline going." She landed nine jumps total, eight of which were clean, including three doubles, en route to a 38.37 competition mark.

Her spin sequence was a Level 4 and her final combination spin a Level 3.

"My coach [Lori Charbonneau] told me 'Let your mind think only what we trained; don't let it veer and resolve something. Do something no better, no less, but do something just right.' That really helped," Bloom said.

Gidlow finished third in this event last year as well but was more surprised about this year's medal finish since facing a couple health issues during her training earlier in the season.

"The fact that I could go out and skate well and have my friends present was all gravy," she said.

Gidlow opened with a beautiful Level 4 combination spin, followed by the field's only Level 2 step sequence. She landed 11 clean single jumps, including an Axel, and two more Level 2 spins.

With 37.04 points, fourth place went to Stephanie Galuszka.

Championship Masters Intermediate-Novice Men
Burton Powell claimed the championships masters intermediate-novice men's title with 37.47 points, a slight margin over silver medalist Christopher Williams, who collected 37.30 points. The bronze medal went to John Weinstein, who earned 36.07 points.

Skating an Avatar-themed free skate, Powell had some trouble during his five-minute warm-up, in which he was slipping on his takeoffs, but said "pure determination" got him through the routine.

He landed 10 jumps with minimal mistakes, including five doubles and an Axel, but felt most relieved after his first jump -- a clean double loop. All of his spins were Level 1s, and his 20.40 program component mark was the field second highest.

Williams earned his second consecutive silver in this event skating to a jazz/blues compilation -- the same as last year -- looking to improve upon it this year.

He bested last year's program component mark by 0.28 points, earning 19.89 points, and he had the field's cleanest routine, landing 11 jumps, including two double Salchows and an Axel-Axel sequence.

Landing the double Salchows was his goal, he said, which he accomplished without a single negative GOE.

Weinstein, last year's champion of this event, also landed 11 jumps, including three doubles and two Axels. His spins and step sequences were Level 1s, and he had the fourth-highest program component mark of 19.45.

Keith Newcombe, the 2008 U.S. adult gold men's champion, came in fourth with 34.78 points but had the field's highest program component mark of 21.11 for his "Cirque du Soleil" routine.

Championship Masters Junior-Senior Ladies
Amy Entwistle captured her second consecutive title in the championship masters junior-senior ladies event Saturday night with a riveting free skate to "Bolero" by Pink Martini, picking up 52.05 points en route to the gold.

Natalie Shaby, the 2006 titleholder, finished with silver for the second time in as many years with 51.73 points, and 2007 championship masters ladies bronze medalist Dianna-lynne Wells picked right where she left off after a two-year hiatus from the event, winning bronze again with 50.20 points.

Entwistle donned a Spanish-inspired matador costume, a big leap from last year's African routine. "I saw Pink Martini play this music live, and most skaters feel skating when they hear a piece of music, and I felt that when I heard this," she said.

Enwistle, a managing consultant in pharmaceuticals, displayed the night's cleanest program, landing nine jumps, including five doubles and an Axel. Her circular step sequence and two spins earned Level 3s, and her flying change-foot combination spin was graded a Level 2. She picked up 0.73 points in GOEs but had the highest program component mark of 29.26 by nearly two points.

"It was certainly the best performance I've had with this program, and its always fun to skate in front of a supportive crowd and to feel their energy because I need every last bit of energy I can summon," Entwistle said.

Shaby started her free skate strong, landing a huge double Lutz-double Axel sequence, followed by a Level 4 flying sit spin, an Axel and a Level 2 change-foot combination spin. But she lost focus after falling on her double flip, after which her momentum visibly slowed, and she suffered a few bobbles on her subsequent double Salchow and double toe.

Yet, the 46-year-old mother had two more Level 3 spins and two more clean doubles.

"My spins improved a lot this year," Shaby said. "But I made numerous mistakes. Right in the middle of the program I lost focus. I never fall in [the double flip]. It is one of those safety jumps I can do in my sleep and when I found myself sliding across the ice I was so surprised."

Shaby is well-rounded both on and off the ice, as this year she has already run the L.A. marathon, for which she mentored two friends, hosted an exchange student from Germany in her home and begun teaching skating more often.

"My life is full," she beamed.

Bronze medalist Dianna-lynne Wells, 30, captured her second medal in a championship event Saturday, having won gold in the championship adult dance event with partner Justin Ly earlier that day.

This is Wells' first time back at this event since 2007. She took two years off after a knee injury kept her from competition in 2008 and then knee surgery did the same last year.

"It felt like I never left," said Wells, a four-time medalist in this event. "As soon as I saw familiar faces they were happy to see me, and it was nice seeing them. A lot of them were eager to see some of the new things I was developing because I have been gone for so long, and the support that I got from fellow competitors and skaters was enormous."

Wells, a skating choreographer and coach, had several small mistakes throughout her program but landed 10 jumps, including eight doubles, one of which was downgraded, and performed a Level 4 spin sequence and a Level 3 change-foot combination spin. Most importantly, however, she achieved her goal of breaking 50 points.

"I accomplished that goal," she said. "In my performance I had a couple of wobbles in my jump combination and a little bit of footsy difficulties, but besides those I am very satisfied with what I was able to get done today."

Fourth place went to Stephanie Ewing, who accrued 45.53 points for her lovely free skate to a piano version of "Smile," in which she landed eight jumps and opened with a beautiful Level 4 combination spin.