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Cain, Reagan edge out win in junior pairs short

Indiana and Colorado Springs teams are close behind

Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan lead after the junior pairs short program.
Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan lead after the junior pairs short program. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/26/2011) - The highlight of Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan's winning short program came right at the start, when Cain landed a solid throw triple toe loop.

"The last couple of competitions, I've always touched a hand down or something, but today I said, 'It's nationals, I'm going to do it' and it felt great," Cain, 15, said.

"We've been working on it so hard, all through our internationals," Reagan, 21, added.

Cain and Reagan, the 2010 U.S. novice champions, competed at two Junior Grand Prix events in the fall and qualified for the Final in Beijing in December, where they placed fifth.

Today, they also landed side-by-side double Axels and a double twist in their short to music from the Matrix soundtrack. Weakness on side-by-side spins lowered that element to Level 1, and they earned 47.63 points, taking a .23-point lead into tomorrow's free skate.

Cain, a high school sophomore who is home schooled through the Texas Tech program, is doing double duty in Greensboro. She stands seventh in junior ladies after the short program.

"The schedule this year is really great," she said. "There was one day when I had to rush from one rink to the other [practice] rink, but I have to do that if I want to be here. Balancing the two [disciplines] helps me control my nerves and stay calm."

Cain skates two one-hour sessions, one for pairs and one for singles, each morning and then repeats the sessions in the afternoon. Her father Peter Cain, who along with his Ashley's mother Darlene and David Kirby coaches the team in Texas, says his daughter's jump repetitions are closely monitored.

"This year, for her [singles] long program, we reduced the big jumps," he said. "There's no triple flip, no double Axel-triple toe. We reduced the content a little bit to reduce the stress and strain.

"She takes a lot of pride in what she does out there, in practice as well. If she lands a good triple, she's comfortable with it and doesn't have to do it again and again."

The new team of Cassie Andrews and Timothy LeDuc -- teamed by their Indianapolis-based coach, Sergei Zaitsev, in April 2010 -- are second. They hit a throw triple toe, and while their side-by-side double jumps were loops rather than Axels, they gained high levels for both their spins and straight-line steps.

Andrews won the 2009 novice title with her former partner, Nicholas Anderson. LeDuc, a former novice men's competitor, placed tenth in 2010 novice pairs with his former partner.

"We're a new team and we're glad to be here," LeDuc, 20, said. "I think we have a bright future in U.S. pairs.

"We've really been working to improve our overall performance and connection on the ice, and want to show that to everyone."

Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton, who competed at Junior Grand Prix events in the Czech Republic and Great Britain in the fall, are third with 45.35.

Performing to Peter Gabriel's "The Feeling Begins," the elegant skaters opened with double Axels and later did a throw double toe.

"I was a little nervous up to the point I stepped on to the ice; after that, I was okay," Grafton, 19, said. "We had a lot of experience on the Junior Grand Prix this fall and that helped prepare us and keep us relaxed."

The team, who has skated together for eight years, moved from Boston last June to train in Colorado Springs with Dalilah Sappenfield's group.

"It's very different; we're training six days a week, versus the four days a week [we trained before]," Grafton said. "Dalilah is such a great coach."

"It's such a great team-oriented atmosphere," Duarte, 15, said. "We cheer each other on, even in practice."

Brynn Carman and A.J. Reiss, who train in Artesia, Calif., under Peter Oppegard and Karen Kwan-Oppegard, are fourth with 45.26.

In Artesia, they share the ice with Olympic champion Yu-Na Kim, who serves as a daily inspiration.

"She's such an exquisite skater," Carman, 16, said. "Just watching her skate gives me chills. She works with our coaches, too.

"Off ice, she is just the most humble girl you could ever meet. She's very sweet."