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Cain, Reagan impress to win junior pair crown

Colorado Springs team climbs from sixth to take silver

Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan are the 2011 junior pairs champions.
Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan are the 2011 junior pairs champions. (Paul Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/28/2011) - Ashley Cain and Joshua Reagan lived up to their status as pre-event favorites, executing a challenging free skate with aplomb and handily winning the junior pair title.

"It was amazing, I am at a loss for words," Reagan, 21, said. "At the end of our [last] spin, Ashley said, 'We did it' and we were both so happy."

The Texas team -- who won novice last season and placed fifth at the Junior Grand Prix title in December -- opened their free to Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet with a powerful carry lift that drew cheers from the crowd and gained Level 4 from the technical panel.

They followed up with solid side-by-side triple Salchows; a throw triple flip; an impressive double Axel, double Axel sequence; and a throw triple Salchow, winning the free with 94.65 points. Added to their winning short program score, they ended with 142.28.

"After we landed the Axel, Axel, I thought, 'We finally did it,'" Cain, 15, said. "We had not landed the throw triple flip before."

"Success is doing the right things at the right time, and this was the one we really wanted," David Kirby, one of their coaches, said.

Cain and Reagan will likely head up the U.S. pairs contingent at the 2011 Junior World Figure Skating Championships, to be held in South Korea in February. Judging from today's impressive technical display, the only technical weapon the attractive team lacks is a triple twist.

Kirby, a well-known technical specialist, said that while elements are important, the two have also focused on building a strong on-ice connection.

"You want everybody in the audience to watch them, and say, 'I want to be him' or 'I want to be her,'" he said.

Andrea Poapst and Christopher Knierim climbed from sixth after the short to grab the silver medal with a polished and athletic program to excerpts from the Amelie soundtrack.

They opened with a high triple twist, followed by side-by-side double Axels and a solid throw triple Salchow. The Colorado Springs team earned 92.12 points.

Poapst, partnered with Knierem by coach Dalilah Sappenfield last spring, is new to pairs.

"I had to take all my pairs' tests," the 18-year-old said. "We didn't want to push it too hard, in too little time. We're definitely moving up to seniors next season."

"We plan to add triple toes, another throw triple and more complicated lifts," Knierem, 23, added.

Cassie Andrews and Timothy LeDuc, second after the short, slipped to fifth place in the free but still hung on for the bronze medal.

The Indiana team skated a polished program to Bizet's Carmen that lacked some of the difficult elements of the top two teams.

"We definitely left some points on the table but we're happy with the program," LeDuc, 21, said. "We're still a very new team, and placing second in the short proves there is a lot of potential for improvement."

Like Cain and Reagan, the team -- paired in late April by coach Sergei Zaitsev, who trains his skaters at the Indiana World Skating Academy -- may be named to the 2011 U.S. world junior team.

Brynn Carman and A.J. Reiss took third place in the free with 83.76, placing fourth overall. The California duo had a solid triple twist as well as fine lifts.

"Just competing at nationals is a great experience," Reiss, 19, said. "We're very happy with our program. We have great coaches [Peter Oppegard and Karen Kwan-Oppegard] who train us year round."

Carmen and Reiss have two more seasons of Junior Grand Prix eligibility and hope to add additional difficult elements to their programs.

"We need a consistent throw triple and either double Axels or side-by-side triples, plus even harder lifts, to better compete [with the top juniors]," Carmen, 16, said.