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Hsu takes senior ladies gold in Sun Valley

Hochstein repeats as senior men's champion

Grant Hochstein defended his collegiate men's title in Sun Valley.
Grant Hochstein defended his collegiate men's title in Sun Valley. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Brenda Glidewell, special to icenetwork.com
(07/27/2011) - On the third and final day of competition at the Collegiate Championships, the excitement continued to build in anticipation for the champions being crowned later that afternoon in the junior men, senior men and senior ladies free skate events.

Senior ladies free skate
This excitement would sustain until the final group of skaters took the ice and the winner emerged from the field of 28 talented young ladies. Skating 25th and performing her second solid program of the competition, was Belmont University's Alicia Hsu. Hsu, an incoming freshman majoring in biology skated with confidence throughout her four minute program to music from "The Mission".

Hsu landed a double Axel, fell on her triple Salchow attempt, nice double flip, double Axel-double toe combination, huge double loop (with her arm over her head), and a flowing double Lutz-double toe-double loop combination. Her program also contained nice spins, a beautiful spiral and an intricate footwork sequence; earning her a total score of 115.80 (74.53 in the free skate). Hsu said she was "very happy with how she skated and glad that she fought through the entire program." She also accomplished her goal of landing double Axel-double toe in the free skate.

When asked what she thought of winning the senior ladies event, Hsu remarked, "This is crazy, and I wasn't expecting this; I did not come here thinking I'd place. I am speechless. Sun Valley is amazing, and I have enjoyed my first Collegiates so much!"

Roxanna Schmidt, who sat in second place going into the long program Sunday, was excited to perform her program, set to the music from "Swan Lake". Schmidt had set a goal for herself to finish in the top five and was able to do just that by finishing third overall with score 112.64 (72.99 in the free skate). During her well-choreographed program, Schmidt displayed nice ice presence as she performed a beautiful layback, huge double Axel, two-footed triple Salchow, double flip, double flip-double toe-double loop combination and a challenging step sequence.

Schmidt said that her free skate program "was the best skate she had ever had and that she was very proud of her performance." She was especially surprised with the fact that she did not feel any pressure during the competition and had met a lot of nice people.

Skating last in the group of 28 and winning the free skate portion of the event with a score of 75.62 (112.20 total score) was defending senior ladies champion, Karen Zhou. Zhou, who is entering her fourth year at the University of California at Irvine, pulled up from her fifth place finish in the short program to earn the bronze medal.

Her program, set to "Home of the Dark Butterflies" was elegant and commanding of the ice. Zhou completed a nice double Axel-double toe-double toe combination to start the program and followed that up by landing a triple flip, triple Salchow-double toe combination, triple flip sequence that she fell out of, downgraded triple Lutz and an under-rotated triple Salchow. She also achieved level 3 on her combination spin, flying sit and step sequence.

When asked what she felt of her free skate, Zhou said that "the first half of the program was really good and the second not so good! I wish I had done the second half of the program as well as the first, but all in all, it was pretty good. I was glad to have a better long than I did short program; especially since that is not always the case." She also commented that this competition was a great stepping stone for the remainder of the competitive season.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the afternoon was watching Kristina Struthwolf (University of Utah) perform her free skate program. Struthwolf was in seventh place following the short program and skated beautifully in the long, earning 70.88 in the free skate and a total score of 105.66 to end up with the pewter medal.

Junior men free skate
Following the senior ladies event was the junior men's competition. Austin Stephen from Miami of Ohio retained his lead following the short program to capture the junior men's title in his first time at Collegiate Championships. Performing to music from "Da Vinci Code" he earned finished 29.01 points ahead of his competition, earning the title with a combined score of 116.68.

Stephen opened his program with terrific speed that led into a nicely executed triple Salchow-double toe combination, followed by a triple toe, popped an Axel, fall on triple toe, rotated triple Salchow with touch down on landing, solid double Axel and a nice double flip-double toe-double toe combination. He also completed a Level 3 step sequence, Level 3 combination spin and Level 1 flying sit. Stephen said he "was pleased with the fact that I recovered from the fall and errors and continued strong in the program. I landed some okay elements and really had fun! Sun Valley has been unbelievable and the competition was a great experience."

Adam Civiello of Scottsdale Community College was able to pull up from third place after short program to finish in second overall, earning a total score of 87.67. Skating to the music from King Kong, Civiello felt that his "free skate was rough!" Civiello completed a single flip-double toe combination, fall on a double Axel, nice double Lutz, double toe, Level 1 on his step sequence, flying sit and a Level 3 on his ending combination spin.

He said "I am pleased that I made it through the program and must say that there were a lot of jumps in there [compared to a pairs program]." Despite feeling the effects of skating in elevation, he felt the competition was a ton of fun and he was glad he made the decision to join his friends in attending the event.

Rounding out the group of junior men and finishing in third place with a total score of 86.08 was Jason Pacini of Arizona State University. Pacini skated an entertaining program to "Luck Be A Lady" and "On the Town" that included a double flip, step out of his double Axel, double loop, double Salchow, turn out of his ending double Lutz, Level 2 sit spin and Level 2 combination spin. Pacini said that he felt this "program was painful, but [his] first Collegiate Championships competition was really fun!"

Senior Men Free Skate
Hochstein opened up his free skate a nice triple Lutz-triple toe combination, triple Axel (fell out of landing), huge triple loop, solid double Axel, triple flip (with edge error), and solid double Lutz. To compliment his jumps, Hochstein executed a Level 4 flying sit spin, Level 4 combination spin and Level 3 step sequence. His program flowed across the ice and included nice transitions and a beautiful spread eagle.

Hochstein said he "was really happy with his performance. I made the goal of rotating triple Axel and triple Lutz-triple toe in both programs and I accomplished those this weekend. The altitude was challenging, but I enjoyed my second collegiate competition greatly. I am really pleased with how everything went here in Sun Valley and enjoyed the support of my fellow skaters throughout the event."

Hochstein captured the title with a total score of 180.98 and is looking forward to using his confidence building performances in Sun Valley to prepare for the qualifying season.

The Collegiate Figure Skating Championships concluded with the awards ceremony and the senior men's champion and senior ladies first through third place finishers each being presented with a Collegiate Championship Award by Chief Referee, Lynn Goldman and Second Vice President, Pacific Coast Jessica Gaynor. Emanating from The Pioneer Fund, this year's champions were each presented with $5,000, second place received $2,500 and third place received $1,000.