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Rink mates finish one-two in juvenile pattern dance

Sletten and Verburg, Gropman and Somerville move to front of pack

Gwen Sletten and Elliot Verburg have a 0.52-point lead after the pattern dance.
Gwen Sletten and Elliot Verburg have a 0.52-point lead after the pattern dance. (TSS Photography)

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By Renee Felton, special to icenetwork.com
(12/13/2011) - In what might become a case of déjà vu, the top three finishers from the 2012 Eastern Sectional Championships sit atop the leaderboard at the 2012 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships after the juvenile pattern dance segment.

While Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville won the event back in November, they are led here by training mates Gwen Sletten and Elliot Verburg, who placed second at sectionals. Rounding out the top three are 2012 Eastern Sectional bronze medalists McKenzie Schurman and Chandler Schaak.

Each of the 24 couples competing were asked to skate two pattern dances, the Fourteenstep and the Ten-Fox. While they performed the Ten-Fox to the same music, they were able to choose their own music for the Fourteenstep.

"This year, even though the skaters are doing the same prescribed steps in the same holds, we wanted to give them some choice when it came to one of the pattern dances," technical controller John Cole explained. "For the Fourteenstep, we heard anything from Michael Jackson to music from Star Wars. The skaters enjoy bringing creativity to a standardized dance."

Sletten and Verburg won both pattern dances with a total score of 38.54 points. They finished eighth at this event last year.

"We came here prepared and with the goal of improving on last year," Verburg said. "We have worked really hard to do better this year, and when you do your best, the only thing left is to have fun."

Following closely behind were Gropman and Somerville with 38.02 total points. After skating together for three seasons, they took off last year while Somerville lived in France to attend school.

"I am excited we are skating again," Gropman said. "I feel like our pattern dances went really well, but we are more excited for the free dance."

Both teams skate at the Washington FSC under coaches Alexei Kiliakov and Dmytri Ilin in a dance-intensive program.

"Our skaters are successful in dance at such a young age because they are concentrating on this discipline from the beginning," Kiliakov explained. "They specialize in ice dancing and use freestyle mostly to enhance their skills as dancers."

Schurman and Schaak totaled 35.99 points. Skating together since January, Schurman said she was "nervous but confident that we would do well because we've done these dances a thousand times."