Gropman and Somerville ride 'Moon River' to gold

Training mates finish one-two; Schurman and Schaak take bronze

Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville danced away with the juvenile gold medal.
Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville danced away with the juvenile gold medal. (TSS Photography)


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By Renee Felton, special to
(12/14/2011) - The top three teams from Tuesday's pattern dances maintained their medal standing in the juvenile dance field at the 2012 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships, with Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville overtaking training mates and friends Gwen Sletten and Elliot Verburg, who won the pattern dance segment, for the gold medal. They were joined on the podium by McKenzie Schurman and Chandler Schaak in third place, and Madison Fox and Val Katsman in fourth.

Gropman and Somerville considered their "Moon River" free dance as close to perfect as it could be and were credited with 45.69 points for their efforts. The skaters, who are members of the Washington FSC, totaled 83.71 points for the competition, eclipsing their winning score at the Eastern Sectional Championships by five points.

"Aside from my bobble on the twizzles, that was the best we have ever done," Gropman said. "That includes practice and competition, so it was really good."

A dapper Somerville agreed wholeheartedly, noting, "I can't say anything other than that went well. Better than I expected."

Silver medalits Sletten and Verburg looked the part in their Alice in Wonderland finery. Verburg conceded he couldn't wear the Mad Hatter's top hat a la Johnny Depp, so he had to settle for orange hair dye.

"This stuff comes off really easily," he explained. "I had the umbrella so close to my head when we were coming here because I didn't want the rain to make this orange go all over my face."

Clearly thrilled with their performance and meeting their goal of winning the pattern dances, Sletten and Verburg now plan for the intermediate level next season.

"We considered going to intermediate this year and competed in a few local competitions at that level," Sletten said. "We decided it was best to stay at juvenile, but we are ready to move up next season."

Skating to an energetic Latin medley, Schurman, in an orange dress that could give the Hatter's hair a run for its money, and Schaak agreed that the 45-minute focus sessions on their rotational lift and pairs spin were worth the effort.

"Our most improved elements from sectionals were definitely our spin and the rotational lift," she said. "We expected that since we have worked on those with our specialty coaches."

The duo totaled 77.80 points and placed third in both segments of competition.

In one of the closest margins possible, Fox and Katsman, with 70.36 points, edged Morgan Tromp and Zachary Milestone's 70.33 and secured the pewter medal.