Colorado junior pairs face California challenge
Sappenfield skaters rank first, third, fourth and fifth; Calalang, Sidhu crash the party
|After breaking up in 2008 and then getting back together last summer, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier find themselves leading the junior pairs. (Tom Briglia)|
"I always thought we would get back together," the 19-year-old said.
After all, the two had first paired up as roller skating competitors when Denney was just 3 years old. After forsaking roller skating in 2004, they re-teamed on the ice.
"We grew up together," the 16-year-old Denney said. "Brandon is like my brother. Skating with him feels natural and comfortable."
After competing with other partners the last few seasons, the two were reunited in Colorado Springs by Dalilah Sappenfield last spring. Since then, they've made slow but steady progress, placing seventh and eighth at their two fall Junior Grand Prix events.
In Tuesday afternoon's short program, they blossomed, stealing the show with a clean, snappy routine to music from Chicago that earned 52.83 points and a near two-point lead going into the free skate.
They opened with a high double twist, followed by a solid throw triple loop and side-by-side double Lutzes, and then showed one of the event's better lifts. (Both throw loops and Lutz jumps are junior requirements.)
"The biggest excitement was to go out and do a personal best," Frazier said. "We just went out and gave it everything we had."
Sappenfield and her coaching team, including Larry Ibarra and John Coughlin, brought four junior teams to San Jose, all considered medal possibilities. Today, Sappenfield praised each of her students.
"I'm very pleased that they all stayed focused and really attacked their programs," she said. "They competed the way they've been training."
The Colorado Springs teams, who sit first, third, fourth and fifth, are getting competition from Californians Jessica Noelle Calalang and Zack Sidhu, who train under three-time U.S. pairs champions Jenni Meno and Todd Sand.
Performing to Scott Joplin's "Elite Syncopations," Calalang and Sidhu also skated a clean, fast-paced program and were rewarded with 50.84 points.
"It's almost like a show program," Sand said. "It brings out their personalities. It's very effective with the audience."
"It's a really good, strong group of junior pairs this season," Meno said. "I think we saw this today. They really pushed each other."
The Junior Grand Prix Final bronze medalists took a different tact, skating their short to the intense Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack. Simpson landed a strong throw triple loop, and their double Lutzes were executed in perfect unison. They ended with a creative pairs spin.
"It felt good to let our training take over and go out and do what we've been doing at home every day," Simpson, 15, said.
"Nationals is just another sheet of ice," Blackmer, 20, said. "For us, the most important thing is to show what we've been doing in training."