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Lewis and Bye, Kang among novice leaders in SLC

Middleton, Hennings top novice pairs at U.S. Challenge Skate

Selin Kang landed a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination to win the novice ladies short.
Selin Kang landed a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination to win the novice ladies short. (Jay Adeff)

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By Mimi Whetstone, special to icenetwork.com
(09/13/2012) - Competition began at U.S. Challenge Skate on Thursday, as novice skaters took the ice in Salt Lake City for the pattern dance and the ladies and pairs short programs. The event is being held in conjunction with the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic and goes through Sunday.

Novice pattern dance opened the event with the Starlight Waltz, where Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye finished in first place with 42.00 points. The duo skated to "Once Upon a December" from the Anastasia soundtrack and will enter Saturday's free dance competition with a two-point lead over their competitors.

"It's been really fun competing at an international event," Lewis said. "It's so cool to be a part of everything here."

By opening their event, Lewis and Bye were the first athletes to compete at the inaugural U.S. Challenge Skate, which took place hours before the short dance at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic.

"It's definitely great having the seniors here with us," Bye said. "It's been great watching everyone skate on the same ice that we are."

Rounding out the top three were Lauren Leonesio and Quinn Chambers, who finished second with 40.04 points, and Sarah Feng and Anthony Ponomarenko -- son of 1992 Olympic ice dancing champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko -- who finished third with 38.36 points.

Selin Kang leads the novice ladies with a total of 39.52 points after completing a triple Lutz-double toe loop combination in her Tango-themed short program.

"It felt great to be out there," Kang said. "This is my first international competition experience, and I was so happy when I landed my jump combination. It's the first time I've landed it in competition."

Cheyenne Taylor also completed a triple Lutz combination and earned a total score of 38.15 points, putting her in second place going into Saturday's free skate. Ashley Shin earned 36.80 points for her short program, finishing third.

Competition continued with the novice pairs short program, where Elise Middleton and Robert Hennings lead the field by more than three points.

"We're focusing on going from element to element," Middleton said. "That's what works for us."

The pair skated its short program to "The Skater's Waltz," a program they think suits them well.

"It's a very elegant program, and that's great for us," Hennings said. "It's very refined and it keeps us focused."

In second place are Sophia Dai and Jeffrey Fishman, who earned 26.51 points, while Madeline Gallagher and Jonathon Horton rounded out the top three with 21.53 points.