Feng and Ponomarenko, Kang nab novice gold

Middleton, Hennings take novice pairs title

Sarah Feng and Anthony Ponomarenko looked fierce in winning gold in novice dance.
Sarah Feng and Anthony Ponomarenko looked fierce in winning gold in novice dance. (Jay Adeff)


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By Mimi Whetstone, special to
(09/15/2012) - The first medals were awarded Saturday at the 2012 U.S. Challenge Skate, as the novice ladies, pairs and dance events concluded in Salt Lake City.

Sarah Feng and Anthony Ponomarenko took the novice dance title after winning the free dance by nearly seven points. The duo performed to music from Cats and earned a segment score of 52.60 points.

"We did well today, but we're tired because of the altitude in Salt Lake City," Ponomarenko said. "We train in San Jose with my mom, so we're not used to this."

Ponomarenko's parents, Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, are the only figure skaters in any discipline to have won Olympic medals in three different colors (bronze in 1984, silver in 1988, gold in 1992).

The duo also trains part time in Novi, Mich., with Igor Shpilband.

"We're excited to watch our teammates, Madison Chock and Evan Bates, later today," Ponomarenko said. "It is fun that we get to do that here."

After finishing third in the pattern dance, Feng and Ponomarenko earned a combined score of 90.86 points. Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye finished second with 88.08 points, while Lauren Leonesio and Quinn Chambers finished third with 85.69 points. Feng also competed in the novice ladies event and finished fourth.

Selin Kang continued to dominate the novice ladies field, winning the event by eight points.

"My free skate program is perfect for me," Kang said. "I'm a very happy person, and I'm always excited. The music is fast and energetic, just like me."

Kang completed five triple jumps in her program, including a triple Lutz, and earned an overall score of 110.55 points.

"I'm so happy," Kang said. "I think that was my best run-through, and I did it in competition."

Silver went to Cheyenne Taylor, who finished with 102.55 points, and bronze went to Kaitlyn Doan, who earned 100.27 points.

The novice pairs title was won by Elise Middleton and Robert Hennings, who earned 73.04 points for their Immortal Beloved free skate.

"This year is going to be a good year for us," Hennings said. "It felt amazing to be out there, and our program feels so strong."

Middleton and Hennings won the free skate by more than nine points, earning a total score of 102.77 points.

"I thought today went very well," coach Peter Oppegard said. "I'm pleased with their development at this point in the season. We know exactly where we can add points. I took a few points off of the table tonight to make sure they had a reasonably clean skate, which they did."

Sophia Dai and Jeffrey Fishman earned silver as senior pairs competitors Lindsay Davis and Mark Ladwig, and Felicia Zhang and Nate Bartholomay watched their event in the stands.

"The senior competitors are very supportive of all the lower-level skaters," Fishman said. "I really like that. It's great to be a part of the Team USA atmosphere."

Dai and Fishman earned 63.92 points for their free skate, giving them 90.43 points overall. Linde LaChance and Kenneth Anderson finished third with 81.33 points.