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Simpson, Blackmer get emotional after pairs win

Calalang, Sidhu move up two spots from last year; Falls prove costly to Aaron, Settlage

Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer moved up from second after the short to win gold.
Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer moved up from second after the short to win gold. (Jay Adeff)

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By Josh Ellis, special to icenetwork.com
(01/23/2013) - When the final scores were announced, Britney Simpson and Matthew Blackmer stood in a crowd of fellow competitors, just outside the entrance to the ice, and hugged and cried tears of joy.

The 2012 U.S. silver medalists returned and did themselves one better -- they were champions.

Entering the free skate in second place, Simpson and Blackmer earned the top score of the day, 96.19 points, for a total of 146.44.

Their elation was apparent.

"For me, I've been coming to nationals for a very long time, and I have always been so close," Simpson said. "We got what we wanted, so I was happy to finally relax and be happy that we did what we trained to do."

"Last year we had big expectations and a lot of pressure and we were right there, but not quite," Blackmer said. "But to get there this year was big, super emotional, and a validation of what we have been working so hard for."

Second after the short program, Simpson and Blackmer executed their elements well, including a throw triple loop which earned 5.80 points, but won gold on the strength of their components score, which was nearly six points higher than that of the second-place team.

In second with 141.52 points were Jessica Calalang and Zack Sidhu. Last year's pewter medalists earned 93.20 points for their free skate and reeled in the best elements score in the competition.

"Today we skated pretty well, although it wasn't our best," Calalang said. "We still have room for improvement, but we had a lot of fun today."

Included in their performance on Wednesday was the event's top two elements, a Level 4 Axel lasso lift which earned 7.20 points and a throw triple Lutz, which pulled in 6.35 points.

In third place were Simpson and Blackmer's rink mates, Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage, with 138.41 points. The duo entered the free skate in first place; however, three falls during their program dropped them to third, and they won the bronze by only 0.1 points.

Despite the rocky start to the routine, Aaron and Settlage executed their final five elements with a positive GOE, which was vital to their placement.

"Today we didn't do exactly what we had trained," Aaron, fighting tears, said. "But we are still happy to leave here with a medal."

In fourth place, earning the pewter medal, were last year's novice champions Chelsea Liu and Devin Perini, with 138.31 points.

The two were happy with their finish in their first season competing at the junior level.

"Both Chelsea and I have been working really hard," Perini said. "We medaled our first time as juniors, and it feels good.