by Alexandra Stevenson
Laura Handy & Jeremy Allen, 5th last year; Larissa Spielberg & Craig Joeright, 6th last year, announced their retirement from competition, and their wedding plans, shortly after the 2004 nationals; Emma Phibbs & Michael McPherson, 11th last year; Kristen Roth & Steve Hartsell, 12th last year, qualified by finishing 4th in Midwesterns but did not travel to Portland; Tiffany Sfikas & Jeffrey Weiss, 14th last year, have dissolved their partnership. Sfikas is now partnering a Canadian of Croatian descent and they hope to represent that country. Steven Pottenger, 17th last year, and his new partner, Christie Baca, didn’t make it out of Pacific Coast sectionals; nor did Jacqueline Mattson & Jason Heffron, 19th last year, or Lindsay and Brian Rogeness 20th last year; Also missing were Janice Mayne & Michael Modro, 18th last year. The Pacific Coast bronze medalists, Marisa Sharma & Amir Ganaba withdrew.
Katie Orscher, 20, & Garrett Lucash, 26, dressed in black and interpreting Gary Moore’s ‘Still Got the Blues’, seemed surprised they were in first place. Lucash said, "I’m very happy with the way we skated. We skated so much better than last year. I was very sick last week so I was expecting to come here and fight."
Orscher was also a little subdued. "There’s some things that could be better," she said. They began with a very high double twist and super solo triple toe loops but she fell on their throw triple flip. They recovered well. Their lift was steady and their side by side spin the best in the event.
Orscher & Lucash are competing in their 4th senior nationals. In their first year, in ’02, they were 5th. For the past two seasons, they have been runners-up for the title and finished 16th and 13th in world championships.
2. Defending champions Rena Inoue, 28, & John Baldwin, Jr., 31, planned the most difficult side by side jumps in the competition but he did only a double while she soared through a triple Lutz which cost them first place at this stage. They did a huge throw triple loop and the one handed overhead with swoop descent, as usual, wowed the audience. The "walking" exit to the death spiral was creative. But their side by side combination spin went out of synch.
Baldwin said, "We’re very happy with our performance. I missed the triple Lutz. I’m very proud of Rena. She did a triple Lutz that matched those of the best women in the world."
They used a modern Salsoul variation of "Firebird" with Inoue in a sleeveless red and gold sequined costume and Baldwin in black, red, gold and white.
Baldwin’s participation in nationals dates back to 1986 at novice level, a title he won the following year. Born to parents who were skaters, he stepped on the ice at 2 but had never tried pairs until his father came up with the idea of getting him a tryout with Inoue. Inoue had represented Japan in the 1992 Olympics in pairs, and in singles in the following Games in ’94.
They tried out under coach Jill Watson’s supervision in ’99. In ’01 they gained 11th place in their US nationals debut. The following year, they zoomed up to 4th. In ’03 they gained the bronze medal and took 10th place at worlds. They repeated their worlds placement in ’04.
Recently, they moved their training site to Desert School Coyotes Center in Peoria, just outside Phoenix. Watson explained, "They had been training in Los Angeles sharing NHL-size ice, which is smaller than Olympic requirements, with five other pair teams and commuting in LA traffic 5 days a week to accommodate training schedules."
Baldwin said that when Watson moved, "Looking for another coach was not an option. We’re following a coach and a system that works."
3. Skating first, Marcy Hinzmann, 22, & Aaron Parchem, 27, interpreted a guitar medley by Pink Floyd including "Hey You" & "Fletcher Memorial", but she did a double toe while he tripled the toe. They had an enjoyable performance and got the competition off to a good start.
Asked how he felt after learning they were in the third spot, Parchem said, "surprised. We’re only a second year team. We’re not contenders. We’ll be happy to hold onto this spot."
Hinzmann & Parchem, who were 7th last year in their debut together, won gold medal in the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany in September ’04, won the ’05 Midwestern championship; Parchem was the bronze medalist in this event in ’02 with Stephanie Kalesavich.
4. Amanda Evora, 20, & Mark Ladwig, 24, appeared in basic black lightened with rectangles of yellow, turquoise and red. Interpreting Aaron Copland’s "Theme For The Common Man", they presented a great double twist and throw triple loop. They also did a solid one hand overhead with change of position lift but their back inside death spiral was held with a shuddering edge and their solo jumps were not good.
The pair, 10th last year, are the ’05 Eastern champions.
5. Jennifer Don, 20, & Jonathon Hunt, 23, performing last in black with silver to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, began with their double twist and excellent side by side triple toes but she had a nasty fall on their throw triple Salchow.
They were 4th last year after being 6th in ’04. Don, who also competes as a single, incurred a back stress fracture this summer.
6. Tiffany Scott, 27, & Philip Dulebohn, 31, have a well-conceived program to "La Cucaracha" & Malaguena" with orange and black outfits. However, they lost all hope of recapturing the title when she failed two elements. She stepped out of her throw triple Salchow and fell on the triple toe loop.
They are competing in this event for the 8th straight year. They were 8th in their debut in ’98, 5th ’99, 2nd for three consecutive years and won the title in ’03. Last year, after a disastrous showing, they were third and, for the first time in five years, were left off the world team. Their highest place in Worlds was 7th in ’02, the season in which they also competed in the Olympic Games, finishing 13th.
7. Brooke Castile, 18, & Benjamin Okolski, 20, performing to "Anticipation" by Luciani in russet colored outfits had a great showing except for his fall and her stumble on their side by side triple Salchows. Their overhead was speedy and had an effective somersault descent. They did a nice throw triple loop, a very high double twist and a two position death spiral. Castile & Okolski were the ’04 US Junior silver medalists and took 6th place in last season’s world junior championships. They were 3rd in the ’05 Midwesterns.
8. Tiffany Vise, 18, & Derek Trent, 24, jump and spin in opposite directions. They presented a high double twist and a great throw triple loop but she fell on her solo triple toe loop. They used music was from the movie, "The Italian Job". Vise & Trent were 13th last year. This season they were 2nd at ’05 Midwesterns. She is Brittany’s sister.
9. Dressed in navy velvet, Stephanie Kuban, 17, & Laureano Ibarra, 21, did all their elements using music called "Rifkin".
Kuban & Ibarra are making their debut in this event. They won the ’05 Pacific Coast title despite Kuban’s injury falling from a lift in practice a week before the event, which prevented her from walking for several days. He was 16th last year with Brandi Sandoval. They are taught by Dalilah Sappenfield
10. Brittany Vise, 17, & Nicholas Kole, 21, in black, skated to the music from the soundtrack of "Six Days, Seven Nights". She put her hands on the ice on her triple toe loop and could not control the landing of the throw triple loop.
Vise & Kole were 8th last year in their first season at senior level. In the ’04 Junior Grand Prix Final, they finished first in the short program and second overall, a particularly pleasing result since they were the first alternates and had to be pulled out of Sectionals so they could travel to Helsinki, Finland. They also competed in their first senior Grand Prix, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as substitutes, finishing 7th.
11. Colette Appel, 18, dressed in a black sleeveless outfit with maroon sash, & Lee Harris, 23, with maroon blouse and black pants, gave an energetic showing that had some jagged edges including the jackknifing on her throw triple. They used the music "Bond" by Born. Appel & Harris, who were the ’02 US Junior champions, were 15th last year. This season they were ’05 Easterns silver medalists.
12. Shantel Jordan, 12, & Jeremy Barrett, 20, skated in black with silver trim to the soundtrack of the movie and popular science fiction TV show, "Stargate". They had a good double twist but she had a bad fall on their throw triple toe and their side-by-side jumps were poor. However they had an interesting and unusual change hand death spiral and a one arm descent from their lift. They were the were the ’04 US Junior champions, and took the bronze in the ’05 Easterns.
13. Katie Beriau, 19, & Joseph Gazzola, 23, skated to "Xotica" in peacock blue and black outfits trimmed with silver. Their side-by-side jumps were poor and she fell on their throw triple. They are in their first year together. They qualified by finishing 4th in the ’05 Easterns.
14. Lauren-Marie Simm, 14, & Devin Matthews, 25, performed to "Time To Say Goodbye". They looked good in their blue outfits and he brought her down from the overhead with one arm. However, he faulted his double axel and their throw triple Salchow was low. Simm & Matthews are also in their first year together. They were 4th in the ’05 Pacific Coast championships. They are trained by Jill Watson.
15. Julian Burns, 17, & Themistocles Leftheris, 22, skated to the romantic music from the movie, "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" dressed in deep blue. They made several errors. She stepped out of her triple Salchow, put a hand down on the throw and fell in the spiral sequence. They are in their first year together. Burns was 6th last year in the US Junior Ladies championships. They showed their promise by taking silver in the ’05 Pacific Coast sectionals.
Orscher & Lucash, skating to "Samson & Delilah" choreographed by Elena Petrenko & Igor Shpilband, were superb. They easily dethroned the champions, Inoue & Baldwin who last year replaced the previous holders, Scott & Dulebohn. Scott & Dulebohn lost any chance of getting their title back in the short in which they were sixth. Their long was judged third best but they could climb only to fourth overall.
Orscher & Lucash’s performance was all the more remarkable since he was very sick. A week ago he got a cold and a temperature of 102. That just escalated until they nearly withdrew. Lucash was extremely worried because his strength was so low that it was very dangerous to be trying the lifts they do. He said, "In the last practice before we came here I had my head in my hands because I thought, ‘I’m not going to make it.’ I was so sick."
But they did tough it out and they were really "on". As their program unfolded, the excitement built over the four and a half minutes until the 11, 224 strong crowd erupted into a standing ovation. Some began chanting for 6.0 but although the judges gave them unanimous first place votes, their highest marks were a 5.8 in the first set and five 5.8s in the second set.
Inoue & Baldwin were second. Baldwin conceded, "Going into this week we weren’t ready to give the title up, but we got outskated by Katie and Garrett. It definitely wasn’t our best skate. It turned out to be the weakest." Inoue admitted, "We definitely made a couple of messes. The Grand Prix went really well and we got into the Final (which a pair representing the US hadn’t done in ten years). But we all have one of those days."
Meanwhile Lucash was struggling with his illness. At the press conference following his win he looked absolutely depleted. There was joy and satisfaction in his eyes but he was struggling. He looked as if he’d got through an ordeal and just wanted to fall into bed and have the world go away. He said, between coughs, "It really hasn’t sunk in. Katie’s really pulled me through this one. It was the best performance all year." Orscher smiled looking at him in a sympathic way. "I’m proud of Garrett. I admit I was really so scared about his strength wasn’t 100%, I wanted to withdraw."
Dressed in lavender, Orscher & Lucash opened their routine with a very high triple twist followed by very nice triple toes sequenced to double flips. Then came a throw triple flip with great height and distance and triple toes with Lucash making a strained landing. In a Lasso tap combo lift they presented many positions and finished with Lucash in a spread and Orscher in a very graceful stretched, almost gymnastic position. Then came a back outside death spiral and another Lasso Tap lift. Side by side spins were followed by a superbly solid throw triple Salchow. By this time the excitement had built to a tangible level. A star lift with a cartwheel descent was succeeded by difficult although slow footwork performed in dance hold. A back inside death spiral and pair spin brought the routine to a close.
2. Inoue & Baldwin had the unenviable task of performing immediately following Orscher & Lucash’s magnificent showing. They skated to a classical medley performed by the Trans Siberian Orchestra, choreographed by Peter Tchernyshev. It was a program packed with content marred by a significant amount of flaws. On their opening side by side triple Lutzes, he two footed the landing. The triple twist had a rough landing. The throw triple Salchow was low and landed on two feet. They brought off a triple toe sequenced into a double axel, a three variation star lift and a side by side flying came to forward sit to upright held foot spin. Their throw triple loop was very nice. Then came a back press to one arm hold, two position carry dismount lift. The forward inside to back inside death spiral had a walk out but it was not as long as usual. Then came a four position pair spin which led into a Lasso one arm step through three position lift with the swoop descent that always sends audiences into a frenzy of applause. Three move minor moves led to marks of three 5.4s, three 5.5s and three 5.6s for the first set, and one 5.5, six 5.6 and two 5.7s for the second set.
3. Hinzmann & Parchem, skating to Flamenco music choreographed by Zuzanna Schwed & Peter Tchernyshev, dressed in black, gave a mature, polished performance with some solid lifts with reverse holds. He messed up their second move, a planned triple toe to double toe. She fell on her first triple toe loop and doubled the second attempt. Her foot buckled on the landing of the throw triple Salchow. She momentarily seemed to recover but then fell flat and slide into the barrier. They were fourth in the free but held onto third overall.
Parchem was delighted with their bronze. He said, "That was my goal, so I don’t really care how we got there. You know, it was the first time I was in the last warm up group with these top skaters, and I was terrified. I think Marcy did a lot better he first time than I did." Hinzmann said, "Honestly, I just tried to keep the pace going, keep sharp with my timing. I think I got too relaxed on that jump and before you know it, I was on the ice. I was very frightened out there. To be in the company of skaters like Rena and John – I just tried to keep my composure and treat it like a practice."
4. Scott & Dulebohn, skating to "Xotica" choreographed by Peter Tchernyshev, dressed in pleasing black with colorful blue and yellow attachments. They began in an unusual position, kneeling right at the barrier under the judges. In their first move, a triple twist, they smashed slightly into each other. They also had trouble with their second move, the double Axel to triple toe. It was not until their third move, the change of hand star lift that they got into their stride. Their throws, loop and Salchow, were great and the footwork really got the audience cheering but she aborted her second triple toe. The choreography was excellent but the showing was too flawed to get high marks. The judges punched in nothing higher than 5.3 for the technical merit but the second set went from 5.3 up to a 5.6. They climbed a position two places but it was a sad finish for the past two time champions.
5. Evora & Ladwig, skating to the Butterfly Suite by Vanessa Mae choreographed by Jim Peterson, made a six place advance this season. Last year these pupils of Kerry Leitch were the only pair to do a clean program, though their difficulty level was limited, and they were buried in tenth place. This year they were fifth in the long and dropped a place to finish fifth overall.
6. Don & Hunt, skating to Prokofiev’s Cinderella choreographed by Oleg Ovsyannikov, gave a most enjoyable showing in light blue and silver. They have a very pleasant style. Their only problem came on their second move, the triple to double toes which he messed up. They completed a triple twist and two throws, loop and Salchow. Their last lift had a novel position for her although it was not that graceful a position. They concluded with a back outside death spiral with opposite arm into a forward death spiral into her split which was their final pose. As they sat with former Olympic champion, Artur Dmitriev, who trains them in Hackensack, NJ, they looked disappointed with their marks which dropped them a place to sixth overall.
Don also qualified for the singles championship but decided it was best to focus on just one event. "Unfortunately I had to withdraw from ladies singles because I’ve been plagued with injuries all season, namely my L3 stress fracture in my back. My coaches and I decided it would be best for me to not put the stress on my body of competing in both ladies and pairs."
7. Brooke & Okolski stayed seventh although they were eighth in the free. The pair, who are trained by Maria Moscato, began with an excellent triple twist brought off a good throw triple loop and Salchow. All their lifts were solid but they had problems with their side by side jumps and he had a stumble in the footwork.
8. Brittany Vise, the younger sister of Tiffany, & Kole, skating to "Pirates of the Caribbean" choreographed by Dalilah Sappenfield, began with nice side by side triple toes. They also executed throw triple loop and Salchow, but they had a lift that wasn’t good and she crashed on her triple toe. Their split triple twist was okay. Their performance was ranked seventh best and was sufficient to advance them from tenth to eighth overall
9. Vise & Trent skated to Quidam from Cirque du Soleil choreographed by Rostyslav Sinitsyn & Catarina Lindgren. They had several errors including a bad fall on the throw triple Salchow. They did manage their other throw triple, the loop, but they are weak on side by side jumps. They were ninth in the free which dropped them a place to ninth overall.
10. Jordan & Barrett, who have a 12 year age difference (she’s only 12) skated to "Lord of the Dance" choreographed by Jim Peterson. These pupils of Kerry Leitch presented some extremely interesting lifts including a moving "Detroiter", a drape lift into a "drop" handstand, plus a great throw triple toe. She stepped forward on their throw triple Lutz and he messed up a side by side jump but the routine has great potential.
11. Appel & Harris, skating to the soundtrack from the movie, "Waterworld", were 11th in both sections. They had a nice star lift but she fell out of their throw triple Salchow although they completed their throw triple toe. They did only a double twist.
12. Burns & Leftheris skated to music from "Gone With The Wind" choreographed by
Karen Kwan, Michelle’s sister, who is married to their coach Peter Oppegard. They began with a double twist and side by side double toes. They accomplished a throw triple Salchow and throw double loop.
13. Another pair taught by Delilah Sappenfield, Kuban & Ibarra, skating to music from the movie "Once Upon A Time in Mexico" in red and black, were well received by the audience who enjoyed a laugh when they fell on their triple toe loops with complete synchronization.
14. Katie Beriau & Gazzola, skating to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2, started with an incomplete attempt at a triple twist and then two footed both jumps on their combination of triple toe to double toe. She fell on their throw triple Salchow. These are a pair who are just beginning their career.
15. Simm & Matthews, pupils of Jill Watson, skated to "Time To Say Goodbye", did a double twist, side by side double Axels. He two footed their side by side double toes. They are obviously at a very early stage in their career and were pretty solidly last.
J1: Linda Chihara
J2: Susan Johnson
J3: Peggy Graham
J4: Jessica Gaynor
J5: Lawrence Mondschein
J6: Kimberly Heim
J7: Melissa Kent
J8: Colette Nygren
J9: Bette Todd
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