1999 New England Regionals

I spent the last three days at New Englands in Boston. Here's a quick report on what happened.

Senior ladies were a very weak bunch this year. Quite a number of familiar faces from the past were missing as they either did not enter at all or scratched before the start of the competition. Among the missing: Christine Kong, Kathy Cutone, Meredith Cataldo, Colleen McGuire. And Morgan Rowe somehow got a bye out of regionals this year. Of those who were left, Adrienne Luoma was obviously the class of the field and probably the only one who has any shot of making it to Nationals. She landed a triple toe and triple salchow in both the short and the long, and has a fine double axel too -- lots of speed and ice coverage. I was pleased to see that Cheryl Smith qualified for Easterns, but I don't think she can be too thrilled with the way she skated in the long program, as she was very conservative and doubled all of her triples. (She did land a nice triple salchow in the short, though.) Her presentation and musicality were wonderful, as always. Moving up to senior this year was obviously a good thing for her.

The junior ladies were a stronger group as a whole, and Jenny Kirk was the star of the whole competition. She landed a triple flip combination in the short and in the long she did a program with 6 triples, including a lutz, a salchow out of a spread eagle, a flip, a triple toe/double toe combination, a double axel/half loop/triple salchow combination, and a triple toe. I have to wonder why she wasn't even invited to the junior worlds try-outs this year. Do the Scotvolds have so little influence any more, or are they wasting it all on Morgan Rowe? Jenny, BTW, is built like Tara Lipinski -- she's 14 but looks about 10, with absolutely no hips so she can rotate incredibly fast in the air. OTOH, I think her technique is more correct than Tara's -- her double axel is not very high but she doesn't whip it, for example.

Behind Jenny, there were several skaters who were at a more typical level of ability for junior ladies. Nicole Sutherland, who I've been a fan of for a couple years now, showed up with a short program to Ravel and a long to Debussy, with the best choreography of the event. She's coached by Mark Mitchell and seems to have learned something from him. Her only triple is a toe loop but it's very solid, as is her double axel. She's obviously made it past puberty by now and has a mature look and presence on the ice. Molly Quigley, Karen Goldfarb, and Kathryn Orscher all landed triple salchows, and I'm not sure which two of them qualified for Easterns along with Jenny and Nicole.

The novice ladies final was mostly a battle between Midori Williams and Evelyn Kong, and it would be hard to find two skaters more dissimilar. Midori is like her namesake, very muscular and powerful and with big jumps, while Evelyn is this tiny little thing who barely comes up over the boards and who flits around the ice in ruffles and frills doing similarly frilly choreography. She has a triple salchow that barely gets off the ice and that's pretty obviously cheated on the landing. Eh -- she doesn't do anything for me, sorry. I think the things that cost Midori this championship were her relative lack of expression in her skating -- in fact, she looked as if her heart weren't really in it -- and her failure to land a clean double axel in the free skate. I think she would have done better to compete in seniors. She was second in novice two years ago and then was injured last year, and now she doesn't really look or skate like a novice any more.

I'd also sat through all of the qualifying rounds for the novice ladies, just to watch without taking any notes on them. I found I could easily identify both the best and worst couple of skaters from each group, but for those in between I was still having a hard time identifying whatever it was that the judges were using to rank them. Perhaps taking notes would have helped on that. In general, except for Evelyn Kong and Nicole Spagnoli, it seemed that the judges were favoring the girls who looked a little older and who had a little more power to their skating. A few of the girls who qualified didn't have either a double axel or a triple, and a few of the girls who didn't did, or were at least attempting them. I also observed that most of the novices (even the ones who qualified) had really poor layback spins, and many of them also had trouble holding a camel position for more than a couple rotations. Incidentally, I also observed that in the short program many of both the novices and juniors were having trouble doing the required double loop directly out of footwork -- many were doing the footwork, then taking a long pause to set up the jump.

There were no senior men competing at New Englands this year. The junior men's competition was the usual thing between Curt Doten and Josh Figurido. I'm still a huge fan of Josh's, but the technical level he's achieving in competition doesn't come close to what he's doing in practice. For instance, I saw him land an easy-looking triple lutz/triple toe in practice, but he missed both lutzes in his long program and in his short he only did a triple toe/double toe for his combination. (He's doing the same long program as last year, and a new short to the "Zorro" soundtrack that is also very much in the Michael Chack style.) Basically, I think he needs a more aggressive attitude. Curt, meanwhile, has improved tremendously in the last year, skating with much more power and confidence, so that it was actually a pretty close decision between them in the free skate.

There were a fair number of novice men competing this year. Nicholas LaRoche was the clear winner -- he has triple toe, salchow, and flip. His presentation and carriage still need some work, but he's very fast and energetic and has improved a lot since last year. Mauro Bruni was a delight, as always. His big trick this year is a double toe/triple toe combination. For his long program he played James Bond and for his short program he played Todd Eldredge -- complete with the blue vest and pants and high-necked white shirt, and some music that I recognized as being from one of Todd's programs (sorry, they all sound the same to me). Joe Cabral did the Santana thing in a tie-dyed shirt for his short, and "Rocketeer" for his long; nice presentation and spins, but too many errors on jumps in the long made the program seem sloppy. Adam Kaplan did "The Race" for his short and what I think was "The Untouchables" for his long, and landed a triple salchow, triple loop, and triple toe. Weak camel spins, though. I don't think any of the other competitors landed any triples, and some of them didn't even have a double axel.

A couple random comments.... For all that the SC of Boston is one of the oldest clubs in the country and I always enjoy skating at their rink, it's really not an adequate facility for holding an event like this. There's not enough seating for the spectators, the rest rooms are awful, there's not really a separate lobby area so that people milling around the entrance and snack bar are right up against the boards where they have to be a distraction to the skaters on the ice, and likewise it has to be distracting to the skaters on the ice to have other competitors jumping around to warm up off-ice right next to the zamboni entrance because it's the only available corner for them. Finally, since this is only a single-rink facility and scheduling was pretty tight, they didn't hold any of the usual non-qualifying events this year, which I know was a disappointment to many of the adult competitors in this region.

All in all, though, I enjoyed the competition and had more fun than I did at Skate America the weekend before.

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