Rinkside Reports from 2000 Easterns

This page contains my reports from 2000 Easterns.

Thursday's report

They were running simultaneous competitions in the two rinks, so I didn't get to see everything -- in particular, I missed the novice ladies short program. I also missed the novice men because I wasn't able to arrive at the rink that early.

Junior ladies short program

Just the top finishers:

Joanna Glick -- red velvet dress, Mulan + Vanessa-Mae music. I must have blinked and missed the footwork into the double lutz, or maybe she didn't do any. Triple loop/double loop for her combination. She picked up about 0.3 in deductions somewhere.

Syreeta Baker -- pale purple dress, "O mio babbino caro". Did triple sal/ double toe combination, had trouble with the flying sit spin. I thought her straight-line footwork looked relatively difficult, with a lot of brackets, etc. Very pleasant program, but quite slow throughout.

Midori Williams -- black sparkly outfit, violin & piano muzak. I hate how she has been given such wimpy music to work with; I'd like to see her do something that emphasizes her power. Triple salchow/double toe combination.

Dirke O'Brien Baker -- blue sparkly dress, the slow section of the Rachmaninoff 2nd piano concerto. I thought she was the class of the competition, skating a very smooth and mature program. Combination was triple salchow/double toe, but I think she put her hand down on the salchow, or at least was off-balance enough to reach forward on the landing.

Suzanne McDonald -- white outfit, GWTW music. Tried a triple (f)lutz out of footwork but fell. Combination was triple flip/double toe with a step-out on the second jump. Her marks and ordinals were all over the board -- marks from 2.9 to 4.8 for required elements, ordinals from 1st to 10th! In spite of the attempts at the difficult jumps, I wasn't impressed by in-between skating.

Senior ladies short program

Just the top finishers again:

Stephanie Roth -- Navy empire-style dress, "West Side Story". Triple toe/double toe, triple salchow from footwork that looked pretty minimal to me. She was the first skater and looked thrilled that she skated a clean program.

Abbi Gleeson -- white outfit, "Swan Lake". I wonder if Abbi just hasn't been training her singles programs very much since she's taken up pairs. There were several points in this program where she was stumbling around looking off-balance or confused and I'm sure this brought down her second mark considerably, which is a shame because her carriage and presentation are otherwise so fine. She did a double loop/stumble/double toe as her combination and then doubled the toe loop out of footwork as well and may have touched down with her hand on the double axel.

Alice Sue Claeys -- weird yellow outfit with a strippy skirt and blue sequinned bands across the hips and chest. Her music was an equally weird version of "Sentimental Journey" with whistling and a techno beat. Big fast triple toe/triple toe combination (although the second jump looked slightly two-footed), but then seemed to wimp out on everything else -- only a double flip out of footwork, a waxel, even the spins and footwork looked really slow and cautious.

Sara Wheat -- cream dress, music I didn't recognize. She's dumped the "Bolero" program she was doing earlier this season. Clean, conservative program with triple toe/double to combination and triple salchow out of footwork. Given the trouble she was having on the more difficult jumps the last time I saw her, this was probably a smart strategy; she doesn't really need more than this to make it to Nationals.

Nicole Sutherland -- blue-shaded halter dress, Michelle's "East of Eden" music. Fell on triple toe that was supposed to be her combination, only a double flip as the jump out of footwork, but I think she got credit for the generally good quality of the rest of her skating and for her presentation.

Camie Doyle -- black dress, "The Man I Love". Triple salchow/double toe combination but the second jump was underrotated and two-footed. She tried a triple toe as the jump out of footwork, seemed to land it OK, but fell on the run-out of the jump. Spirals and spins looked kind of half-hearted.

Stacey Pensgen -- blue outfit, peppy music (vaguely Italian? Irish?). Triple lutz/double toe, triple flip out of footwork. Double axel was kind of scary but she pulled it out. Easy choice for the winner.

Elizabeth Kwon -- white outfit, classical violin music. She opened with a slightly two-footed triple flip that I think may have been intended to be her combination -- I didn't see any footwork into it -- but she didn't attempt a second jump. Instead, she tried to tack on a double toe to what came out as an overrotated double flutz with a step-out. The rest of the program was good, and her spirals were probably the best of the event.

Patricia Mansfield -- blue dress, jazzy music. Combination was triple toe/step-out/double-toe. Fell on attempt at triple salchow out of footwork. Double axel was also kind of scary. Yes, she did that upside-down spiral and it looked spectacular, but oddly enough she did *not* do this as part of the spiral sequence.

So, we had one really strong performance and two good ones, with the rest of the field all botching one or more elements.

Junior pairs

Just a couple quick comments on this event. There were a number of last-minute withdrawals and only 6 of the 10 teams listed in the program actually skated. Of these, a couple of them really looked like they were about to kill themselves -- Dean & Murphy, in particular, had a really horrifying fall on a twist lift in warmup, and their lift also looked so far beyond their technical abilities that I think everyone was relieved when she made it through both the warmup and competition without being dropped head-first onto the ice.

Friday's report

This was a looong day of skating.... Some of my comments will be pretty sketchy here.

Novice men long

Quick notes on the top 4:

Shaun Rogers landed 3 triples, including a lutz, and fell on an attempt on a 4th. He wore a sailor suit and skated to "On the Town", but without much expression -- he could have been skating to anything. Priscilla Hill was coaching him.

I was distracted during Christopher Vaeth's skate and didn't get very good notes. He looks to be a few years older than the other guys who are going to Nationals.

Traighe Rouse, OTOH, looks like the youngest of this group; he's certainly the smallest. Both of his triple attempts (salchow and toe) appeared to be slightly cheated or two-footed but he had really fine presentation and I think more connecting moves than any of the other guys, and he really seemed to enjoy interpreting his choreography.

Adam Aronowitz is also pretty young-looking. He skated the tango program I've seen before this season with good flair, and a clean triple salchow and some nice double axels, etc.

I was disappointed that Mauro Bruni had to withdraw. He told me afterwards he has a hip injury. I hope his coach thinks to put in a request for a medical bye to Nationals for him, and the people in charge of such things consider it seriously, because I'm sure he would have qualified if he'd been healthy. He beat Adam at New Englands and his skate there would have ranked second in this field.

Junior men short program

Again, just quick notes on the leaders....

Joe Cabral skated a typical program for him, a more-or-less clean program with jumps of lesser difficulty than what you really need to be successful at this level; only a triple toe/double toe combination and double lutz out of footwork. Good footwork and spins; his flying sit spin was spectacularly high. Santana.

Adam Kaplan also skated a typical program for him. Triple loop/double toe combination, fell on attempt at triple lutz out of footwork (I have never seen him land this jump successfully). Very musical, although I found his stroking a bit choppy and lacking in flow. Irish music with lots of percussion.

Victor Ehre was the surprise of the competition. I hadn't seen him at all in the last two years and found he'd really improved. Triple flip/double toe, triple lutz out of footwork (possibly flutzed), clean double axel. Circular footwork looked kind of simple to me. Anyway, a clean program put him in second place. He skated to some funky blues music and had at least some clue about how to interpret it, although his carriage could use some cleaning up. After the competition he was seen going around the rink with a huge smile on his face!

Johnny Weir skated his paso doble program and once again fell on his triple axel attempt. The lutz was spectacular, though. Even with the fall, he won the event easily.

Nicholas LaRoche skated to "Malaguena" in a black and red outfit. He is an extremely fast and powerful skater and really attacks his jumps, but he seems to have some serious problems doing a camel spin.... not good when a change-foot camel is a required element. Combination was only triple toe/double toe, and he fell on a triple lutz attempt. So he had two major deductions.

Novice pairs

I did not take detailed notes on this, sorry. The team who won, Sarah Jo Damron-Brown and Themistocle Leftheris, were obviously the best of the competition; they had pretty good unison for being together less than a year. (But I can predict that their names are going to be too much of a mouthful for everyone if they ever make it big.) Most of the other teams I saw were pretty scary to watch (and that was *after* I deliberately passed up the first flight). I really do not enjoy watching pairs who look like they're about to kill themselves.

Which reminds me, I was told that Paul Binnebose was seen (but not by me, obviously) at the rink on Thursday. It's an encouraging sign that he's able to be up and about, but I'm told his appearance reminded people of how lucky he is to be alive at all.

Junior ladies long

The standings all went topsy-turvy between the short and long.

Skating in the first group for the long, Amanda Fuller landed triple salchow, toe, and loop, which was a pretty good skate for her, but she had absolutely no expression at all and her music didn't help her any. The judges really dinged her in the second mark.

Katie Orscher, who had won New Englands but who was only 8th after the short here, skated her "Zorro" program and landed triple toe and salchow and a two-footed triple loop. Decent presentation, but she fell on a butterfly spin right at the end of her program which probably cost her a tenth or so in both marks. But it turned out this was good enough to put her in 2nd in the free skate and 3rd overall.

Suzanne McDonald landed a triple lutz in her long program, but basically nothing else. She splatted on a triple flip and also on a double axel, and didn't attempt any other triples.

Dirke O'Brien Baker skated another "Zorro", landing a triple toe and two triple salchows and a couple big double axels. Oddly enough, she did not attempt either a lutz or flip of any variety, although she did have a double loop near the end of her program. Anyway, she was fast and smooth and really aggressive about her jumping and there's no question that she deserved to win.

Midori Williams skated a lackluster rendition of "Scheherezade". As usual, the double axel and triple salchow were no problem for her, but she seems to be making no progress on adding any other triples to her repertoire, plus this program was really not very-well choreographed; having her do this "pretty", balletic stuff doesn't show off her power, plus the program was really lacking in connecting moves.

Joanna Glick landed triple loop/double loop and a triple salchow and what was probably supposed to be a triple flip/double loop but that came out so cheated I thought it was a double. She gets very little height on any of her jumps. Her program had a lot of moves that emphasized how flexible she is, especially in her back.

Netta Rizea and Syreeta Baker, the other two skaters in the second group, didn't skate well and dropped well down in the standings.

Senior men short

There wasn't a single clean, or close to clean, program skated in this event but I found it enjoyable to watch anyway.

Josh Figurido skated to Santana in a blinding white sparkly outfit that I think was intended to be over-the-top. This boy can dance and he's not shy about strutting his stuff. Jumps were triple lutz/triple toe with a two-foot on the second jump, and a fall on the triple flip out of footwork. Circular footwork looked a little sloppy to me as well.

Jeff Merica skated to Ravel's "Daphnis and Chloe". He fell on his triple axel attempt, although he'd been having pretty good luck with them in practices. Scary triple lutz/double toe as his combination, clean triple flip out of footwork.

Kurt Fromknecht skated to Pink Floyd. I was confused because it looked to me like he attempted a flip both as his combination and as his jump out of footwork, although one of them was surely intended to be a lutz. The one in the combination was popped, which he followed with a triple toe with a hand down. The other one was cleanly landed.

Scott Smith did triple lutz/double toe as his combination but fell on his triple loop. I forgot to write down what his music was and it didn't stick in my mind.

Shep Clark took a big fall on his triple axel attempt, did triple lutz/double loop as his combination, but only a double loop as the jump out of footwork. He was warming up triple lutz/triple loop but he can't do both that and triple loop as his solo jump, so perhaps he was trying to improvise and it backfired. Otherwise it was a typical performance for him -- fast skating, gorgeous spin positions, etc. He's doing his "1812" program again this year.

Derrick Delmore wasn't having a good jump day either. He popped his axel and fell on his triple flip, and did only a triple toe as his jump out of footwork. His spins were terrific too. He's skating to Spanish music in a dark purple outfit, and this is a really nice program.

My sense from watching the short and the practices so far is that Merica, Clark, and Delmore will probably qualify for Nationals and the fourth spot is up for grabs between Figurido, Fromknecht, and Smith.

Incidentally, Jason Sylvia, who had the horrifying injury last year and looked so out of it at New Englands, did not show up at all here.

Saturday's report

Junior men free skate

Josh Murphy landed triple lutz/double toe, double toe/triple toe, and I think another triple toe by itself. He also had a two-footed triple salchow and a triple flip with a step-out. He skated to Irish music and had good footwork and decent speed and flow throughout his program. He seems like he has the potential to be an exciting skater to watch but I get the impression he suffers from consistency problems and competition nerves. Anyway, he pulled way up from the short on the basis of his presentation mark.

Adam Kaplan landed triple salchow, triple toe, and triple loop cleanly, put a hand down on a triple flip attempt, and wound up doubling both lutz attempts in his program. I don't think he really "has" a triple lutz yet. This sounded like some kind of movie music to me.

Victor Ehre turned in a somewhat messy performance with a triple flip/turns/ double toe sequence, triple (f)lutz, triple salchow/turns/double toe, and triple toe. He also botched another triple flip attempt and didn't land either of his two double axels cleanly -- the problems with overrotated landings were pretty pervasive in this program. Also some of the spins were quite weak. He was skating to a really lifeless arrangement of music from "Les Miz", which didn't help either. But this turned out to be enough to keep him in the top 4.

Johnny Weir also did not have a very good skate. He landed a triple lutz in combination with an underrotated and two-footed triple toe, a triple lutz by itself, and a triple salchow. He also fell on his triple axel attempt again, popped the first flip, and stepped out of the second. It seems like his program is supposed to have a theme but who knows what it's supposed to be. One thing I did notice as a recurring choreographic element in his program was positions where he would extend his foot in front and hold it up with the opposite hand; he used this as a spiral position and also in his spins.

Nicholas LaRoche was also having problems with stepping out of the landings of his jumps, and did triple lutz/double toe with a step-out on the second jump, triple flip with a fall, triple salchow with a step-out into a double toe, clean triple lutz, triple loop with a step-out, and a hydroblading move into a triple salchow. On top of this he landed two gigantic double axels and skated with tremendous speed through the whole program. The spins in this program were much better than those in his short. He used "JFK", which is big music to skate up to, but I think he managed to inject more excitement into his performance than any of the other guys. So I was really shocked to see how much lower his marks were than Johnny Weir's. Incidentally, Nicholas looks like a big guy on the ice, but when I saw him off-ice afterwards he looked both shorter and younger.

Anyway, the end result of this event was that Kaplan got knocked out of the top 4 and the ones who are going to Nationals are Weir, LaRoche, Ehre, and Murphy.

Novice Ladies Free Skate

Just a few quick comments here, rather than blow-by-blow analysis.

I don't have much quibble with the results of the free skate. I thought both of the triples Amy Bobrick did were probably a bit cheated, while Louann Donovan's were certainly cleanly landed. Joelle Forte also landed two triples, but they were both salchows instead of two different jumps. Jennifer Park's two triples, and her double axel too, were very obviously cheated, but her program was packed with choreography and connecting elements. Colette Irving didn't skate very well at all in the long program but she will go to Nationals instead of Jennifer because of winning the short.

Among the lower-ranked girls, a couple things stuck in my mind.

There was a girl named Alexsandra Denham skating in the first flight who really impressed me with the textbook quality of her double jumps. She also had a great layback spin. While I was watching her I was thinking that this is the kind of free skating we might have seen at the world level 25 years ago, before triple jump mania really struck. Nowadays it's just good enough to make it to 10th place at sectionals.

Dorothy Nowobilski, who trains at Simsbury with Galina Zmievskaya, had an absolutely horrific long program. I think that coming in to this event she had some reasonable hope of making it to Nationals; she was certainly the most powerful skater in the field at Easterns, and she has a huge double axel and a triple salchow. But after missing them both at the beginning of the program she just fell apart completely. It's really awful to have to watch something like that.

Senior ladies free skate

I think the outcome of this competition was probably absolutely noncontroversial -- the top 4 skated way above the level of the rest of the field.

First up in the last group was Stacey Pensgen, who did triple lutz/double toe, triple flip/double toe, triple salchow, triple toe/double toe, and a solo triple toe. If she did any flavor of loop I must have forgotten to write it down. The only obvious mistakes were that a couple of her spins travelled badly and she doubled the second lutz in the program. The program sounded like some kind of generic movie music to me. I think this is still a big step up from the way she was skating last year, in terms of both her jump consistency and the finish on her in-between skating, and that she has a realistic shot to make the podium at Nationals. Things could get very uncomfortable for Angela Nikodinov with the two of them sharing the same coach (who was not with her at Easterns, BTW).

Sara Wheat was up next. They've rearranged the jumps in her program since I first saw it, so that she opens with some things she can actually land -- triple toe and triple salchow/double loop (I saw her do a triple loop on the back half of this combination at least once in practice, too). She popped the lutz, did the triple loop, hands down on the triple flip (but certainly the best attempt I've seen from her on this in a competition this year), and finally a triple toe/double toe/double loop combination at the end. I think this performance was a big relief to everyone after all the talk of the "junior curse" and the troubles Sara was having with her jumps at competitions earlier this fall. It also seems to me like she is growing into her program (it's the Tchaikovsky 6th symphony) which seemed too ambitious and adult for her at first. She was wearing a very elegant 1-shouldered black dress.

Elizabeth Kwon fell on her loop and flip attempts and did only a double lutz, but pulled out a triple toe/double toe, triple salchow/double toe, and solo triple salchow in the second half of her program. In addition to the lack of more difficult triples, overall I think she still looks like a very good junior rather than a skater who's going to make her mark at senior nationals this year. Anyway, in this field 4th place was just right.

The fourth skater to make it to Nationals is Stephanie Roth, who skated a great program with triple toe/double toe, triple flip that looked a bit two-footed, triple salchow double toe, big double axel, and both triple salchow and salchow by themselves. Except for the entrance to the triple flip, she skates really fast and has a lot of power -- it was probably the most exciting performance of the competition. And I'm pleased that the judges rewarded her in both marks this time. The people I was sitting with were discussing whether she even ought to have been placed 2nd instead of 3rd.

Among the rest of the field, the pickings were pretty slim. Alicia Cavanaugh had faults on the landings of all 3 triples she did but I think got some extra credit from the judges for her spins. Abbi Gleeson managed a triple toe/double toe before popping and splatting through the rest of her program, but I must say that she still looked a lot more secure in her skating than in the short program. Camie Doyle landed only a triple toe; I have to say I was surprised at how very low her marks were, because in spite of all the mistakes she made her program was very pleasant and thoughtfully constructed. I don't know how she ended up two places behind Morgan Rowe, who not only didn't land any clean triples at all, but who also didn't do a double axel.

Speaking of absent coaches, apparently Craig Maurizi abandoned all of his skaters at Easterns (including Camie as well as Josh Murphy from junior men) in order to spend the weekend in Blandover with Tara Lipinski instead.

Senior men free skate

Scott Smith had the bad luck to be the first skater in the long program. He didn't skate a great program -- he missed both his lutz and flip attempts, but landed a triple loop, triple salchow/double toe, and then at the very end of his program a triple toe/triple toe and solo triple salchow -- but I thought his marks might hold up for 4th place. He looked really devastated when it was all over and he didn't make it.

The rest of the top skaters were all in the second group.

Jeff Merica started out by falling on a triple axel attempt and doing a somewhat unsteady triple lutz. You could tell it was supposed to be a combination as he was hesitating over whether to try the second jump. He doubled the flip, tried another triple axel, and landed it! I think this may be the first time he's done one in competition. Next was an overrotated triple loop, and another triple lutz -- better than the first one, but no combination. Ooops. Triple salchow, then doubled the toe loop. So it was a pretty uneven performance. I didn't really care too much for this program; in the past Jeff has done more classical pieces that I've really liked, but this sounded like generic movie music to me.

Josh Figurido skated next and had one of his typical disastrous performances that dropped him all the way down to 7th place. The only triple he landed cleanly was his opening triple loop. I have to give him credit, though; he actually rotated his triple axel attempt even if he was not close to landing it. In practices he seemed to be popping it more often than not. Anyway, this was sad -- Josh is a much better skater than this -- but not exactly a surprise to people familiar with his competition history.

Derrick Delmore was up next. OK, I'll say it: his costume has got to go. It's a sheer black illusion shirt with a diagonal stripe of opaque black across the chest and back. I think the rulebook requires that men's shirts not "expose the chest", and in this case the chest certainly *was* exposed. Derrick skated to the same program with a gazillion cuts of music, at least some of which were recognizably from "Jesus Christ Superstar", that I'd seen him do at Wissahickon. He was not landing very many jumps in practices all week (taking lots of hard falls on the axel, flip, and lutz) and in the competition he managed only a triple toe, triple loop, triple salchow/double toe, and triple salchow by itself -- less jump content than Scott Smith, in other words. OTOH, Derrick was much faster across the ice and he has really improved his spins and presentation in the last couple of years.

Shepherd Clark also wore some unusual attire -- the black outfit with the "SC" trim around the waist and cuffs, that allegedly stands for "Skating Club of South Carolina" instead of his initials. Does anybody really believe he'd wear this if it *weren't* his initials? :-) One of the netters I was sitting with wondered whether this outfit would run afoul of the ISU's regulations on advertising logos on skaters' clothing. Anyway, the skating.... Shep is skating to "Cats", and it's a nice fun program with lots of cat choreography. His jumps were a triple loop, two triple lutzes, and a triple flip that looked two-footed to me, also falls on attempts at another triple loop and flip.

Kurt Fromknecht was the last skater of the evening. According to my notes, he landed a triple flip/double toe, triple lutz/double toe, triple loop, and triple toe, and with that he knocked Scott Smith off the bubble and out of Nationals. Aside from the more difficult jumps (even if one fewer), Kurt also skated quite a bit faster, and I think also benefitted from skating last instead of first. I didn't write anything down about his music, which means it was probably some more generic movie music.

The ordinals between Merica, Delmore, and Clark were all jumbled up. Clark wound up winning with a majority of 2nds with Merica and Delmore in a tie for 2nd place. There was a tie in the men's event at Midwesterns, too -- pretty funny for it to happen twice!

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