They seem to have made some scheduling changes since I arrived at the rink 10 minutes before the novice men's free skate was supposed to start and found the second group of them already on the ice warming up. Mauro Bruni won this one handily with a clean program, landing a triple salchow and two triple toes plus a double axel/double toe combination and double lutz/double toe/double loop. The main weakness I noted was that he seemed very cautious approaching his jumps and I kept wishing he would skate faster. Adam Aronowitz couldn't land a triple at all tonight but he's got such good presentation and in-between skating that he wound up second anyway. Not sure what happened to Matthew Lind.
Junior ladies short program was next. I was really surprised that Midori Williams didn't win this one with straight firsts because I thought she rocked. Huge triple salchow/double toe combination, equally big double lutz with her hands on her hips, and a flying sit spin that both flew and sat in the air. She has her hair cut short now, like Michelle Kwan's. She's skating to some slow "pretty" music and the whole effect reminded me of Irina Slutskaya's current incarnation, but I wish that she would do a program about being powerful and aggressive instead of pretty and graceful.
The skater who stole some first-place ordinals was Kathryn Orscher, who skated a clean program with triple toe/double toe as her combination. She won my award for the strangest music edit of the night -- it started out with some Indian flute music, and cut to some hillbilly-type fiddle music.
I think I also have to give a best spin combination award to Holly Hester, who did a camel/paperclip/catch-foot layback/biellmann (all without releasing her grip on the blade of a free leg), changed feet, and did, I think, a back sit spin before finishing up with a back cross-foot spin. I wasn't counting rotations but I think she must have gotten at least 30 total as all of the positions were held for a good while and her rotation was very strong throughout the spin.
Senior ladies short program was a real splat-fest. Everybody made mistakes. As far as I was concerned, the highlight was Cheryl Smith who has a real presence on the ice -- this time skating to some spanish guitar and latin music. But she fell on her triple loop (a new jump for her this year) and stepped out of her triple salchow in combination. Morgan Rowe also had a step-out in her combination (triple toe) and popped her axel, plus her solo jump was only a double flip. Alexis Mante had one of the cleaner performances of the night, with the only obvious problem that she popped the toe loop on the end of her triple salchow combination to a single. She also did a double flip as the jump out of footwork. Nicole Sutherland fell on her combination (triple toe) and I think picked up a couple smaller deductions on her spins. The biggest disappointment was Camie Doyle, who skated not at all like a skater who has been to senior Nationals and World Juniors; she did only double salchow/double toe as her combination, fell hard on her butt on her double axel, and all but ran into the boards on her double flip -- it was not cleanly landed, anyway.
Saturday's first event was the novice ladies free skate. Not a lot of great skating in this event. Louann Donovan, who won, landed a triple salchow but fell on two other triple attempts. I can't say I cared very much for her program, either -- it was of the "stop and jiggle in front of the judges" variety. Dorothy Nowobilski came in second although she fell on her only triple attempt (a salchow). She gets extra credit for speed and for doing a big fast double axel, but she had pretty minimal choreography in between the elements; just a lot of plain stroking. (Actually, the skater who had the most complex program was Kate Liberman, who placed a very respectable 5th in spite of not being able to land any jump more difficult than a double flip.) Amy Bobrick and Kristine Lee both skated solid programs with good double jumps including two double axels apiece. Amy tried a triple loop but came down on the wrong foot.
Junior men's free skate was next. Adam Kaplan won with a program that included a triple salchow and two triple toes, and misses on two triple lutzes and a triple loop. Adam can be a good skater, but he looked very slow and cautious this time. Personally, I'd have given the win to Joe Cabral, who had similar jump content in terms of what he actually landed, and who was much faster and who had better footwork and edge quality. Nice delayed axel at the end of the program, too. Josh Murphy could have won this event after starting out with a triple lutz, but he fell on or popped the rest of his triples. I must say, he had excellent choreography and presentation and he could be a really exciting skater to watch when he's more "on". Shaun Tolson was a bit outclassed in this group, not so much in terms of jumps but in terms of basic skating quality. He landed a triple toe and a triple salchow, but no clean double axel.
Senior men's free skate was a pretty sad affair. Can you believe that there was exactly one clean triple jump landed among the three men? Yup -- Josh Figurido did a triple toe loop. I'm used to seeing this from Josh: he lands a whole bunch of beautiful triples (lutz, flip, loop, etc) in the warmup, but when the music starts he falls 3 times and two-foots his triple loop, which is normally one of his best jumps. Sigh. Gorgeous spins, though. But watching Josh do a typical Josh competition performance wasn't nearly as painful as watching Jason Sylvia. I don't know if that horrific knee injury he had last year has left him with permanent damage or if he just hasn't been back on the ice long enough to get his skills back, but it was really sad to see him struggling with single and double jumps, falling when he was just stroking around doing nothing, etc. Ian MacAdam, the third competitor, seems to have fairly decent basic skating skills but he also popped a bunch of jumps and had a generally messy performance overall.
Finally, in junior ladies there were some good performances. Kathryn Orscher won this easily with a triple toe, triple salchow, and a pretty good attempt at a triple loop (a bit underrotated, and two-footed). I'd seen her wandering around the rink clutching her security froggy, which was cute. 8-) Midori Williams didn't skate up to quite the same level as she did in the short, only landing one triple (a salchow). Amanda Fuller landed a triple salchow and a triple toe that might have had a hand down, but she seemed to be getting a little tired and messy at the end of her program and overall is not such a strong skater as Midori. There was a pretty big gap in the performance level between these three, and the rest of the field.
After this I got to sit through 18 intermediate ladies. At this level, I find it really hard to judge the skaters, or understand what the judges are rewarding. For instance, I didn't understand why Brianna Perry only ended up 9th; I think she was the only one who did a double axel (although it may have been a little cheated) and her jumps generally were quite high and she skated with good speed. Kelly O'Grady placed 6th, which may have been a bit generous. She is really not a bad skater and some of her non-jump elements in isolation were quite good for an intermediate, but she has no speed or height at all in her jumps. Her long program, BTW, is a Gershwin medley in a blue and white sailor-type dress that was, thankfully, not age-inappropriate for her. Anyway, Sarah Farley (who ended up winning) came out and skated right after Kelly, and you could see right away that Kelly was just outclassed in this event. Sarah was much faster over the ice and had nice high jumps.
Finally, there were the senior ladies. The first flight were a real snooze (sorry) and I did not even bother to take notes. The second flight didn't promise to be much better when it started out with Nicole Sutherland being unable to land either a triple or a double axel. But then Alicia Cavanaugh came out and skated a clean program with three triples and two double axels. I don't think I've *ever* seen her skate this well before. She was in 5th place after the short so it wasn't enough to give her the win overall, though. Morgan Rowe skated pretty much the same way in the long that she did in the short, looking undertrained on the jumps and scaling way back on their difficulty compared to previous years, but with the rest of her skating still looking reasonably good. No triples, but at least she got a double axel. Cheryl Smith couldn't land a clean triple either, but she looked pretty thrilled to have at least stood up on her triple loop attempt -- that's a new jump for her this year. Finally, Alexis Mante had the door open to get to Easterns but didn't walk through it, skating a sloppy program with again neither a double axel nor a triple. Camie Doyle didn't skate the long program; I'm told she has petitioned for an injury bye.
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