2002 Midwesterns

2002 USFSA Midwestern Sectional Championships
November 15-17, 2001
Northbrook, IL

Thursday report

I saw practices for senior ladies and men, part of the junior compulsory dance, and the novice men's short program. I don't have much to say about the dance since I was paying as much attention to fiddling with my new camera, as to the skating. Unfortunately, I don't think I will be taking too many more photos at this event, because they left the hockey glass up in both rinks, and I wasn't having much luck trying to shoot around the posts. Also, the judges' stand in the rink where the novice events are taking place obscures a good portion of the ice no matter where you're sitting.

Novice men short program

My notes on novice men are also a bit sketchy, but here's the scoop on the top finishers:

Casey McGraw (1st) did a triple flip/double toe combination, the required double loop with an arm variation on the landing, and a good double axel. Everyone was wondering why he was wearing a matador outfit to skate to "JFK", though.

Wesley Campbell (2nd) did what appeared to be a triple lutz/double (or maybe triple?) toe combination (it was in the corner of the rink I couldn't see at all), but stepped out of his double loop.

Jeremy Abbott (3rd) did a triple toe/double toe combination, axel and loop were both good. His death drop was huge, probably the best flying spin of the event.

Evan Gibbs (4th) did a triple flip/double toe combination, according to my notes. More strange costuming: he was wearing gray for "Paint It Black".

Colin Pennington (5th) did a triple salchow/double toe combination, plus clean loop, axel, and death drop.

As far as the senior ladies go, it was obvious from the moment she stepped on the ice that Ann Patrice McDonough is the class of the competition. Andrea Gardiner is also skating pretty well, and I'd guess Katie Lee and Alyssa Czisny are also likely to qualify for Nationals. It's nice to see Andrea Aggeler skating again, but she wasn't landing too many triples. Heidi Pakkala was landing both triple (f)lutz and flip, but her other elements are so substandard that I am not too hopeful about her, either.

The men, as a group, were doing a lot of falling. The only clean triple axel I witnessed came from Rohene Ward after many attempts, although I was told Braden Overett eventually got one, too. Rohene also did a clean quad toe after numerous attempts. Ryan Jahnke's axel is still in the "close, but no cigar" category, while Ryan Bradley's is still at the "no way" level. Top four are anyone's guess, as there are several guys who are all pretty much at the same level and it just depends on what they can land when the pressure is on.

Friday report

This was a really long day of competition and I'm really tired, so I'm just going to give a quick rundown on the top finishers in each event.

Junior men short program

The junior men's short program was kind of a disappointing event, as there were many sloppy performances and nobody with a stand-out "look at me" quality.

Dustin Brinsmade (1): triple lutz/double toe, double loop. Could have been faster, other elements were OK but not spectacular. Bach Toccata & Fugue.

Jordan Brauninger (2): fell on triple lutz, good triple loop, pretty good camel (especially the forward camel), nice edge quality and in-between skating. Music was "MacArthur Park".

Ben Miller (3): I hardly recognized him, as his hair is much longer and it looks like he's really grown up in the last year. Triple axel with step out into double toe, fell on triple loop, flying sit and camel were of mediocre quality. I was expecting a much better skate from him given the rumors I've heard of how well he's been skating recently. Flashy costume, music was some kind of new age stuff.

Scott Corbin (4): Only a triple salchow/double toe combination and double loop, but the program was more or less clean, and he skated fast and with decent musical expression. Program was "Kalinka".

Josh Uster (5): Hand down on triple lutz into double toe, double loop. Flying sit spin didn't sit in the air. I'd been hearing good things about Josh and found this performance disappointing. He skated to fast jazzy music, but didn't seem to be able to keep up with it.

Sam-Tyler Dafoe (6): Triple salchow/double toe, double loop, flying sit spin didn't fly. Projected a lot of attitude skating to electric guitar in shiny pants, but to bring up his base mark he still needs to work on speed and ice coverage as well as harder jumps.

Junior ladies short program

Once again, a lot of mistakes....

Amber Czisny (1): triple toe/double toe, double loop was slightly two-footed, and she also had a slight stumble in her spiral sequence. Terrific layback spin. In spite of the small errors, a very strong skate, and no doubt at all in my mind that she deserved to be first.

Katie Stewart (2): triple salchow/double toe, double loop. Unusual spiral sequence that hardly included any spirals at all. A nice crisp performance all around.

Kristen Sheaffer (3): fall on triple loop, triple toe/double toe, very good flying sit spin. Her spin combination includes this incredibly contortionist mushroom position where she tucks her free foot behind her head.

Lea Nightwalker (4): double loop, triple flip(?)/double toe, fell on double axel. Kristen Mita (5): I missed her program while I was in the food line in the lobby, but I was told she landed a triple toe combination.

Lindsey Berg (6): fell on triple lutz, double loop.

Senior ladies short program

Well, my predictions from practice turned out to be pretty accurate!

Ann Patrice McDonough (1): triple lutz/double toe (she was warming up a double loop combination instead but didn't get the cleanest lutz landing this time), triple flip. She finished a little bit behind her music at the end.

Andrea Gardiner (2): triple lutz/double toe, triple flip with a slight touchdown of the free foot. Andrea has made major progress on cleaning up her flutz; she used to do one of those deep S-shaped curves and now it's barely flutzed at all.

Alissa Czisny (3): triple lutz/double toe without much speed coming out, triple flip, super layback spin, double axel didn't get much height and she had to work to save the landing. One minor gripe I have about Alissa's skating is that that she does her spirals with her free leg obviously splayed out to the side, and it looks a little awkward.

Katie Lee (4): triple toe/double toe with a delay in the rotation, double salchow (oops), a flying camel that really flew.

Andrea Aggeler (5): fell on triple lutz (she was not having any luck at all with this jump in warmup, as far as I could see), triple toe, good death drop. Her spiral sequence included a number of Sasha-type extension moves.

Alexa Treichel (6): fell on triple toe, double salchow. I thought she was lucky to place this high, as her program seemed pretty plodding to me, in addition to the lack of jump content.

Senior men short program

At long last, the big event of the day....

Ryan Bradley (1): double axel, triple lutz/triple toe with a quick step out, triple flip. He looked vastly relieved to get this program over with. Electric violin music.

Evan Lysacek (2): double axel, triple lutz/triple toe, triple flip, slight slip on camel in spin combination. Techno music, elaborate costume with a chevron-striped vest.

Ryan Jahnke (3): triple lutz/triple toe with a slight two-foot, popped waxel landed on two feet, triple flip. Ryan's spins and edges were glorious as usual, the best of the event, and this program ("Stairway to Heaven") really seems to suit him. He skated with lightness and joy and didn't let the jump errors drag him down.

Parker Pennington (4): don't ask me how this happened. Double axel, triple lutz/triple toe, big splat on triple flip. Horrible electronic circus music, and his basic skating quality is still kind of juniorish.

Rohene Ward (5): triple axel, awkward triple lutz/double toe combination, fell on triple flip entered from a charlotte spiral. Tasty spins, but no layback this time. His Michael Jackson program seemed more appropriate for a show program than a competition program, and I think he would have scored better if he had cut out the dancing in place and gliding on two feet.

Danny Clausen (6): double axel, triple flip/triple toe with step out and hands down, fell on triple lutz. He skated a challenging program to music by Phillip Glass, and I think he needed to skate it more cleanly in order to make it work.

Braden Overett (7): fell on triple axel, double lutz into the boards, double flip. Also had a fall in his straightline footwork and almost lost it in his combination spin as well. Sigh. Very unfortunate, because Braden is a much better skater than this. He was looking great in practices and also landed a clean triple axel in the 6-minute warmup.

Daniel Lee (8): Sigh again. Double lutz/double toe, double axel, popped flip to a single. Skated to "Gladiator", but didn't seem to have much fight in him for this performance. Again, evidence from practice is that he's a much better skater than this.

Saturday report

This was a really long day.... I got to the rink before 8:30am, when the junior men's free skate was supposed to start, only to find that they had pushed the schedule back and I could have gotten another badly needed hour of sleep. It was around 11pm by the time they were done with the medal presentations.

Junior men free skate

Jordan Brauninger (1): a terrific performance that was one of the highlights of the entire weekend. Skating to Russian-sounding classical music that I couldn't identify, his elements were triple lutz/triple toe, triple flip, double axel/double toe, change sit spin, triple toe, a back spiral with his free leg extended in front, triple loop, spin combination, triple salchow, double flip/double loop, straight-line steps, triple lutz, flying spin, circular steps, double axel, and a death drop. Wow; he had more jump content in his program than any of the senior men, even. On top of that, he skated with good speed and energy throughout the entire program, and his carriage and ease of movement are quite good for a skater at the junior level. The audience was roaring and ready to stand when he still had about a minute left in his program, I think. At the end of the competition he wandered up into the stands and I heard someone congratulating him and telling him they'd never seen him skate like that before, to which he replied that he'd never skated like that before, either! From finishing 4th in novice at last year's nationals, he's suddenly gone to being a major contender to win this year's national junior title.

Dustin Brinsmade (2): triple lutz/double toe that was probably two-footed on the back half, fall on triple flip, flying sit spin, triple salchow, upright cross-foot spin, triple flip landed on two feet and not in combination, MITF, triple toe, triple lutz that might have been two-footed, hydroblade, nice spin combination, double axel, flying camel into another cross-foot spin. Sounded like movie music to me.

Ben Miller (3): triple axel, fall on triple flip, triple lutz, flying camel, spread eagles, double salchow, fall on triple loop, more spread eagles, really weak camel spin, straight-line steps with a walley, triple lutz in combination with an attempted triple toe that he fell on because it was way underrotated, spin combination. Very fast skating throughout the program, but he really looked deflated after all the mistakes, and this result for him is a huge disappointment. He skated to "Don Quixote" using cuts similar to those that Josh Figurido used last season (i.e., the less familiar parts), wearing a high-waisted black and red Spanish-style outfit.

Josh Uster (4): another disappointing skate. Spiral into a triple toe, double axel, fall on triple lutz, a spin (my notes are not more specific), steps into a double flip, change camel, popped a loop, one-foot axel in combination with a triple salchow that seemed to catch many people by surprise, cross-foot spin, circular steps, triple toe/half loop/triple salchow but fell on the end, death drop. Movie music, I think, and not the greatest cuts, because it sort of trailed off at the end.

Sam-Tyler Dafoe (6 in free skate, 5 overall): same "Zorro" program as last year. Death drop, double axel with a nasty landing on his toe picks that created such a huge divot in the ice that for the rest of the event I was worried somebody was going to fall in it, double lutz, double toe/double toe, triple salchow/toe axel, spin combination, double loop, triple salchow with a hand down, camel/sit spin, double flip, flying camel, double axel. The main problem with this program wasn't the lack of jump content, but that Sam was crawling around the ice so slowly that I wanted to go out there and push him more than once.

Luke Mafazy (5 in free skate, 6 overall): triple toe/turns/double toe, flying camel with a Tollerish catch-leg variation, triple salchow/toe axel, triple loop two-footed, double axel, butterfly, MITF, double salchow, double flip with a turn out, sit change sit, straight step, double lutz with steps into a double toe, mushroom spin on two feet, triple toe, scratch spin. Luke's carriage and basic skating look a little labored, but one thing I particularly noted was that on his jumps he has a very neat air position, very tight with nicely pointed toes.

A few quick notes on other skaters in the event. Viktors Bariss-Ayele is a Rohene Ward clone, with many of the same amazing extension moves in his repertoire. Like Rohene, he's a big guy, too. Ben Woolwine had a disastrous skate, not landing much of anything, which is unfortunate because I think he *can* land the jumps he was attempting. Michael Peters, the local favorite, also had a lot of jump problems, but his program had some really interesting choreography, and I wish I knew what the "story" was supposed to be. He was wearing a gray vest over a shirt that was shredded on one sleeve and decorated with red "rips".

Junior ladies free skate

A lot of messy performances in this competition....

Kristen Sheaffer (1): splat on triple loop, triple lutz, triple salchow, triple flip, layback, double axel/double toe, flying camel, spirals, double lutz I think, ina, double toe, hydroblade, double axel, ending with a spin combination with that contortionist position where she puts her foot behind her neck. I didn't have a clue what her music was.

Amber Czisny (2): "Carmen" in black and gold sequins. Fell on triple toe, two-footed triple loop in combination with a double loop, ina into a triple salchow, a flying sit spin I think, double axel, triple lutz two-footed, change-edge spiral, layback/biellmann spin, opposite direction camel/sit spin that was of very good quality, big double flip, double loop, triple toe that was probably also two-footed, spin combination, butterfly.

Lea Nightwalker (3): "Red Violin" and "Thais" and maybe some other violin music, too. Change camel, double lutz/double loop, layback, triple salchow/double toe, double axel, failed attempt at a delayed axel (I guess), spiral, flying camel, fell on triple loop, another fall on triple toe, double flip, circular steps, spin combination and scratch spin.

Katie Stewart (6 in free skate, 4 overall): double axel, double flip/toe axel, popped salchow, flying camel, double toe, sequence of double axel and double loop, spirals, splat on triple salchow, double lutz, back/front/back combination spin, illusion. More violin music, some of it sounding kind of new-agey and some of it sounding like a more classical string quartet piece.

Ann Nguyen (4 in free skate, 5 overall): "Don Quixote" skated in a white wedding dress. Fell on triple salchow, double axel in sequence with another jump I missed because I was writing, layback, triple toe, triple loop, spirals, double lutz (?), ina into a 'tano double flip/double loop, spin combination, steps, double axel, butterfly spin.

Kristen Mita (5 in free skate, 6 overall): double axel, another jump I missed, double lutz/double toe, triple toe, double flip, spin combination, splat on triple salchow, double loop, double flip, double axel, flying camel. I wrote down "new age drums" for her music, and she wore a magenta dress with orange tie dye pieces.

Senior men free skate

Earlier in the afternoon, Ryan Bradley was involved in a nasty accident while competing in the novice pairs event. I didn't see it myself, but I was told he got caught in a rut in a platter lift and he banged his head on the ice as his partner fell on top of him. Apparently he was not seriously hurt, but with a head injury it would have been insane for him to skate his long program in the men's competition just a few hours later. I can't imagine that the USFSA would not grant him a bye to Nationals since he was leading after the short program.

Ryan Jahnke (1) landed a clean triple axel! OK, it happened in warmup and not competition, but it set the tone for what was to follow. He was very much "on" tonight, not just in terms of the jumps, but in terms of where his head was at and being full of joy and confidence in his skating. Triple lutz/triple toe looked clean to me, unique upright spin, triple axel with a slight two-foot, triple flip, flying camel, spirals, outside edge forward camel that drew ooohs and ahhhs from the audience, triple salchow with three turns into a triple loop that he fell on (he left this one in the warmup, too, but at this point it didn't matter, because he was flying), glorious spread eagle, triple lutz, straight-line steps, double axel/half loop/triple toe, footwork into a huge split jump into another leap, spin combination with a sitspin variation reminiscent of Erik Larson, and a standing ovation. The crowd at this event was very much aware of, and appreciative of, the quality of Ryan's spins and connecting elements. I was less sure of what the judges would do, but he ended up getting first-place ordinals from 7 of the 9 judges. This was the "tango villain" program choreographed by Tom Dickson, skated in a costume that was similar to, but not the same as, the vest-and-shirt one he used at Wissahickon.

Rohene Ward (2 in freeskate, 3 overall) skated to the same violin "Turandot" arrangement that Sarah Hughes used a couple years ago, wearing burgundy velour pajamas with some beaded trim on the front. Triple axel landed with little flow in combination with a double toe with even less, popped his planned attempt at a quad toe, spiral, triple loop with a landing that was a bit of a struggle, triple flip, flying camel onto an outside edge, circular steps, triple salchow, spin with camel and sideways sit positions, pivoting, popped another attempt at an axel, more spirals with extreme extensions, triple lutz with another awkward landing, and a spin combination with layback and back donut positions. I don't doubt that Rohene is the best jumper at this event, but I think he still has work to do on keeping his focus in competition.

Evan Lysacek (3 in freeskate, 2 overall) had a good skate, too. My notes are a little confused: I have him down as doing two triple flips in combination and two solo lutzes, so I must have at least one of them wrong. Anyway, 6 triples total, and he appeared to be very happy at the end of his performance. I think the program weighed him down a little -- it's kind of heavy, dramatic techno music, and I think he'd do better with something that lets him show a little more expression. He was wearing a gray shirt dripping with chiffon bits that I understand he designed himself.

Parker Pennington (4) surely ought to thank Ryan Bradley for giving him an opening to get to Nationals. I have him down for landing triple lutz, triple loop, triple flip/triple toe combination, triple salchow, triple lutz/double toe. Also a big splat on his triple axel attempt; it seemed he was closer to landing this jump two years ago. He skated to "Romeo and Juliet" wearing a flashy burgundy and yellow costume. It takes a lot of guts to wear a costume like that.

Braden Overett (5) unfortunately just didn't do enough to move himself up another notch to make Nationals. Triple loop, splat on triple axel (after he landed another really nice one in warmup, too), triple salchow/double toe, triple toe, double lutz, triple flip, another triple loop not in combination, popped another lutz attempt. He skated a nifty paso doble in a black and gold matador suit.

Danny Clausen (6) surprised me by coming up with a really challenging, nonconformist program to percussion and solo flute music. He had some struggles with his jumps -- even though he was landing them, it seemed like most of them were a little off balance. I have his elements down as a double axel with a step-out, triple flip/triple toe with a step out into another triple toe, death drop, good triple lutz directly out of brackets in both directions (!!), flying sit spin, spread eagle, triple loop/double toe, triple salchow, a weird leap, another weird leap in a straightline step sequence, triple flip from steps, travelling camel into a spin combination that included hopping up onto the heel of his blade, and a scratch spin to end. Very cool program.

Senior ladies free skate

Another major splatfest here, sigh.

Andrea Gardiner (1): two-footed triple salchow, double axel, triple lutz with a hand down, triple toe, flying camel, double loop, double flip, ina and spiral, double lutz, layback, triple toe/double toe/double loop, death drop, spin combination. She skated to a medley of "Invitation to the Dance", "O Mio Babbino Caro", and a more lively piece I didn't recognize at the end of her program, when she really seemed to come alive for a strong finish after backing off in the middle of her program. I kept wishing that Andrea would skate to stronger and more dramatic music overall instead of choosing this "generic pretty" stuff.

Alissa Czisny (2): single lutz/double toe, flying camel didn't fly but had a nice spin position, fell on triple salchow, triple toe/double toe, death drop to an upright spin where she pulled her free leg up in front of her into a completely vertical position, triple loop, spirals, triple flip, super layback, double axel, popped another lutz attempt, big Russian split, spin combination.

Ann Patrice McDonough (3): I'm sure AP is the best skater of this group, but this performance was worse than an embarassment. After falling on her opening triple lutz, it seemed that she had a hissy fit on the ice and simply refused to do the rest of her content. Every one of the triples was doubled, and the two double axels were turned into singles, until she botched another triple lutz at the end of the program and then didn't even bother to really finish the program, just sort of skating off instead of doing her closing pose. Coach Tom Zakrajsek was furious with her, and didn't seem to care who knew about it, since after the event was over with he came up into the stands and was venting on AP's mom in front of a crowd of people who were waiting for the podium ceremonies to begin. I have to think that third place was a complete gift from the judges.

Molly Quigley (4): spirals into a back lunge, double axel/double toe, back camel/sit spin, triple loop way underrotated and two-footed, triple lutz likewise, death drop, triple toe/double toe, layback, triple salchow with a couple half loops into a double salchow, serpentine steps, double axel with a step out, spin combination. Very strong basic skating, very confident presentation, looked like she was actually enjoying herself through the whole program, and really the highlight of the entire competition. Everyone in the arena was buzzing about how she made Nationals in both singles and pairs this year!

Katie Lee (6 in free skate, 5 overall): triple salchow, double lutz, double axel/double toe, flying camel, triple toe with a step out into a double toe (I was marvelling at the delayed rotation she has on her triple toe), layback, fall on triple loop, spread eagle, another fall on triple toe, triple salchow/double loop, walley, straight-line steps, waxel, spin combination. This was really too bad, because Katie is a good all-around skater and just one of the three triples she missed would have been enough to qualify her for nationals. I have to say that the absolute worst thing about sectionals is seeing unhappy, sobbing skaters in the lobby after the competition -- you feel so badly for them, and yet it's hard to say anything that will make them feel any better.

Heidi Pakkala (5 in free skate, 6 overall): landed two triple lutzes which both might have been a bit two-footed, and a clean triple flip, but couldn't do an edge jump to save her life, even popping both double axels. More what-ifs here. Spins were better than in the short program, but still only of mediocre quality. She doesn't really lay back on her layback, sit on her sit spins, or fly on her flying spins. I also thought her bright fuschia dress with ruffled sleeves looked more appropriate for a Latin program than "Henry V".

Andrea Aggeler (7): disastrous skate with four hard falls; the only triple she attempted that was close to clean was a triple toe with a double three into a double toe. I was kind of expecting this from the problems she was having in practice, as it didn't look to me like she really had her jumps back yet.

Other events

I saw the junior and senior free dances and the senior pairs free skates, but I didn't take detailed notes on these events.

Ralph & O'Meara were way ahead of the rest of the pack in junior dance. Their "happy peasant" free dance has a lot of typical Igor Shpilband choreography, including the complicated grips and holds I remember that Silverstein & Pekarek used to do. It's a nicely structured program with changes in tempo. There's a cool repeated motif in the dance where Ryan assists Melissa in a kind of half-axel jump which she lands in a shoot-the-duck position.

In senior dance, I was shocked at how good Gregory & Petukhov were for a new team. Their free dance, especially, looked better than what I've seen from Joseph & Forsyth so far this season. OTOH, I am a little worried about how frighteningly skeletal Melissa looks in her face. Last time I saw her (when she was still skating with Aaron Anderson) she didn't look like that.

As far as senior pairs impressions go, I would have put Quigley & Cording in first place. Larisa Spielberg is still having major problems landing her jumps. Razskazova & Rising-Moore look like Mishkutenok & Dmitriev clones -- their content wasn't the most difficult, but they looked entirely competent at what they did.

Unfortunately, I never got to see any more of the novice events because they were running competitions in parallel in two rinks. I would have liked to have seen at least the men and ladies.


Photos are Copyright (c) 2001, Sandra J. Loosemore, and are provided for personal viewing only except as noted in Skateweb's photo use policy.

Most of these photos are around 50K apiece, but the podium shots and a few others are larger.

Senior men practices

Junior dance


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