2004 US National Championships – Junior Free Dance Report


Report by Lindsay Higgins

Junior Free Dance
Watching the junior events is often considered to give one a glimpse into the future of U.S. skating. This year’s junior dance event was no exception. The top four teams- Morgan Matthews and Max Zavozin, Meryl Davis and Charlie White, Trina Pratt and Todd Gilles, and Kristen Frisch and Augie Hill- remained in the same order throughout the competition with consistent, quality performances that bode well for the future of U.S. ice dance.

Finishing sixth overall were this years Pacific Coast Sectional Champions, Carly Donowick and Leo Ungar of the Peninsula SC in California. Their program, to Bajo Fondo Tango Club, was very mature and sophisticated, and reminiscent of the style of their coaches, 1992 Olympic Champions Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko. Like their coaches, they have good speed and beautiful deep edges. The program got a nice response from the audience and the judges. Their marks, ranging from 4.4 to 5.0, were good enough for fifth place in the free dance. Combined with their seventh-place finish in both compulsories and a sixth place finish in the OD, they placed sixth overall.

In fifth place were last year’s national silver medallists in Novice Dance and this year’s silver medallists from the Eastern Sectionals, Meghan McCullough of the Washington FSC and Joel Dear of the Indiana/World Skating Academy, skating to “West Side Story”. The program was among the most difficult in the junior field; they have nice secure lifts and good unison, and they don’t rely overly on hand-to-hand and Kilian positions. According to the program book, Dear was born in 1981, making him too old to compete internationally as a junior, but they will likely be competitive in Senior next year. Their marks of 4.3 to 5.1 actually placed them sixth in the free dance, but their fifth-place finishes in both compulsories, as well as the OD, kept them in fifth place overall.

Placing fourth in all phases of the competition were Kristen Frisch of the Philadelphia SC and Humane Society, and Augie Hill of the Dallas FSC, silver medallists at this year’s Midwestern Sectionals. Both medalled as Juniors at nationals last year with other partners. Skating to “Carmen”, they showed good unison for a relatively new team, and kept nice spacing through both their circular and diagonal footwork sequences. They received marks from 4.8 up to 5.3.

This year’s Bronze Medallists in Junior Dance are last year’s Novice champions, Trina Pratt and Todd Gilles of the Broadmoor SC. Wearing unusual metallic print costumes, they skated to a techno piece- “Goldfrapp”, according to the program book. Their footwork sequences were very smooth and fast with a high degree of difficulty and several changes hold that they executed well. Their marks, like those of Frisch and Hill, ranged from 4.8 to 5.3.

Finishing second were 2002 Novice Silver Medallists Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the Detroit SC, two of the youngest competitors in the Junior event (Davis just turned 17; White will turn 17 in October). Despite their young age, they presented a very sophisticated Spanish-themed program featuring good lifts and fast, difficult footwork. They also do nice tight, fast twizzles while maintaining good unison. Their scores, all in the low fives, resulted in second-place ordinals across the boards and a strong second-place finish overall.

Winning the event for the second year in a row were 16-year-old Morgan Matthews and 18-year-old Maxim Zavozin of the SC of New York, who recently placed third at the 2003 Junior Grand Prix Final. Wearing black and red costumes, their free dance is set to Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero”. Like the other top teams, they exhibit good fast footwork without having to increase their distance from each other. Matthews and Zavozin also have nice soft knees and exceptional flow over the ice. What set them apart from the other junior teams is their ability to gain momentum and speed without sacrificing their control. Their scores were mainly in the 5.3 to 5.5 range, with one 5.1 for technical merit and required elements, and one 5.6 for presentation. Matthews and Zavozin, along with Davis and White, will represent the U.S. at the World Junior Championships in The Hague in March. It will be their second trip to Junior Worlds, and Davis and White’s first. Matthews and Zavozin placed eleventh in 2003.