by Michelle Wojdyla

Fun With Math for the junior free dance.

By the numbers (for the five teams who completed the event):

Number of Grades of Execution awarded for the free dance: 210.

Number of negative grades: 13

% of negative: 6%

Number of negative grades earned on twizzles: 11

% of negative grades caused by twizzles: 85%

Number of teams who placed the same in multiple parts of the competition:

1 (Sara Bailey & Kyle Herring were first in the CD and the FD)

Percentage of teams who finished the competition in the place they were after the CD: 100%

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After the compulsory dance, it was clear the skaters were not going to make the judges’ job easy. The free dance made that an understatement. Less than a point and a half marked the difference between silver and pewter, and only two points came between a ticket to St. Paul and staying home.

At the top of the podium, Sara Bailey & Kyle Herring won both the free dance (71.83) and overall (149.23). Pilar Bosley & John Corona were third in the free dance (69.38) and second overall (144.02). Anastasia Cannuscio & Dean Copely were only fifth in the free dance (67.81) but third overall (143.51). Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello placed second in the free dance (69.78), which gave them the edge they needed to snag that final spot at nationals (142.68). Lili LaMar & Zach Donohue’s fourth place in the free dance (69.23) was not enough to make up the deficit from the compulsory dance, and they finished with a total of 140.60.

Still with me?

Ironically, the couples all finished where they had ranked after the compulsory, just like the “good old days” under the 6.0 system. This time, however, the movement between the first event and the last was possibly the most convoluted since the International Judging System began.

Isabella Cannuscio & Ian Lorello opened the competition Saturday with their free dance to music from the movie “Edward Scissorhands.”

“I was nervous, but once we started, I was fine,” Isabella said.

“It’s nice to get done first,” Lorello added.

The jazzy program was non-stop, high energy and set the bar high for the rest of the event. Cannuscio & Lorello received 23 +1s including straight +1s on their midline and circular footwork, levels 3 and 2, respectively. All their remaining elements were level 4, the twizzle receiving +1 across the board.

“[We’re] really excited and really happy with both performance and placement,” Lorello said. “It’s one of our best.”

Lili LaMar & Zach Donohue skated next and also received no negative GoE for their “Harlem Nocture” free dance. Six of the eight elements were rated level 4, while both step sequences were level 2. The first-year team also claimed the most +2s of this phase of the event, snagging five for their final lift.

Despite coming in third in the original dance and fourth in the free, LaMar & Donohue missed the podium by 2.08 points.

“We skated our hardest and tried our best and gave it our all,” Donohue said. “I think that’s what makes it all worthwhile. No regrets. It’s definitely been our best competition. Each event got better and better. We couldn’t ask for more.”

After placing first in the original dance, Anastasia Cannuscio & Dean Copely fell to fifth in the free dance, performing to music from the “Kill Bill” soundtrack. Opening with level 4 twizzles that earned them +.63 GoE followed by a 4+4 lift that was +.5, the performance fell a little flat. The majority of the scores were base 0s, and they did receive a pair of –1s in their midline step sequence.

“It was OK,” Anastasia said. “It wasn’t our best skate. Had a little wobble and crashed into the boards a little bit.

“We had a wobble and a bobble,” Copely added.

Asked if their program had a story behind it, Copely said no.

“We really need a story,” he decided on the spot. “We’re going to build one between now and nationals. We’re going to make a story.”

Pilar Bosley & John Corona showed no signs of injury from their previous day’s collision with the boards. Their free dance to the Scorpions’ “Still Loving You” was dramatic and emotional. Three of their lifts received level 4s. The only error came on the twizzles, knocking .5 off and giving that element the lowest score of the dance. In an unusual twist, some judges actually gave them higher linking footwork component scores compared to the ones for skating skills.

“It was a very good comeback,” Corona said. “We started the week off strong and we wanted to end it strong, so we were very happy with that skate. The big thing our coach was saying was don’t worry about the power as much as the finesse–”

“–and getting through it with ease,” Bosley finished. “I think we did that. We’re very happy. We’re very happy for everyone else, too.”

Free dance and overall champions Sara Bailey & Kyle Herring also spread thoughts of goodwill.

“Pilar and John were beautiful,” Bailey said.

“And I was really excited for Ian & Bella and Stasia & Dean to get out there and skate clean,” Herring added. “It was just a really clean competition. It’s so exciting that way. I thought it was a great competition, and I really enjoyed it.  It’s a really tough year all around. That’s what makes it fun, though. It pushes us all to be a little bit better. Especially us. We’ve got two other good teams at our rink. It’s a good reminder right there. We get to train with them every day, so it’s good experience.”

Bailey & Herring got off to a shaky start with botched twizzles that received -.5. Their “300/Narnia” dance had a mix of levels 2 and 4, and once the twizzles were finished, they no further negative GoE.

“I have a lot of energy and sometimes it gets out of control,” Herring said. “I got a little wobbly in the twizzles and I tried to rein it in and bring it home as a strong program. We just wanted to go out and skate solid and confidently, and I think we did that.”

Bailey jumped right into the conversation.

“I’ll tell you my exciting part, because I’ve been telling everyone,” she said, laughing. “Right before the last lift, my hair clip was coming out and it was dangling by my face. So in the lift, I grabbed it and I just held it in my hand throughout the last thing because I didn’t want the deduction for the costume. So I just held it for the last part of our program. It’s drama!”

“It added some excitement to the whole thing,” Herring said. “I didn’t know until the end.”

“I found it really entertaining!” Bailey added.

The young couple no longer looked like novices stepping up a level. Not only did they skate with more maturity, their mental toughness improved noticeably.

“[Freaking out] used to be kind of a weakness of mine,” Bailey said. “If one thing went wrong, I would get really nervous throughout the whole thing. We’ve been working really hard on if something goes wrong, just let it go and keep going. Like this morning! We were doing one part [in practice] and Kyle tripped and ended up cutting both of my legs.”

“Normally, earlier this season and last year, we were very inconsistent in our practices, making it much more difficult,” Herring said. “Recently, like today, we really pulled it together. We’ve learned to work off of that. ‘It’s fine, just calm down and do what we’ve got to do.’

“I think that’s our biggest improvement in this competition,” he continued. “That’s what we really were lacking. We’re trying to take that step up to junior, and I feel like we’re finally taking that step up to a mature level of skating. That’s what we have to keep working on. I think we definitely got back on the right course to where we want to be. I think we’re doing the right things, and I think this proves to us that in our training, we’re doing the right things, working on what we’re supposed to. Now we’re just going to go back and hammer it out.”

With so much talent and so few steps on the podium, it would not be hard to picture intense rivalry and tension between the dancers.

“I think we’re the only group, just in general, with such strong camaraderie,” Bosley said. “It’s weird, but it’s very, very nice. We can all be friends and we can all be happy for each other. Everyone can be there for each other at the same time. Just like yesterday, in the warm-up [after the crash]. We’re all very happy and excited to go to St. Paul.”