by Melanie Hoyt
For the novice ice dancers who wanted to qualify for the 2008 BMO Skate Canada Junior Nationals, they needed to finish in the top eight at the 2008 BMO Skate Canada Western Challenge. The results were bittersweet, however, as there were only nine teams competing, leaving only one team without tickets to Ottawa next month.
The battle for the medals was close going into the free dance, but Alexandra Paul & Jason Cheperdak blew the rest of the field away with their flowing interpretation of music by Josh Groban. Their free dance scored 52.93 points, a number that elicited gasps and cheers in the audience when it was announced. Although they were third after the compulsory dances, they still won the competition by over seven points. Receiving level fours on all elements except their step sequences, Paul & Cheperdak combined fluid choreography with solid technique to secure their victory in their first year together. Their total score was over four points higher than the champions from the 2008 BMO Skate Canada Eastern Challenge, which took place earlier in the week. Paul & Cheperdak, who train in Barrie, ON, but represent British Columbia/Yukon, have set themselves up as the team to beat at the 2008 Junior Nationals.
Emily Stoll & Alan Stoll finished second in the free dance with 45.10 points, keeping them in silver medal position. Their program to “On My Own” from Les Misérables was confident, secure, and flowing, although it lacked the speed that Paul & Cheperdak had. After finishing sixteenth at the 2007 BMO Financial Group Skate Canada Junior Nationals, it is obvious that Stoll & Stoll have made great strides this year and are on the right track to improve upon that placement this season.
Kelsey Valentine & Tyler Morris’s performance in the Killian, the second compulsory dance, earned them a majority of +1 GOE from the judges, and put them first going into the free dance. Their free dance, a charming program with intricate choreography, was impressive, but a fall on connecting steps in the last minute of the program cost them at least the silver medal. With 44.50 points in this segment, they finished third overall. Most of their program was excellent, including a rotational lift that was reminiscent of Marie-France Dubreuil & Patrice Lauzon’s trademark move. With a solid performance at 2008 Junior Nationals, they should improve on last year’s eleventh place finish.
The fourth place team, J. E. Katelyn Good & Christopher Molnar, finished seven points behind the podium. Their fourth place free dance, which earned them 40.80 points, pulled them up from fifth after the compulsories. A strong performance with mature expression featured accurate step sequences and a complicated balance lift where he glided backwards in a crouch position as she leaned backwards against him, extending her legs in front of her.
Brittany Doleman & Dylan Simpson switched places with Good & Molnar after compulsories to finish fifth overall. Their Latin-themed free dance was ranked sixth, earning 39.64 points. Small mistakes on elements, including the twizzles, the spin, and the diagonal footwork sequence, kept this first-year team from advancing in the standings. Their strength in the dance was their rapport with the audience, particularly in Doleman’s enthusiastic facial expressions. They were the last team to skate in the free dance and closed the competition well.
After a disastrous skate in the Killian compulsory dance that left them in eighth before the free dance, Olga Lioudvinevitch & Benjamin Mulder came back with a solid effort in the final portion of the competition to finish sixth overall. Their fifth place free dance scored 39.95 points and earned hearty applause from a supportive audience. Mulder’s fall in the Killian may have hurt their confidence on the twizzles, but besides that element, their ’20s-style free dance was skated well.
Alexa-Marie Arrotta & Ivan Strogan finished seventh in the free dance and seventh overall, despite a fall on the spin that opened their program. After that, they struggled with performing the rest of their elements confidently, but they did have an excellent level four straight-line lift. After qualifying to the 2006 BMO Financial Group Canadian Championships on the junior level in singles skating, Strogan will return to national-level competition this year as an ice dancer.
Siblings Jillian Okrainetz & Jonathan Okrainetz finished ninth in the free dance, but their sixth place standing after the compulsories helped them hang onto eighth place overall to earn the final berth to 2008 Junior Nationals. Their sassy free dance featured some nice highlights in between the elements, but level one footwork sequences with negative GOE contributed to their low placement. This is their first year competing on the novice level. They finished fourteenth on the pre-novice level at 2007 Junior Nationals.
Taylor Moon & Malcolm Rohon-O’Halloran edged the Okrainetzes for an eighth place free dance, but they had too much ground to cover after the compulsory dances to qualify for Junior Nationals. Although their twizzles were given a level four, a full point of negative GOE hurt their marks. Their strongest element was a curve lift in the middle of their program. Moon and Rohon-O’Halloran are in their first year together.
The top eight teams will compete January 30 – February 2, 2008, in Ottawa, ON, at the 2008 Junior Nationals.