Junior Event Preview by Katie Weigel

Junior ice dancing event kicks off on Monday, January 21 with the Viennese Waltz compulsory dance. Competition continues the next day with the original dance, which is to the rhythm of Country/Folk. On Thursday, January 24, the junior event comes to a close with the free dance. Skaters may choose any music and rhythm they desire for the free dance.  

With last year’s U.S. junior champions, Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates, moving up to the senior competition, the pressure to win the junior title falls on last year’s silver medalists, Madison & Keiffer Hubbell. This brother and sister team from Ohio who train in Ann Arbor, Michigan, had a rough start to the season, missing both the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships and the Junior Grand Prix series due to an injury to Keiffer’s hip. They were able to make it back in time to skate at the 2008 Midwest Sectional competition, where they delivered three very strong programs. For their original dance, they have chosen to interpret a German polka and yodel. At the recent sectional competition, they exhibited strong lifts and intricate footwork in the original dance, making it hard to believe that Keiffer had only been training for a month before the competition. After their free dance to “Hope” by Apocalyptica Cult, Keiffer and Madison were asked about their goals for the U.S. Championships. 
“[We want] to make the best appearance at Nationals that we can possibly make, to be stronger than we are here, and to hopefully make a powerful impact,” Keiffer said. 

“Also, to make the World (Junior) Team,” Madison added. 

The 2007 U.S. Junior Bronze Medalists, Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt, have also moved up to the senior ranks this year. Piper Gilles & Tim McKernan, who placed fourth in Spokane, are poised and ready to move up the standings at this year’s U.S. Championships. Gilles & McKernan finished second to the Hubbells at this year’s Midwest Sectional competition. Their original dance is set to traditional Irish music, which is a change from the New Orleans Blues music they started with at the beginning of the season. Gilles & McKernan said they made the change after returning home from the Junior Grand Prix in Vienna, stating that the New Orleans Blues original dance was not being received as well as they had hoped. They performed their new original dance at the Midwest Sectional with speed and confidence. However, they took a bad tumble during their final rotational lift. The fall was caused by a loose pant strap that caught on McKernan’s blade. They skated over to the judges and were allowed to re-skate the final lift. Their free dance this year is set to Prokofiev’s “Cinderella.” This dance is light and lyrical and shows off their great line. After their performance at sectionals, Gilles & McKernan said they will focus on improving their levels and footwork before the U.S. Championships, hoping that it will result in an improvement from last year. 

“We want a medal,” McKernan said, and Gilles added, “I want to be higher than fourth!”  

Shannon Wingle & Ryan Devereaux finished in fifth place behind Gilles & McKernan at last year’s U.S. Championships. They recently came in fourth at the 2008 Midwest Sectionals. Wingle & Devereaux have had a very successful season on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, earning a silver medal at JGP Bulgaria. They skated three strong programs in Sofia, finishing second by only a point and a half. This year, their original dance is set to a traditional arrangement of “Hava Nagila.” A highlight of this program is a straight-line lift done without hands and on one foot. Wingle & Devereaux are skating their free dance to the popular “Concierto de Aranjuez.” 

After the Midwest Sectional, Wingle said that they “always want to grow, even performance-wise, not just technically. Connection is very important in ice dance.” 

Maia & Alex Shibutani are the 2007 U.S. Novice Champions who have made the step up to the junior ranks this year, making them the youngest team competing at this level. Although Maia was a couple weeks too young to compete on the Junior Grand Prix circuit, the Shibutanis usurped their training partners, Wingle & Devereaux, at the recent Midwest Sectional competition, claiming the bronze medal. This year, with the new rule allowing prop usage, Maia & Alex have incorporated a fan to highlight the choreography of their Japanese original dance. Their choice of lyrical Japanese folk music is daring; however, Maia & Alex portray the dance with lovely charm and precision. Their free dance, to piano music by Jean-Marie Senia, has also been well received this season, showing off the young Shibutanis’ mature presentation. 

When considering the upcoming national championships, Alex said, “I don’t think, for us, it is about placement. I think it’s a lot about skating well, really improving and growing as a team, and being able to mature that way.” 

Pilar Bosley & John Corona placed sixth last year behind Wingle & Devereaux at the U.S. Championships. They have competed for two seasons on the Junior Grand Prix circuit and earned their first JGP medal this fall in Lake Placid. Bosley & Corona faced a tough challenge at the Eastern Sectionals this year during the original dance warm-up. Corona tripped and sent both him and his partner flying into the boards. Although not seriously injured, the fall caused them to lose much of their warm-up time and left them shaky going into their performance. They were able to pull themselves together and skate their Turkish folk dance. Even though they made a few small mistakes, the triumph was in their will to compete even after such a horrible fall. Bosley & Corona showed no signs of injury the next day, skating an emotional program to the Scorpion’s “Still Loving You,” which helped them win the silver medal at sectionals. Their free dance has been steadily improving since its debut at the Lake Placid Ice Dancing Championships last August. Their interpretation of the Scorpion’s popular rock song can be described as “controlled frenzy.” This program is definitely different from any of their other free dances and is one that should not be missed. 

Sara Bailey & Kyle Herring are a new team at the junior level this season. Bailey & Herring competed at the U.S. Championships last year in the novice division, placing second to Maia & Alex Shibutani and earning a spot in the Junior Grand Prix series. They came in seventh at the JGP Lake Placid, despite Sara having a bad case of tonsillitis. They were fully healthy at the 2008 Eastern Sectional competition and it showed – they won the event. Bailey & Herring are skating to “Sirtaki” from “Zorba the Greek” for the original dance. This program has been completely revamped since the beginning of the season. Their new choreography highlights the team’s excellent timing, which was obvious to the judges as they gave Bailey & Herring a pair of 6.0s for the interpretation/timing program component score. In the free dance, they are skating to music from “300” and “Chronicles of Narnia.” They no longer look like novice skaters who just moved up to juniors; they now look and skate like top-level junior skaters.  

“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,” Herring said. “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.”  

Another team who moved up to juniors is Anastasia Cannuscio & Dean Copley. Cannuscio & Copley are the 2007 U.S. novice bronze medalists and recently came in third at the Eastern Sectional competition. They also competed on the Junior Grand Prix circuit for the first time, placing seventh at JGP Croatia and eighth at JGP Great Britain. They are skating to “Kalinka,” the traditional Russian folk dance, for their OD this season. They scored a personal best in the original dance at sectionals, beating their previous score by two points. Their free dance is set to the music of “Kill Bill.” 

Challenging Cannuscio & Copley at sectionals was none other than Anastasia Cannuscio’s sister, Isabella, and her partner, Ian Lorello. Cannuscio & Lorello finished less than one point behind Cannuscio & Copley, placing them fourth and giving them the last spot to St. Paul. Cannusico & Lorello tend to fall behind somewhat in their compulsory dances, but gradually come up the standings with beautiful performances in the original and free dances. With such a height difference between them, Cannuscio & Lorello are able to do dynamic elements and incorporate animated movements into their programs. Their original dance to African folk music proved challenging at the beginning of the season, but they looked at ease during their performance at sectionals. Their free dance is to “Jive” from “Edward Scissorhands.” Cannuscio & Lorello are a team that always looks like they are having a blast out there on the ice, and their free dance performances this season have reflected that feeling of high energy and joy. 

Madison Chock & Greg Zuerlein finished fifth in the novice division at last year’s U.S. Championships and have surprised everyone this season with their stellar showing this fall. Chock & Zuerlein have been somewhat of a “Cinderella story” this season, finishing third at JGP Germany and qualifying for the JGP Final in Gdansk, Poland, where they finished fifth. Chock & Zuerlein are coming off a great free dance performance in Gdansk, achieving a new personal best in that portion of the competition. They also reached a new overall personal best score of 152.68. For their original dance, Chock & Zuerlein are skating to “Dark Eyes,” a traditional Russian folk song, and for the free dance they are skating to music from “West Side Story.”  

In their first season together, Kaylyn Patitucci & Karl Edelmann are already skating energetic and fun programs. This is no surprise considering the competitive atmosphere Patitucci & Edelmann experience daily during practice. They train in Ann Arbor, Mich. with fellow junior competitors Madison & Keiffer Hubbell as well as senior dancers Emily Samuelson & Evan Bates and Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt. Patitucci & Edelmann finished third at the 2008 Pacific Coast Sectionals, skating an exuberant Bavarian original dance. Their free dance this year is to “Derroche” by Ana Belen. 

Rachel Tibbetts & Collin Brubaker formed a new partnership this season, turning heads at LPIDC with their medal-winning performances. Tibbetts & Brubaker were given the opportunity to compete in the Junior Grand Prix series. They finished in fifth place at both Croatia and Romania. Tibbetts & Brubaker won the junior dance competition at Pacific Coast Sectionals, which means they will be skating in their first “Big Nationals” in St. Paul. They are skating a Russian folk OD and interpreting the dramatic music of “Tosca” for their free dance. 

Finishing second at Pacific Coast Sectionals was another newly formed team, Rachel Richardson & Brad Coulter. Coulter previously competed at the U.S. Championships with former partner Michelle Pennington, placing fourth as novices in 2006. Richardson & Coulter narrowly missed a trip to the U.S. Championships last year, finishing fifth at sectionals. This year, however, they have their tickets to St. Paul.  

The final new team of the season, Michelle Pennington & Andrew Skillington, has made the trip to the U.S. Championships before, but with previous partners. Together, they came in fourth this year at the Pacific Coast Sectionals with a score of 133.73. Pennington & Skillington delivered good performances at the Lake Placid Ice Dancing Competition earlier this season, skating to unique Finnish music in the original dance and to the music of “Phantom of the Opera” in the free dance. Their past experience on the national stage could put them in a position to move up the standings this year in St. Paul.