by Melanie Hoyt / Photos by Robin Ritoss
A couple of months ago, Skate America was the dream for Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus. Ranked sixth in the United States last season, they knew that one remaining host pick for the home Grand Prix event was up for grabs, but they also knew that earning it would be tough. As potential newcomers to the Senior Grand Prix, Cannuscio & McManus only had one chance to prove to U.S. Figure Skating officials that they were ready to take the next step. At the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships in late July, when even seasoned teams often struggle with clean run-throughs of new programs, their free dance was sharp, polished, and more than enough for the silver medal in their group.
After returning home from Lake Placid, Cannuscio & McManus had to wait a week before they heard the good news.
“We left everything on the ice [in Lake Placid],” McManus said. “At that point, the decision was out of our hands, and it was a grueling week-long wait. Finally, I got a call from our coach, Karen [Ludington], and she said, ‘So do you want to go to Skate America?’”
The answer was, of course, a resounding yes. Having already participated in the Junior Grand Prix, the Junior World Championships, senior “B” internationals, and the senior-level U.S. Championships, the Senior Grand Prix marked the next level. This week, they will make their Grand Prix début at Hilton HHonors Skate America in Kent, Wash.
“We’re on track, and we just want to keep continuing to improve,” Cannuscio said.
Last month, the team had the chance to take their programs to their first international outing of the season, the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic. The senior international event in Salt Lake City, Utah, was the first of its kind in the United States. Cannuscio & McManus were honored to be assigned to the event, but were disappointed with their efforts. Low levels in the short dance buried them in eighth place in that segment, and although they fought back to sixth in the free dance and overall, they realized that they left some points on the table.
“The competition in Salt Lake didn’t go as well as we hoped,” Cannuscio said. “Going into Lake Placid, we had a lot of spark and drive. I think that going into Salt Lake, we lost that a little bit.”
“Honestly, we had lost that hunger that helped us fight for the host pick at Skate America, and we feel like that was prevalent through our performance at Salt Lake,” McManus added.
Cannuscio & McManus avoided major errors in Salt Lake, but did not present their programs perfectly, which is an aspect of their skating that they are pushing themselves to improve this year. They have chosen to tackle two very different styles, with an elegant, classical short dance and a blues- and rock-driven free dance with a jailhouse theme.
“The short dance is easier,” Cannuscio said emphatically, with her partner nodding in agreement.
“It’s easier to feel,” McManus explained. “With the short dance, we have people like Meryl [Davis] & Charlie [White] who did that same kind of style—people to look up to. Our free dance is something I’ve never seen anyone do, so we’re kind of inventing it ourselves.”
They are most comfortable with the final cut in the free dance, a cover of “Jailhouse Rock,” but are still reaching to develop the entire program evenly, harnessing their energy to make the program cohesive. The dance had a solid start in Lake Placid, and if they can bring back some of that magic, they could certainly win over the home crowd in Washington this weekend.
“Going into this competition, we feel like we’re the underdogs, and that is where we’ve found our spark again,” Cannuscio said. “We’re excited to get out there and show the world what we can do.”
“We are focused on leaving everything on the ice in Kent,” McManus added. “We are brand-new to this level of competition, so why not go out there and make everyone notice us? We are fully prepared to skate two great programs at Skate America, and we just want to enjoy every second of being there.”