by Anne Calder | Photo courtesy of Sabrina Foti

U.S. Figure Skating launched the Challenge Skate in 2012 in conjunction with the newly created U.S. International Figure Skating Classic held in Salt Lake City, UT.

Its goals were to create an atmosphere of international competition for the younger skaters by observing senior athletes and being part of a team. It also gave them an opportunity to compete against skaters from across the country.

The 2018 Challenge Skate had over forty competitors in the four disciplines. Four Novice dance teams participated in both the Starlight Waltz pattern dance and free dance.  The athletes competed in front of a team of international judges and technical specialists from France, Hungary, Austria, New Zealand and Canada.

Elliana & Ethan Peal, the reigning intermediate champions, are new to the novice level this season. The siblings danced a fast-paced and exciting program to selections from The Greatest Showman. The spin and curve lifts earned level 4 and the twizzles were level 3. Their father, Rob Peal, is a former competitive ice dancer and coaches the team at the Skokie Valley Skating Club. The program scored 64.28 with a total 105.15 points.

Anna Nicklas & Max Ryan competed at their second straight Challenge Skate. The duo performed a soft and lyrical free dance to “Life in Mono” by Mono and “Kissing in the Rain” by Patrick Doyle that scored 54.06. The straight-line and rotational lifts earned level 4; the twizzles were 3 (L) and 4 (M). The team trains in Ann Arbor, MI with Yuri Chesnitchenko. The total was 85.76 – 20 points higher than their 2017 Challenge Skate score.

Breelie Taylor & Tyler Vollmer are second year novice dancers and chose a western theme free dance to “My Kind of Crazy” by Brantley Gilbert and “I Want Crazy” by Hunter Hayes that scored 50.77. Their curve and straight-line lifts earned level 4, and the twizzles were level 3. Graham Payne coaches the team. Their total score for the competition was 80.04.

Sabrina Foti & Christian Bennett made their Challenge Skate debut after moving from the intermediate division to novice this season. They scored 46.77 with their free dance to “Blood on the Dance Floor x Dangerous” by Michael Jackson. The straight-line lift earned level 4. The duo competed at the 2017 and 2018 US Nationals. They train in Pineville, NC with Coach Gary Shortland. The total score was 74.42.

The medal ceremony was held in the main arena following the competition. The podium included: Elliana Peal & Ethan Peal (gold), Anna Nicklaus & Max Ryan (silver) and Breelie Taylor & Tyler Vollmer (bronze). All three are first time U.S. Challenge Skate medalists.

Elliana and Ethan Peal summed up the US Challenge Skate for all the dancers:

Elliana: “It’s nice to skate with other high-level skaters on the same ice.”

Ethan: “It’s a great learning experience to skate before judges from around the world.”

Videos of the Starlight Waltz pattern dance and free dance performances are available on the newly relaunched U.S. Figure Skating Fan Zone website.