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Landslide victories abound at U.S. Challenge Skate

Oltmanns and Santillan, Pierce hold leads to take gold in Salt Lake City
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Reigning U.S. novice champion Tyler Pierce succeeded right away as a junior. -Jay Adeff

The novice dance, junior ladies and junior pairs titles were awarded in Salt Lake City at the 2013 U.S. Challenge Skate on Sunday, with all the champions taking their respective titles by more than 14 points.

Novice free dance

The novice free dance kicked off the competition at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex, where Madison Fox and Val Katsman took the novice ice dancing title by 26.44 points.

"I think our lifts were really good today," Katsman said. "There's always something to improve, but we're happy with how things went here."

The reigning U.S. intermediate silver medalists dazzled the crowed with an impressive performance to an Addams Family tango.

"We really wanted to skate to a tango," Fox said, "But, we also wanted to skate to something fun."

The duo received a Level 4 on three of their elements and finished the week with 93.97 total points.

The silver medal went to Caroline Leadmon and Jacob Schedl, who performed an entertaining free dance to music from both The Pink Panther and the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever.

"We wanted to have a diamond theme," Leadmon said. "We really liked the story line of stealing the diamond and interpreting sort of a spy vibe."

Leadmon and Schedl earned 25.59 points for the segment, en route to 67.53 total points, while Alexis Middleton and Michael Valdez finished third with 60.72.

Junior ladies

Maintaining her lead after the short program, reigning U.S. novice champion Tyler Pierce totaled 148.05 points, besting the junior ladies field by nearly 15 points.   

"I'm so excited this year going into junior," Pierce said. "It's a lot more challenging because there are a lot of harder jumps in my programs. I'm doing my best to get those jumps consistent this year."

Her "Danse Macabre" free skate included six triple jumps, including a double Axel-triple toe combination, worth a program-high 6.82 points. Despite a fall on her triple Lutz, 14-year-old Pierce is proud of her performance.

"The first half of the program wasn't going that great, but I'm happy because I was able to keep my concentration and finish strong."

The silver medal went to 14-year-old Morgan Flood, who fought back from an eighth-place finish in the short program to stand on the podium with 133.47 points.

"I stayed in the moment and I tried not to give up after my short program," Flood said. "I tried to forget about it and focus on what I needed to do today."

Close behind was Ashley Shin, who finished third with 132.20 points.

Junior pairs

Closing the event was the junior pairs free skate, where Olivia Oltmanns and Joshua Santillan won gold by precisely 17 points. Their performance, set to music from Cinema Paradiso, included throw triple toe loop, a throw triple Salchow and a Level 4 Axel lift.

"This is our first time doing side-by-side triple Salchows, so we're really excited," Oltmanns said. "I'm not happy that I didn't completely stick it, but I'm happy we put them out there. We put out both throws the way we do them in practice, so that's really exciting for us. It was good for us, especially for this early in the season."

The pair trains in Colorado Springs, Colo., with coach Dalilah Sappenfield, alongside both 2012 U.S. pairs champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin and reigning U.S. pairs silver medalists Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, a training environment they see as an advantage.

"It's really motivating watching them train program after program," Santillan said. "It doesn't matter if they've done one program; they'll run it again. They've reached the point that they have because of that, and we get to see it. We've improved our training habits, and as a result, our scores, because of it."

Oltmanns and Santillan finished the week with 133.26 points, followed by Brianna de la Mora and Taylor Wilson, who finished second with 116.26 points. Elise Middleton and Anthony Evans landed in third place 109.31 points.

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