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Hacker heads stellar senior ladies' field

Steenberg, Farrell-Fishpaw, Pflumm-Pottenger also hold top positions

Short-program winner Katrina Hacker splits her time between Boston and New York.
Short-program winner Katrina Hacker splits her time between Boston and New York. (Lynn Rutherford)

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(11/17/2007) - The Ice Factory was packed to the rafters this evening when the senior ladies took the ice for their short programs at the 2008 Eastern Sectional Championships.

Scan this event's roster and you'll see that no fewer than six of the athletes represented the U.S. in fall internationals. Several others have competed at the U.S. Championships in the senior division at least once.

"This is the best Eastern senior ladies' field I've seen in 18 years of coaching," said Steven Rice, coach of Stephanie Roth (SC of New York), who placed sixth. "It's just like being at U.S. Nationals."

With 17 athletes competing for just four slots at the U.S. Championships in St. Paul, Minn. in January, nerves were frayed. Several favorites made uncharacteristic errors, allowing a few dark horses to surge to the top.

One thing is certain: the judges rewarded cleaner performances. The top three finishers all did triple toe-double toe combinations, in lieu of more difficult elements like triple Lutz or triple flip combos.

When the smoke cleared, Katrina Hacker (SC of Boston) stood first with 53.08 points, some 2.07 ahead of the field.

Skating to the theme from "Love Story," the elegant Hacker opened with a soaring triple toe, double toe combination (+1 GOE), followed by a triple loop with slightly static edge flow (-.50 GOE) and a double Axel (+.50 GOE).

Hacker shone in her three level-four spins, particularly a lovely layback with a Biellmann position (+.50 GOE). Her level four spiral sequence had beautiful extension and flow.

"I'm really happy with it," Hacker said. "Clean jumps and high levels were my goals, and I think I accomplished them."

Hacker, who studies at Manhattan's Professional Children's School, splits her time between her family's home in New York and Boston, where she trains under Peter Johansson and Mark Mitchell.

"Right now I'm pretty much full time in Boston," she said. "I go to school sometimes on Mondays, but I'm following and studying along with all of my classes. I e-mail my essays, and communicate with my teachers on the phone, so we're all on the same page."

Hacker added that she enjoyed the team environment at her new home club.

"There were five entries from The Skating Club of Boston in this event," Hacker said. "We skate together everyday and go through a lot of the same things. We're all really close."

Joelle Forte (SC of New York), a veteran of several U.S. Championships, was a surprising second with 51.01 points.

Skating to "Memoirs of a Geisha," she opened with a solid triple toe, double toe combo (+.50 GOE), followed by a strong double Axel (+1 GOE) and triple Salchow (+.75 GOE).

All of Forte's remaining elements gained at least level three, and her spiral sequence rated level four.

Jane Bugaeva (SC of North Carolina) opened her short with a back "shoot-the-duck" into a double Axel (+1 GOE), followed by a lovely, level three layback spin; a triple flip; and a triple toe-double toe with a three-turn after the triple.

She closed her program with a level four spiral sequence, and placed third with 48.53 points.

Kathy Kader, Bugaeva's coach, chose the skater's music -- "I Ran," by the 80's hair band Flock of Seagulls -- while vacationing at her beach house.

"She wanted to do something kind of funky, and one Saturday I heard the song, grabbed the CD and ran to my computer," Kader said.

After editing out the words, Kader was left with two minutes, 50 seconds of music -- perfect for a short program.

"Her flip was awesome," Kader added. "She usually does a triple Lutz, double toe in the short, but she wanted to skate clean, so we went with the triple toe, double toe. Of course, that was her only mistake."

Skating to a sultry medley including "Caravan" and "Ain't Necessarily So," choreographed last season by Catarina Lindgren, Megan Williams-Stewart (University of Delaware FSC) slightly two-footed the landing of her triple flip (-.75 GOE), but hit a solid triple loop, double toe combination (+.75 GOE) and double Axel (+.50 GOE).

Williams-Stewart's remaining elements, though clean, lacked difficulty and were all graded level one or two.

"I did pretty well," the skater said. "My spins were really wild, but everything else was good. The audience was loud and supportive."

Williams-Stewart is coming off a successful outing at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany this fall, where she won the silver medal.

"I fell on my Lutz in the short program at Nebelhorn, and that's why we changed it to a flip here," she said. "Going to Oberstdorf was the greatest trip I've ever been on. I had a new personal best in my free skate."

Melissa Bulanhagui (University of Delaware FSC) was fifth with a "Pink Panther" short that included a fine triple Lutz, double toe combination; strong double Axel (+1 GOE); and level four spiral sequence and combination spin. However, an intended triple flip was downgraded to a double and cited for an incorrect outside take-off edge, reducing its value to .70.

"I thought it was okay," Bulanhagui said. "I did my combination, but opened up early on the landing of my triple flip. My main goal is just to get to Nationals."

The powerful Roth placed sixth with an entertaining short to music from "Night of the Living Dead." She hit a triple toe and triple Salchow, double toe combination, but put a hand down on the landing of her double Axel.

"This is one of the best Easterns I've ever been to," said the veteran competitor, long a crowd favorite. "The audience is great; I just fed off their energy."

Pre-event favorites Blake Rosenthal (SC of Wilmington), Taylor Firth (Jamestown SC) and Juliana Cannarozzo (SC of Boston) all faltered a bit, and enter the free skates in ninth, 11th and 12th place, respectively.

Another favorite, defending champ Kylie Gleason (SC of Boston), arrived in Wake Forest but decided after her morning practice to withdraw.

"She has a hip flexor," said Suna Murray, Gleason's mother and a 1972 U.S. Olympic skater. "She really wanted to skate here, but she realized earlier today it just wasn't going to happen." (By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com)

Southern Gentlemen Dominate Senior Men's Short

The boys of the South Atlantic Region staged a top-rate showdown this afternoon and claimed the top four spots in the senior men's short program.

Tommy Steenberg (SC of Northern Virginia) was first; Derrick Delmore (Washington FSC) second; Parker Pennington (Washington FSC) third; and Shaun Rogers (University of Delaware FSC) fourth.

"We've all been competing together for years and we want the same thing: to go out and do our best, which made for a really great atmosphere," said Delmore.

The jumping standard was excellent, and it was the skaters with the cleanest, most comprehensive programs who wound up on top. Steenberg, Delmore and Rogers all landed rock-solid triple Axels; Rogers landed a quad toe-triple toe; and Steenberg and Pennington both did triple-triple combinations.

"This is a good competition and it was great being out there," said Rogers, who snagged a silver medal at the Nebelhorn Trophy last September.

Steenberg skated his way to first with his fantastic interpretation of Adolphe Charles Adam's "Le Corsaire (The Pirate)," earning 66.05 points.

Dressed in a regal turquoise gold-infused costume, Steenberg owned the ice from the word 'go.' He opened up with a nice triple Axel, followed by a rare triple loop-triple loop combination and triple flip from difficult rocker-rocker turns. The performance also featured high-powered footwork, well-extended spins and dynamic transitions.

"I've been training the triple Axel well, and it felt really good coming here," Steenberg said. "I am really happy with how I skated."

Veteran Derrick Delmore racked up 63.82 points for his sophisticated and energetic take on "Malaguena." From the outset, it was clear he was on a mission.

Delmore opened with a solid triple Axel, and went on to do a delayed triple Lutz from footwork and triple flip-double toe combo. His footwork was exciting, and he drew "oohs and aahs" from the crowd with his turbo-boosted sit spin, in a position highly reminiscent of that of six-time U.S. champion Todd Eldredge.

"Things seem to have really come together these past few years; I've been able to put a lot of things in perspective," said Delmore, who at age 28 is vying to qualify for his 18th U.S. Championships.

Parker Pennington earned third-place honors and a score of 63.42 for his enticing interpretation of "Flamenco a Go Go." Like the other top finishers, he reeled off difficult maneuvers with strength, confidence and ease, including triple flip-triple toe, triple Lutz and some great spins. He did, however, fall on the landing of his triple Axel.

"I was happy with how I did, but obviously wished I had done the triple Axel," Pennington said. "Still, I felt good out there.

"I've really been working on executing the elements while at the same time developing the character of the music. It's been a cool thing to learn to do this."

Shaun Rogers placed fourth with a score of 62.89 for his high-octane program to "The Battle on the Ice." He wowed the crowd with his opening quad toe-triple toe. Although he touched down on the landing of the former jump, he had great height and length on this element.

Rogers also executed a whopping triple Axel, some good footwork and a great death drop. Although he doubled a planned triple flip, the overall quality of his program was excellent. (By Liz Leamy, special to icenetwork.com)

Farrell and Fishpaw Glide to Lead

When Clare Farrell (St. Louis SC) and Charles Fishpaw (University of Delaware FSC) took the ice for their Irish folk original dance, they breathed a huge sigh of relief.

"I broke my thumb two weeks ago, and we thought we would have to come here and just stand still as the music played," Farrell said.

In the 2008 U.S. Championships -- as long as they showed up.

"We had a fall, and she ended up on the worst end," Fishpaw said. "We were going in to a footwork sequence, I caught an edge, and we bumped feet. I'm so happy we were able to come here and skate."

The program, which featured an inventive spread eagle into a spin and good Irish character throughout the steps, took first place with 44.26 points, and Farrell and Fishpaw sit first overall with 68.77.

The second-place senior dancers, Marsha Snyder and Peter Fischl (Pittsburgh FSC), performed a unique country-western original dance. They earned 34.86 points and have 55.69 total.

Snyder and Fischl practically define the term "multi-tasking." Both are both pursuing their educations full-time; Snyder is in Duquesne University's pharmacy doctoral program, and Fischl is an ROTC candidate at Carnegie Mellon.

In addition, they split their training between coaches Rachel Lane-McCarthy in Pittsburgh and Brandon Forsythe in Detroit. (By Lynn Rutheford, special to icenetwork.com)

Pflumm and Pottenger Edge Out Pairs Lead

With the withdrawal of Alexandra Hill (All Year FSC) and Jeremy Barrett (Southwest Florida FSC), just two senior pairs took the ice for the short program.

Kaela Pflumm (University of Delaware FSC) and Christopher Pottenger (Dallas FSC) took the lead with a lyrical performance to the whimsical "Amelie" soundtrack, choreographed by Natalia Linichuk.

The couple, who represented the U.S. in two Junior Grand Prix events this fall, opened with a solid level three Axel lasso lift (+.50 GOE) and showed fine unison on their side-by-side level four combination spins.

Their back inside death spiral was a bit weak, and Pflumm put a hand down on the landing of their throw triple Lutz.

"It felt really solid," Pottenger said. "We started working on this program in March, and it's been getting stronger all season."

Pflumm and Pottenger will make their senior debut at the 2008 U.S. Championships. Pottenger won the 2003 U.S. novice pair title with a previous partner, Sydney Schmidt.

Skating to Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet," Chloe Katz and Joseph Lynch (SC of New York) executed a strong level four Axel lasso lift (+.75 GOE) and showed good speed on their closing pair combination spin. They earned 46.18 points, and enter the free skate less than three points off the lead.

"That performance took a lot of courage," their coach, Adam Lieb, said. "On September 9th, they were practicing for an exhibition at Mid-Atlantics, and they fell on a lift. She injured her PCL, and they were off the ice for six weeks." (By Lynn Rutheford, special to icenetwork.com)