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Czisny among leaders after short programs

Roman, Wong also win their sessions on Day 2 at U.S. collegiates

Alissa Czisny won the ladies gold in dominating fashion.
Alissa Czisny won the ladies gold in dominating fashion. (Mitchell Shipwash)

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By Kelly Hodge, special to icenetwork.com
(08/09/2008) - The 2008 U.S. Collegiate Figure Skating Championships continued Friday afternoon with the short programs for junior ladies, senior men and senior ladies.

Fourteen junior ladies from 14 different colleges entered the event, many who will begin their freshman year within the next few weeks. Lindsey Roman, who will begin studying business at the University of Iowa on her 18th birthday, Aug. 18, set herself apart from the group, easily capturing the lead with a solid and clean program to Turandot. In a sparkling pink dress, she opened her program with a solid double flip-double toe combination and went on to land a nice double Axel and double Lutz, earning a total score of 42.08.

"I really wanted to skate my best, as well as I've been training," said Roman. "I was really happy to do that and enjoy my program."

Roman's nearest competitor, Erica Ransford, from Monroe County Community College, finished second with 33.10 points. Lexi Ibanez, a freshman at UCLA, sits in third place with 31.48.

"I did well overall," said Ibanez. "There's always room for improvement, and tomorrow I'm hoping to skate my best and land a couple triple jumps."

The senior men were up next, and Jason Wong, who skated first, didn't waste any time putting out his toughest elements. He opened his program with a solid triple Axel, collecting 9.20 points almost immediately -- 8.20 for the jump and an additional point for a string of +1 Grades of Execution (GOE). He struggled with the next jump, which was supposed to be his combination. Wong took a little too long on the entry edge and ended up running out of ice on the landing, hitting the wall and forcing him to single the toe loop.

"My program was pretty good," said Wong. "I was really excited I landed the triple Axel. It was so great to hit it in the short program. But, it is the Lutz that has been giving me problems. I was trying to be patient and wait on the take-off, and I waited a little too long."

Wong, who will begin his third year at Emmanual College near Fenway Park in Boston, has wanted to do this event for a few years but was injured in 2006 and took last year off from skating. He was excited to finally be able to participate.

"I feel like the U.S. Collegiate Championships is one of the best opportunities available for skaters like myself. Many of my competitors from when I was younger have fizzled out, and I now train with younger skaters. Being here feels really good. I love being able to compete with skaters my own age and feel good about it. It is really fun, and after taking last year off, I'm learning how to compete again." Wong leads the short program with 56.28 points.

Not far behind, with 53.36 points, is Michael Peters, who graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this spring. Peters, skating to the motion picture soundtrack 300, put out a strong performance, landing a solid triple Lutz-triple toe combination right off the bat. He went on to complete a solid double Axel but doubled an intended triple flip.

"I was pleasantly surprised with my skate," said Peters. "I haven't been training the way I should for this event, and I am realistic with my expectations." Peters, who has found only about five hours per week to train since graduating in May, has good reason. "I'm interning at a hospital about 35 hours per week, so it is definitely hard to find solid training time," explained Peters, who is hoping to be accepted to the University of Chicago Medical School in the fall.

Jonathan Cassar, from Oakland University, sits in third place, less than a point behind with 52.53 points. Cassar earned the highest program component marks for the evening.

With less than 10 points separating all five senior men, the free skate and title of U.S. collegiate champion is still anyone's game.

If the senior men wowed the audience and judges with the power and strength of their jumps, the senior ladies dazzled them with their grace, poise and polish. As in the qualifying round, Alissa Czisny finished a comfortable distance from her nearest competitors, leaving them to battle it out for second. Czisny choose a lovely rendition of "The Swan" from "Carnival of Animals" for her short program. The style of music clearly fit her skating style.

"It was the same music I skated to last year," explained Czisny, "I found it when I went to work with Lori Nichol for choreography. We had listened to several pieces, and I have always liked that music, and I really loved that rendition."

Czisny did struggle early on, missing her opening triple Lutz. The jump was downgraded because she stepped out of it. She did recover quickly and immediately followed it with a well executed triple flip-double toe. The program was highlighted by the final two spins, a combination spin followed by a layback spin. Each earned a Level 4, in addition to receiving all +2 or +3 GOEs.

Abigail Legg, also a winner of her qualifying round, just edged out Amy Nunn, 44.76 to 44.35, to take second in the short program. In a soft pink dress, Legg skated to a piece of music that was an original composition titled "A Smile That Lights My Heart." Legg opened her program with a triple loop and went on to land a triple Salchow-double toe and a solid double Axel.

"The program was really relaxing," said Legg. "My favorite part was the spirals. I had fun in that moment in the program and really enjoyed them. It also didn't hurt that the jumps were over!" Legg earned a Level 3 for her spiral sequence. "Tomorrow, I really want to stay committed, do a nice program and fight for everything."