Notes from day two in Lake Placid

Kalina, Hicks top intermediate ladies qualifying groups

Young Daniel Petrenko skates over to his father and coach, Vladimir Petrenko.
Young Daniel Petrenko skates over to his father and coach, Vladimir Petrenko. (Kathleen Hurley)


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By Becca Staed and Kathleen Hurley, special to
(12/12/2008) - The 2009 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships continued on Thursday in Lake Placid, N.Y. Here are some notes from the second day of competition.

Kalina, Hicks win intermediate ladies qualifying rounds
Maria Kalina (Starlight Ice Dance Club) narrowly claimed the top spot in Group A of the intermediate ladies qualifying rounds on Thursday, beating Ibuki Mori (All Year FSC) by one one-hundredth of a point (58.43-58.42). Kalina gave a flawless performance with nary a negative GOE, landing nine clean double jumps. In Group B, Courtney Hicks (All Year FSC) won with 62.63 points, more than three points ahead of the rest of the group. She, too, received all positive GOEs, landing eight double jumps. Also, she earned the highest program component score of the day.

Try, try again
This season, intermediate ladies skater Crystal Nguyen (Hawaii FSC) is experiencing a couple of firsts. This is her debut at the U.S. Junior Championships after missing the cut the past three years, during which she finished last, ninth and fifth in regional competition. In addition, the Honolulu native had never seen snow before this week.

"I am so excited to see and feel the snow," said the 13-year-old Nguyen. "It's weird, because Hawaii is all sand, and here it is all snow -- the complete opposite. It's so cool how it is sort of like rain; it's just a shower of snow."

At home, Nguyen practices and trains without a coach. On occasion, she makes it to the mainland to work with master figure skating coach Frank Carroll, whose star pupil is two-time U.S. champion and two-time world bronze medalist Evan Lysacek.

"I just think about what my coach says and take notes, and when I come back [home], I review them," Nguyen said.

She also watches video footage of herself from practice, compliments of her mother, and says that working alone helps her work harder.

"Without a coach, you have to think for yourself," she explained, "but with a coach, it's way too easy because you don't think anymore. You get used to them being there for you."

This year, Nguyen won her division at the 2009 Central Pacific Regional Championships in October and finished fourth in Group A of the intermediate ladies qualifying round Thursday.

"I was so happy," she said. "It's so cool how it was like a scale, from last to first. It made me push harder, but I had to be calmer and not be too overexcited here, because I could've finished last."

Her trying days are long gone.

Comeback kid
Allison Timlen of Ellicott City, Md., was dead set on making it to the U.S. Juniors this year so that she could at least pass the intermediate ladies qualifying round. Last year, she finished eighth in her group, just two spots shy of the cut-off.

En route to doing so this season, she made the biggest comeback of any intermediate ladies competitor in all nine regional competitions.

After placing a disappointing ninth in the short program at the 2009 South Atlantic Regional Championships due to a host of mistakes, Timlen realized she had to give everything she had in order to place in the top five.

"I had never made those mistakes before," Timlen said. "I always spend a lot of time before focusing, and I didn't at regionals. I was watching people and time flew by, and before I knew it, it was time to get on the ice for my short program.

"I thought I had nothing to worry about, but short programs are technical programs, so I definitely had something to worry about."

In the free skate, Timlen gave the skate of her life, placing first in that event and second overall.

"I said, 'I should do this for me,'" she said. "I did absolutely perfect, and it was my first time doing a double Axel in competition. I landed my double Axel right on the boom."

She easily finished within the cut-off in Thursday's qualifying round, placing seventh with three spots to spare.

All in the family
Thursday's qualifying round for juvenile boys featured two of figure skating's first families.

Daniel Petrenko is the nephew of Viktor Petrenko, the 1992 men's Olympic gold medalist. Daniel's father and coach, Vladimir Petrenko, was the 1986 world junior gold medalist in singles, and his mother, Elena Petrenko, is his choreographer.

Remington Burghart is the son of Ralph Burghart, the seven-time Austrian men's champion, and Rory Flack, the 1986 U.S. junior bronze medalist. Both currently serve as coach and choreographer for up-and-coming junior skater Keegan Messing.

Both Daniel Petrenko and Remington Burghart are competing for the second time at the U.S. Junior Championships, but the similarities don't end there. Neither says he feels pressured by his family's rich figure skating history and agree that having a parent as coach has little effect on his skating.

"She's the same on and off the ice," Remington Burghart said of his mother. "She doesn't yell, but my dad yells at everyone."

For Daniel Petrenko, the best part of being in a skating family is getting to meet his favorite skaters, like Viktor's star pupil, three-time U.S. champion and 2008 world bronze medalist Johnny Weir.

"I sometimes get to meet my uncle's skaters at shows -- if there's time," he said.

Twice the fun
For most skaters, one event is more than enough to keep them busy, but juvenile boys competitors Logan Bye and Kenneth Anderson are more ambitious than most.

Bye began ice dancing in addition to his singles training last year, and Anderson has been skating pairs for the last three years, after focusing just on singles the two years before that. They are just two of several skaters at this event who are competing in more than one event.

"I am trying to figure out what I like the best," Bye said. "I like to watch ice dancing more."

Both Bye and Anderson spend about two hours a day at the rink and attend regular schools. Their training schedules incorporate both of their events into each day's training.

"We do pairs in the morning and singles after school," said Anderson. "Sometimes I feel pressed for time, but I manage."

Home, sweet home
Few skaters can say they have fan sections at their first national competition, but Luke West is lucky enough to be competing on home ice this week.

West, who lives about an hour away in Plattsburgh, N.Y., started skating just a year ago and trains six days a week in Lake Placid as part of the Olympic Center Skating School.

"I played hockey and then decided to try Basic Skills," West said. "I got a good coach, who encouraged me to compete."

Competing in Lake Placid fulfills a personal goal for West. Earlier this year, he told his coach, Gilberto Viadana, that he wanted to go to the U.S. Junior Championships, and his progression has risen steadily since.

While it's nice for West to have his training partners and family members watching, he said it's hard to get a feel for the level of competition when it just seems like another day of practice at the rink.

"I have tried to introduce myself to other skaters," said West. "Especially since this is my home rink."

Howe, Vrdoljak grab top spots in juvenile boys qualifying rounds
Spencer Howe (Los Angeles FSC) won Group A in the juvenile boys qualifying round with a 47.32-point free skate. Though he hit several rough spots in his program, incurring five total negative GOEs, his 27.94 base value, which was by far the highest, helped him stay heads above the rest of the field. In all, he landed eight double jumps. Nicholas Vrdoljak (Northern Ice SC) took first in Group B of the juvenile boys qualifying round with a free skate score of 50.59. He, too, landed eight clean double jumps and displayed one Level 4 spin.