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Team Braemar leads after junior short program

Skyliners, Chicago Jazz finish 2-3, respectively

U.S. junior champions Team Braemar are fifth after the short program at the 2009 World Synchronized Skating Challenge Cup for Juniors.
U.S. junior champions Team Braemar are fifth after the short program at the 2009 World Synchronized Skating Challenge Cup for Juniors. (Paul Harvath)

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By Mickey Brown, special to icenetwork.com
(03/05/2009) - Not even an unexpected delay could derail the Braemar Express.

Team Braemar, the surprise U.S. team this winter, having finished first at the Midwestern Synchronized Skating Sectional Championships and second at the World Junior Qualifying Competition and the Spring Cup, kept rolling right along Thursday in the short program at the 2009 U.S. Synchronized Skating Championships, winning the segment by more than three points over the Skyliners and besting perennial powerhouse Chicago Jazz by more than six points.

The team that skated two teams before Braemar, the Windjammers, had a girl fall, and one of her teammates ran over her hand with her skate blade. The resulting blood on the ice caused an unplanned ice make and a delay of about 30 minutes.

"They were ready when they walked in the building," head coach Pam May said. "We've got everything on a timed schedule, and it took a little out of us. It was a learning experience."

The team members are apparently fast learners, as they appeared unfazed by the change in schedule. Skating to the inspiring "Invincible" by Carola, they exhibited great flow throughout, and they nailed their pivoting block.

Braemar is looking to earn just the second U.S. medal in its history. It won the bronze two years ago in Colorado Springs, Colo. About half of this year's team was on that squad.

"You never know what to expect because the other junior teams are so good," May said. "When you go into the season, you don't know what you're up against; you just know your team needs to skate the best."

May isn't worried about her team looking ahead to next week, when it will make its first-ever appearance at the World Synchronized Skating Challenge Cup for Juniors, in Neuchatel, Switzerland.

"Each competition we go to, we want to do our best," May said. "We're not thinking of worlds yet; when we leave Sunday, then we'll be thinking about worlds. Until then, we've got nationals on our minds."

The Skyliners skated to the elegant, subdued "Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables. Head coach Josh Babb went to see Les Mis for the first time last spring and felt inspired by the music. It's a big departure from the team's program last season, a rollicking Tina Turner number.

"I really wanted to work on skating skills this year," Babb said.

Babb was impressed with his team's intersections and its block, despite a slight stumble on the latter element.

Though the team's been working a lot on its expression, Babb felt the Skyliners were a little tentative.

"It's the short program. It's a pressure cooker," he said.

The Jazz, last year's champions, performed to "Life's a Bowl of Cherries" from Fosse. Head coach Lisa Darken went to see the play while attending a coaches conference 10 years ago and had always enjoyed the piece.

"I've been thinking about it for 10 years. We've got to tweak it a little more," said Darken, who was expecting the team's marks to be higher than they were.

Miami University's junior varsity team is fourth with 59.29 points. The team skated to Celine Dion's version of the Heart song "Alone."

Head coach Carla DeGirolamo heard a contestant on American Idol sing the tune last season.

"When I heard the Celine version, I knew it's what I wanted to use," DiGirolamo said. She especially liked the RedHawks' whip intersection and its block sequence. "They went out and attacked the program. They did everything I asked them to do."