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Aldridge, Eaton come from behind to win novice dance

Detroiters rise from sixth-place Killian; Phams second

Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton are competing in their second Junior Grand Prix event after placing sixth in France.
Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton are competing in their second Junior Grand Prix event after placing sixth in France. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/20/2010) - Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton found themselves in an unusual spot going in to today's novice free skate.

The Detroit-based ice dancers, who are known for their superior compulsories, placed sixth after a few slips in the Killian. It took a winning free dance to lift them to the title.

"It probably wasn't our best, but for the circumstances it was great," Eaton, 15, said. "We've never had a competition where we weren't first after the compulsories and had to catch up."

"In a way, it was good," Aldridge, 17, added. "Being first after the compulsories always kept us calm. Here, we had to try harder and be more aggressive to catch up."

Skating to selections from The Man in the Iron Mask soundtrack, the team hit five Level 4 elements, including four fine lifts, to earn 64.47 points and take home gold with 112.22 overall.

"They skated last in the group, so I think the [trouble with the Killian] was a mixture of the ice [ruts] and nerves," one of the team's coach, five-time U.S. ice dance champion Elizabeth Punsalan, said.

"They're learning to compete. They've worked so hard this year and I think that work is showing. They'd do well to move up to novice next season; the maturity is there and they're good friends."

Compulsory leaders Danvi Pham and Vu Pham took silver with a third-place free skate to the South American ballad "Ghosts." They finished with 110.65 points.

"It started out well, but the second half wasn't as good as the first," Vu Pham, 12, said.

Nevertheless, the diminutive siblings, who train at the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy in Maryland, earned Level 4s for five elements, including all of their lifts. They lost ground on their circle steps, which gained just Level 1.

Joylyn Yang and Jean-Luc Baker placed second in the free with a vivid performance to music from the Titanic soundtrack. They captured the bronze medal with 110.06 points.

"We really wanted to move the audience, and I think we did," baker, 16, said. "We gave it all we had. It was a good performance."

The couple, who train in Seattle under Baker's parents Sharon Jones Baker and Stephen Baker hope to gain an international assignment.

Kristina Rexford and Michael Parsons, who train with the Pham siblings at Wheaton Ice Skating Academy, were fourth in the free and fourth overall.