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Chan headlines 2010 Liberty Summer Competition

Colorado Springs skaters take top honors thus far

Jessica Pfund with coach Tom Zakrajsek. The 12-year-old from Colorado Springs took first in the novice ladies short program.
Jessica Pfund with coach Tom Zakrajsek. The 12-year-old from Colorado Springs took first in the novice ladies short program. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/15/2010) - Liberty, an annual skating rite of summer held over four days at Aston, Pa.'s, IceWorks Skating Complex, hummed with activity today with simultaneous competitions running near non-stop in two rinks and practices buzzing in two others.

"We have 650 skaters this year, not only from the east but from Canada, Michigan, Texas, Florida, Colorado and California," longtime event chairman John Corona said.

"It's really the A-teams that keep an event of this size going -- great accountants, a great music staff, and top-flight judges, technical panels and announcers. The new [online] registration system, in particular, helps things moved smoothly."

Two-time Canadian world silver medalist Patrick Chan, who has kicked off his competitive season in Aston the past several years, is expected to compete in both the senior men's short program and free skate. He will face off against former world junior champion Stephen Carriere and 2009 U.S. junior men's champion Ross Miner, among others.

In the senior ladies event, U.S. bronze medalist Ashley Wagner will debut a new short program. Up-and-comers Agnes Zawadzki, Yasmin Siraj and Samantha Cesario are also on hand, as are national competitors Melissa Bulanhagui and Joelle Forte.

The Colorado Springs contingent -- which already notched a big win yesterday with Max Aaron's victory in the junior men's short -- scored again today when Jessica Pfund took top honors in the novice ladies short program.

The 12-year-old, who has trained with Tom Zakrajsek for five years, displayed the hallmark of most of her coach's pupils: an impressive jump arsenal.

Pfund included a triple loop; triple Lutz, double toe combination; and double Axel with a difficult rocker entrance in her short to The Sorcerers Apprentice.

"It felt really good, even though I was a little nervous at first," Pfund, who will begin Cheyenne Mountain Junior High this fall, said.

"The triple loop is new; I've only been doing it for about a month-and-a-half. We just put it in the short after the Broadmoor Open [three weeks ago]. I've been doing triple Lutz, double toe since January."

Liberty's technical panel gave Pfund full credit for her jumps, although the triple loop received a negative .7 GOE from the judges. She earned 36.72 points.

"Jessica was ninth in intermediates [at the 2010 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships] but she's gotten more triples since then," Zakrajsek said. "She's an incredibly hard worker."

Ana Draovitch, who is coached Audrey Weisiger in Fairfax, Va., took second with 35.10 points for a program that included a powerful double Axel and Level 4 layback spin.

Skating to a medley of arias from La Boheme and Tosca, Caitlyn Nemastil gained third with 34.82 points, despite a downgraded triple flip-double toe combination. The expressive Nemastil, who is coached by Glyn Watts, showed gorgeous extension in her "choreo" spiral.

Another Zakrajsek pupil, Kelsea Suarez, executed a strong triple Salchow-double toe combination and was fourth with 34.53 points.

Scoring sheet note
As if one "<" isn't enough, this season skaters' scoring sheets (protocols) can get hit by double whammy. A "<" means the event's technical panel has determined a jump is rotated enough to gain 70 per cent of its base value; "<<" signifies an under rotated, or downgraded, jump.