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Wagner shows 'true Lutz' in Liberty short

Zawadzki, Siraj also impress; Zhang wins Group B

Ashley Wagner has worked exhaustively on her Lutz in the offseason.
Ashley Wagner has worked exhaustively on her Lutz in the offseason. (Getty Images)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/16/2010) - Ashley Wagner served notice at Liberty on Friday: this season, she means business.

"A triple-triple [combination] and a true Lutz, those are my main goals," the 19-year-old said. "My coach Priscilla [Hill] and I are pacing my skating up to Sochi [Olympics] 2014."

Wagner missed the Vancouver Games by a whisker, placing third at the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships behind Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu. Deep disappointment spurred her to take a hard look at her skating, and she and Hill passed up a trip to junior worlds in March to start re-building her triple Lutz.

"I would always get an "e" [incorrect take-off edge] and lose points, and if I wanted to compete with the best, I knew I had to fix it," she said.

Liberty's tech panel was impressed, giving her full credit for the jump in her short, set to Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir."

The hard-charging program also included a huge triple flip, double toe combination; strong double Axel; and solid spins.

Wagner earned 54.55 points, outpacing up-and-comers Agnes Zawadzki, who earned 50.85 points, and Yasmin Siraj, third with 47.37.

"I offered a lot of music to her, but she picked this herself," Wagner's choreographer, Irina Romanova, said. "She is against the girly-girly kind of program, as you can tell. She's a tomboy."

This was one of Wagner's first full performances of "Kashmir"; she and Hill have concentrated on the Lutz technique, as well as creating new spin positions to fit ever-changing (and still evolving) IJS requirements for Levels 3 and 4.

"We completely changed the Lutz entrance," Wagner said. "I used to step over and tap, try to do it quickly, to disguise [the edge]. Now it's set up so there's no way I can take-off on the wrong edge; it's a right foot take-off from a long [lead in]."

Wagner and Hill spent a month doing nothing but single Lutzes, gradually progressing to doubles and, just recently, triples.

"It's all about building up confidence and a steady mindset," the skater said. "I hoped to do triple flip-triple toe here, but my foot was bothering me a bit, so we played it safe. I'm competing my short and free at Skate Wilmington in two weeks and hope to do it there."

Zawadzki swiveled and swayed to a snappy Mambo short, choreographed by Catarina Lindgren.

The Colorado Springs-based skater, who is coached by Tom Zakrajsek, opened with a huge triple toe but could not control the landing and did not complete her planned second triple toe. The rest of the program, including a triple Lutz and snazzy step sequence, went off without a hitch.

"I like that kind of music; I like to move to it, and I think it suits me," Zawadzki, who turns 16 this summer, said. "I got too much adrenaline [on the planned triple toe-triple toe] and couldn't control it enough."

Siraj, who trains at Skating Club of Boston under Peter Johansson and Mark Mitchell, showed fleet feet and speedy spins in her "Czardas" short, but after hitting her opening triple Lutz, double toe combination, popped an intended triple loop into a single.

"I've really been working on my speed; I want to skate big, even though I'm not a big person," said the 14-year-old skater, who stands 4'10".

Melissa Bulanhagui performed a sophisticated Tango, choreographed by coach Karen Ludington, to take fourth.

In senior ladies' Group B, Felicia Zhang -- who is also competing here in junior pairs with partner Taylor Toth -- edged out veteran Joelle Forte. Samantha Cesario was third.