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Zawadzki makes leap to seniors this fall

Skater scores 102.97 for Liberty free, outpacing field

Agnes Zawadzki is ready to make her mark on the senior ladies circuit this season.
Agnes Zawadzki is ready to make her mark on the senior ladies circuit this season. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/17/2010) - Few top junior prospects leapfrog over the junior grand prix circuit direct to the senior glory, but Agnes Zawadzki is determined to cut her own path.

And if her performance here at Liberty is any guide, she'll do just fine.

Zawadzki's debut of her free to a medley of Gypsy and Hungarian folk melodies showed the skater is more than just the sum of her jumps, although the triples were present and accounted for, including an opening double Axel, triple toe combination -- brand new in her arsenal -- and triple Lutz, double toe.

Although the Colorado Springs-based skater fell on her first Lutz and doubled her loop, she landed five clean triples and earned an impressive early-season score of 102.97.

Zawadzki also scored with fast, Level 4 spins, including a lovely layback into a Biellmann; a high flying sit; and a flexible closing combination spin.

"I've been working a lot with Becky Bradley to add speed to my spins," the skater, who turns 16 this summer, said. "My goal here was to get the program out there, skate well, present well and show how much I've improved the other stuff, not just the jumps.

"I love both of my programs this season; [choreographer Lori Nichol] gave me two completely different characters. I just got the [free] program at the end of March, beginning of April, so I think it went well."

Zawadzki's score here may help validate the Cheyenne Mountain High School junior's decision to compete on the senior Grand Prix at Skate Canada and Cup of Russia this fall.

"It was a decision my coach, Tom Zakrajsek, and I made together," Zawadzki -- who won silver at 2010 world juniors, her international debut -- said. (After winning bronze at 2005 world juniors, Emily Hughes also jumped directly to the senior Grand Prix circuit).

"I think going to junior worlds last season, which was my hardest competition and probably harder than any Junior Grand Prix, and doing well, helped us make the decision."

Zakrajsek said several factors played into the move.

"Number one was her motivation; probably after you medal at junior worlds, going to a JGP isn't as interesting," he said. "Agnes has a personal desire to compete against the best women in the world.

"Then we had to consider whether she had the ammunition. She does double Axel, triple toe now, she's learning triple Lutz, triple toe and triple toe, triple toe, and really starting to train these combinations in programs.

"Finally, we considered her maturity level: can her body handle the demands of the senior circuit? She has to look like a woman on the ice. So that's what went into the decision, and so far, all the feedback I'm getting is positive."

Skating to a Tango choreographed by her coach, Mark Mitchell, and Jamie Isley, Boston-based Yasmin Siraj had a similarly ambitious free, including all the triples up the Lutz, but "not that great" was the 14-year-old's verdict.

"There were too many shaky landings, so I didn't get to do any combinations," Siraj, who is also trained by Peter Johansson, said. "The good thing is I stood up on my triple loop for the first time ever. I recovered a lot by the end."

Siraj's 84.11 points put her second in the group.

Cesario wins Group B
In senior ladies' Group B, Samantha Cesario lent Hollywood-style glamour and Broadway drama to the rink with a majestic program to "Impossible Dream," choreographed by Inese Bucevica.

The 16-year-old, who notched a win at Gardena Spring Trophy this spring, opened her program big -- with a triple flip, double toe -- and closed even bigger, with two double Axels and a high-flying sit spin. In between, she hit four other triples, including an Ina Bauer into a triple Salchow-double toe-double loop. She earned 99.62 points.

"I've been working a lot on my triples with my coaches [Peter Burroughs and Mary Lyn Gelderman], getting them bigger and cleaner," Cesario said. "I'm also working out off the ice three times a week, which is getting my legs stronger."

"Samantha has the most extraordinary work ethic; I've been doing this a long time and seen a lot of them, and it's something you can't teach," Gelderman said.

Cesario's mom helped Gelderman select the number from Don Quixote, which was also used to great affect (and acclaim) by Olympic silver medalists Qing Pang and Jian Tong.

"Sam is the type of skater that can really perform this music," Gelderman said. "She can really bring tears to your eyes."

Joelle Forte placed second wit 80.35 points for a program that included triple Lutz, double toe and triple Salchow, double toe combinations.

"We just got the choreography for the long, and are starting to train it," said Forte's coach, Elaine Zayak. "Unfortunately, she banged into the wall in practice yesterday and hurt her hip pretty badly. She thought about not skating, but we're here, so I told her to go."