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Bell edges out .14-point lead in novice ladies

Fellow midwesterners Long, Miller are close behind

Mariah Bell leads heading into the novice ladies free skate.
Mariah Bell leads heading into the novice ladies free skate. (Paul Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/23/2011) - Midwestern skaters opened the novice ladies event with a bang, taking the top three spots in the short program event today.

Skating to East of Eden, Mariah Bell nailed her jumps -- including a triple Salchow-double toe combination; triple toe; and double Axel -- to grab a .14-point lead over Barbie Long, with Hannah Miller another 2.43 points behind.

The same three skaters held the three spots at the qualifying Midwestern Sectionals, held in Ann Arbor, Mich., in November.

Bell isn't too surprised by her section's strength.

"Looking at the scores [from sectionals], we were the strongest coming in and I felt we would do well here," she said. "There are a lot of other strong skaters, though, so you never know."

The 14-year-old was especially pleased with her solid combination, which helped her earn 41.91 points.

"My Salchow hasn't been too consistent, but it went well here," she said.

Bell, a ninth grader who skates two hours a day, has lofty but attainable ambitions: "My goals are really to put my name out there at this competition, and then hopefully compete at some internationals."

Performing to Love Story, Long also had a clean outing, hitting a triple Lutz-double toe combination and triple loop as well as a double Axel.

"I'm very happy," said Long. "I've had my Lutz for a while, ever since the beginning of the season, and I got my loop in July.

"Actually, I'm most pleased with my layback spin. It got a [Level] four and I usually get a two."

Long's coach, Susan Liss, praised the strong camaraderie between the top three skaters.

"The nicest thing is they are all such good friends," she said. "They've been competing against each other for several years and they always cheer each other on and are really supportive. It's just a nice, friendly rivalry."

Miller, whose Singin' in the Rain short earned 39.34, fell on her opening triple Salchow but recovered with a triple toe-double toe.

"My Salchow was supposed to be my combination, so I had to add a double toe to my triple toe," she said. "I was a little disappointed in my Salchow, I think I rushed it.

"I'm most pleased with my spins and spirals; I think I got Level four on all of my spins, and I held my spirals pretty well, which is something I've been working on."

Alana Walker, second at Pacific Coast Sectionals, is fourth with 35.11 points.