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Aaron, Settlage run away with novice pairs

Illness can't stop Colorado Springs pair

Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage had no problem taking home novice pairs gold.
Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage had no problem taking home novice pairs gold. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/24/2011) - A 102-degree fever didn't keep Madeline Aaron from landing a big throw triple Salchow, and it didn't prevent her and partner Max Settlage from running away with the U.S. novice pairs' title.

"Maddie doesn't want to say anything, but she's running a fever. She's been sick all day, and she's worn out," the team's coach, Dalilah Sappenfield, said.

So how did she make it through the team's Nutcracker free skate?

"Training -- we've done so many run-throughs," Aaron, 16, said. "That and muscle memory."

Aaron and Settlage, who have been skating together about six months, looked as polished as if they had been together for several seasons. After the throw triple, they landed side-by-side double Axels and also earned Level 4's on both of their spin elements. Their 128.21 points put them well ahead of the field.

"It felt really good," Settlage, 18, said. "Maddie and I have been friends for years, so when we started skating together we already had a good connection."

Aaron comes from a skating family: brother Max, a junior man, is second after the short program here, and sister Molly will compete in senior pairs with Daniyel Cohen.

The older siblings moved from Arizona to Colorado Springs a little more than a year ago, and Madeline followed at the end of last May. Mom and dad take turns staying with them in their apartment.

Although she's the youngest of the three, Madeline now has bragging rights: she's the first and so far only skater in her family to win a national title.

"Hopefully, I won't be the only one for long; Max skates his long program tomorrow," she said.

Chelsea Liu and Devin Perini took the silver medal with a solid program featuring two Level 4 spins, a high double twist and a strong death spiral. Their only major mistake was Liu's fall on a throw double Lutz.

The California team ended with 113.90 points overall, some 14.31 points behind the winners.

"They are very new as a team [seven months] and also both are new to pair skating, so putting them together with a little bit of an experiment at first," the team's coach, three-time U.S. pair champion Todd Sand, said.

"The goal was to make it to nationals, and we've exceeded that goal. They have a good rapport on the ice and practice well at home."

The 11-year-old Liu, who dreams of becoming a movie star, claims she's in charge of the team, even though she weighs just 52 pounds. Perini, 17, agreed.

"Basically, she tells me what to do," he said.

"The girl has to be the boss," said Jenni Meno, Sand's skating partner and wife.

The bronze medal went to Audrey Goldberg and Joseph Dolkiewicz, who climbed from fourth after the short with an energetic free skate to music from Chicago.

The team, who train in New Jersey under Isabelle Brasseur and Rocky Marvel, hit a strong double twist as well as a throw double loop.

"Overall, I think we're both pretty happy with the way we skated," the 14-year-old Goldberg said. "We just wanted to go out there and do what we do everyday in practice."

"There were a few minor mistakes, but we had a lot of fun," added the 18-year-old Dolkiewicz, who has partnered Goldberg for nearly three years.

"Once you've skated together long enough, and you're really good friends, you can close your eyes, put your hand out and she's right there."

Caitlin Fields and Jason Pacini, third after the short, dropped to fourth place overall after a sixth-place free skate. Although they landed a strong throw double Lutz, Fields fell on the landing of a throw double Axel.