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Moore-Towers, Moscovitch go 'all out' in Indy free

Castelli, Shnapir convey new attitude in Marcotte-choreographed program; Vise, Baldwin try new tricks

Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch received a standing "O" after their free skate.
Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch received a standing "O" after their free skate. (Jacque Tiegs)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(08/04/2012) - If Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch keep skating like this, their fourth-place finish at the Canadian Figure Skating Championships last season will be a blessing in disguise.

The rejuvenated duo fired on all cylinders in their free skate to a Queen medley Saturday at the Indy Pairs Challenge, exploding out of the gate with a huge Level 3 triple twist before reeling off superb side-by-side triple toes, triple toe sequence and triple Salchows.

The hits kept on coming in the second half of their program, with two big, cleanly landed throw triples and three superb lifts, including two done from a lunge entrance.

The 2011 Canadian champions earned a rare standing ovation from skating officials and fellow competitors, and outpaced the field with 127.44 points.

"That was our game plan: just to come out full steam and not hold anything back," Moscovitch said. "We just want to get the programs out, get mileage on them and get our attack back."

The skaters credit their choreographer, Vancouver-based Mark Pillay, with adding the intricate transitions and details that complete the package.

"We've been doing the jumps and throws for four years now almost, so it's not really about that. We want to excel in the [complete] performance, not just the elements," Moore-Towers said. "Mark is a gem; he is brilliant. He is always listening to music and walking through ideas, so that when he comes to work with us, he knows exactly what he wants."

"He really dedicates himself to working with his skaters. I know with us, he starts looking for music two years in advance," Moscovitch said. "He is always thinking about what he can do to get us to the next level."

Kris Wirtz, who coaches the team with wife Kristy in Kitchener-Waterloo, thinks we can expect more of the same from his skaters this season.

"Since nationals, they've had time to evaluate who they are," he said. "They are all out, all the time. That's the way we are going to roll all year, and I am proud of them.

"The last performance [at Canadians] wasn't what they wanted, so we're going to bounce back, because Skate Detroit last week was great and this was great, so that's two in a row.

"The thing with Kirsten and Dylan is they get better as they go along, and if that is the case, I'm excited."

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir, fifth at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, also say they have a new attitude this season, and it showed in their sultry Argentine Tango free skate, choreographed in Montreal with Julie Marcotte.

Crammed with Tango details from start to finish, the program started with a Level 2 triple twist that gained +2 grades of execution from five judges and earned 6.8 points. Other highlights include a throw triple Salchow done out of a Tango lift entrance as well as three strong Level 4 lifts.

The Boston-based team earned 102.95 points, good for second place.

"Simon and I made a commitment to each other that we are going to work harder than ever, and we have," Castelli said. "We really wanted to do something we've never done before. Julie gave us this program, and we fell in love with it. When we were up in Montreal, we watched a lot of Tango video, and Julie really focused on our feet and toe point, and essentially getting the feeling and body language of the Tango.

"This was more of a safe run-through. We didn't do the throw triple Axel, and [Simon] popped his triple toe into a double and I singled my [intended double] Axel, so there were some silly mistakes."

Shnapir also counts the program as a huge step forward.

"It is totally different skating, totally different approach," he said. "We just want to hammer all the transitions out and have no slow sections between elements."

Carrie Wall, who coaches the team with Bobby Martin and Sheryl Franks at the Skating Club of Boston, is thrilled with her skaters' new look.

"The music has lots of highs and lows; it creates that tension you want," Wall said. "Julie did a wonderful job keeping the authenticity of an Argentine Tango, with some innovative transitions like [Marissa] flipping around [Simon's] neck into the throw triple Salchow. This has taken them to the next level; Julie created some intimate moments on the ice that draws the audience in."

Next up for Castelli and Shnapir: the Cranberry Open, followed by U.S. Figure Skating's Champs Camp and the Middle Atlantic Figure Skating Championships in New York City.

Canadians Paige Lawrence and Rudi Swiegers took third with a fast-paced, dramatic free skate highlighted by "wow"-inducing lifts, a double Axel, a double Axel sequence and two triple throws -- loop and Lutz -- done in the second half of the program. They earned 101.32 to put them in third.

Reprising their Sleeping Beauty free skate from last season, Castelli and Shnapir's training partners, Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff, earned 100.28 and fourth place for an elegant skate that opened with a huge triple twist and three Level 4 lifts, including one that covered the entire ice surface.

Tiffany Vise and Don Baldwin rebounded from a difficult short program Friday with a solid free skate to a medley including "Time to Say Goodbye" that featured two triple throws -- Lutz and loop -- in the second half and closed with a lovely Level 4 combination spin. They earned 99.71 and a fifth-place finish.

According to Vise, Indy was all about bringing new elements to the fore.

"Yesterday we tried triple flips in the short, which I've only been landing consistently for the last few days," she said. (The flips were downgraded.) "We've worked on throw triple Lutz, which is brand new for me; I still have to get 100 [repetitions] in to get it really consistent. We also just got the reverse lasso [lift] in the free skate."

"We've been doing the throw a bit, but the lift we just put in last week," Baldwin said. "It's a high-risk element at this point, but I kept it up there. We didn't get the extra level we were going for, but we're happy we did it."

Vise and Baldwin hope to receive a senior B assignment before they compete at Skate Canada this fall.

Lindsay Davis and Mark Ladwig followed up their strong short program with another solid skate, including an opening triple Salchow-double toe combination and double Axels as well as a Level 3 death spiral with a clean, classic entrance. They placed sixth with 94.49 points.