Hughes, Coppola snag senior titles at Collegiates

Both skaters preserve short program leads, bring home prize money

Seattle Pacific University's Chrissy Hughes held on to win the senior ladies title.
Seattle Pacific University's Chrissy Hughes held on to win the senior ladies title. (Brenda Glidewell)


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By Brenda Glidewell, special to
(08/20/2012) - After a third day of competition in West Dennis, Mass., the senior ladies and men's champions were crowned at the 2012 U.S. Collegiate Championships.

While there was not much movement among those in first through fourth place following the short program, the skaters gave those in attendance memories of great skating, college pride and competitive spirit that will last a lifetime. The senior ladies free skate event was one of the strongest in collegiate history, with nearly three-fourths of the skaters executing triple jumps and solid double Axels.

Skating 25th and setting the score to beat in the final warm-up group was Chrissy Hughes, short program leader, of Seattle Pacific University. Hughes skated a wonderfully strong program to music by Brahms. Her only mistake of the night was a fall on the triple toe, and she went on to land a huge triple Salchow-double toe combo, double Lutz, triple toe-double toe, a huge double Axel, a solid double Lutz-double loop-double loop and another solid double Axel. Hughes' program also included Level 3 spins and a footwork sequence that earned a Level 4.

"I am so pleased with how I did and I enjoyed every minute out there," Hughes said.

Hughes recently graduated with an exercise science degree and was pleased to return to the competitive arena for this final competition of her career. Hughes had previously stopped competing in 2009 to pursue her academic studies.

She said her return to the ice and competition "was done on her terms," and she added that "this time, I enjoyed my time out there so much more and it was not about winning, but doing what I was capable of doing. I achieved what I had set out to do."

Hughes earned a combined total score of 122.72 points and took home the senior ladies title.

Skating third in the final warm-up group to music from Santana was Kacie Kotnik of Northern Kentucky University. Kotnik was in third entering the free skate, but quickly made it her mission to overcome the point differential and secure the silver medal with a combined total score of 113.63 points.

Kotnik said that her "free skate and week at Collegiates was such an awesome experience. I had set the goal to skate a solid program here, complete with good presentation just as I had been doing in practice at home. I am so pleased to say I did what I had set out to do and I am looking forward to building on this experience at regionals in a couple of months."

Kotnik opened her program with a huge double Axel and followed that up with a solid triple toe. A smile emerged on her face once she landed the triple toe, and she soared off to complete a nice double loop-double loop combo, double flip, triple Salchow-double toe combo and a clean triple Salchow in addition to earning Level 2 on her combination spin and Level 3 on her footwork.

Following Kacie Kotnik was Becky Bereswill, an economics major at the University of Michigan, who finished 13th at the 2010 U.S. Championships in the senior ladies event. Bereswill was in fourth following the short program and secured the bronze medal with a combined total score of 111.39, with her well-choreographed routine to music from Cinderella.

Although the beginning of Bereswill's program did not go as planned -- due to falls on the triple Lutz and triple toe jumps -- she was able to rally and finish strong by landing a solid double Axel, triple toe, triple loop-double toe and triple Salchow. She also earned a Level 2 on her layback and step sequence, plus a Level 4 on her ending combination spin.

"I was really pleased with my ability to finish strong and keep it together after my opening fall on the Lutz," Bereswill said. "It was nice to skate this new program and improve on how I did earlier in the season."

Skating last in the free skate and earning the pewter medal with a combined score of 105.74 was Amber Walczyk of Malone University.

Walczyk said that she was so pleased to "have skated my best performance of the season thus far."

She is a psychology major and feels that her studies prepared her for a successful skate at this competition and allowed her to handle her competitive experience with confidence.

Senior men's free skate

The senior men finished out the evening in entertaining fashion. Skating to music from Children of Dune, Kevin Coppola maintained his healthy lead from the short program and earned a total score of 113.42 points, good enough to win the gold medal. Coppola opened his program with a huge triple Salchow, followed by a solid triple toe, under-rotated triple loop, Level 3 flying spin, Level 3 combination spin and a nice triple Salchow.

Coppola said his program "was not my best, but I went for everything and have no regrets. It was my goal to do the triple loop; although it was under-rotated, I am still pleased with my effort and look forward to trying it again in competition.

"I had the goal of doing two programs I could be pleased with and learn from. I did that and can say that I improved from my other competitions this season."

Matthew McAvoy skated first to music by Tchaikovsky and landed a double Lutz-double toe combination to tally a total score of 78.99. He chose to attend the U.S. Collegiate Championships this year after making a personal challenge to himself months ago. A senior at the University of Vermont, he had made the decision to retire from competitive skating back in high school, to focus full-time on college and his studies in molecular genetics.

McAvoy said that his return to competition and his performances went "as well as he had hoped" and he was "pleased with the effort."

The senior men's and senior ladies gold, silver and bronze medalists were each presented with the Collegiate Championship Award by U.S. Figure Skating Vice President Kathy Slack. Emanating from The Pioneer Fund, this year's gold medalists were honored to each receive $5,000, with the senior ladies second-place medalist receiving $2,500 and third $1,000, respectively.