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Leave it to Lexi: Adult championships with Rohner

National vice chair provides behind-the-scenes perspective from Scottsdale, Ariz.

The stage is set for the 2013 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in Scottsdale.
The stage is set for the 2013 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in Scottsdale. (Lexi Rohner)

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By Lexi Rohner, special to icenetwork.com
(04/13/2013) - Lexi Rohner, the national vice chair of adult skating competitions, blogs about all the comings and goings at the 2013 U.S. Adult Figure Skating Championships in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Sunday, April 14

I don't even know where to begin for Saturday, so I'll start with Adam Rippon. I asked him to come and present medals for the championship events and he more than willingly obliged. Yay Adam! Doug Razzano, conveniently here because he happens to be a Coyotes SC of AZ member, was also willing to pitch in. After witnessing what this competition has to offer, Adam tweeted the following:

"@Adaripp: These adult skaters are incredible. Never been to a comp with so much laughing, cheering and daring costumes choices."

And it's true. The crowd often cheers harder when skaters fall, urging them to get up and keep going. Everyone has nerves when competing, but I really think we shouldn't. There's no one in this building that wants to see you do poorly.

Speaking of uplifting, I had the opportunity to participate as a sweeper and had so much fun I didn't want to stop. Even when my feet went numb. Having had to withdraw from my own event due to injury, I was thrilled to have the chance to skate on the national ice surface and help out my fellow skaters. The young skaters sweeping were fun to hang out with and kept asking me if I was going out on the ice with them. I have to say, I was mostly swept away by them and their dedication to the job.

Each time we went out, we decided as a "team" who would hold the basket and who would be collecting tossies. When we went out to collect tossies during the pairs event, competitor Stephen Trzaska pulled me into an impromptu pairs spiral, center ice. I was caught off guard, so I did what skaters do: pointed my toe and smiled!

When I finally had to take my skates off, I was sad to be done. The crowd at this event always appreciates the sweepers and cheered for all of us. It was a very different experience than being on the ice competing and being alone. A big shout-out to my sweeper buddies: Lizzie, Claire, Grace, Makayla and Ryan, and Lexi the ice monitor!

Making the rounds in the rink of sightings for last night and today covers Heather Hilgar's very consistent and beautiful classic skating and Kathleen Powers, who has enthusiasm to spare and a beautiful presence on the ice. Kathleen's coach, Charlie Tickner, told her to stop being surprised at how well she had done. Mary Moss and her ever present happy face was everywhere with Carol Huetteman. RoJo (Robin Johnson) was around, but I didn't get to see her as much as I would have liked. Debra Curtis was on hand as a spectator, and did so very well from the restaurant patio next door with Elizabeth McGlauflin and Ann Orsolini.

That's where I ran into the incomparable Allison Manley, and had time to catch up on what the ManleyWoman SkateCast is up to. She's on fire! Watch for her coverage of this competition on icenetwork.com and in SKATING magazine. Event photographer Jay Adeff, who has captured the action of the best skaters in the world, is here to cover the scene. He is weathering the cold with moderate shivering, and Barb Reichert (U.S. Figure Skating's communication director) is providing him warm packs for his hands. She wonders how I can wear sandals in the rink. I work better in the cold. Tough it out Jay.

On the ice we've seen masters intermediate-novice competitor Jenna Graciano, who earned first, and had Liz Chase's daughter Kelly as her sweeper. More best friends connections! In the championship masters intermediate-novice event, Jamie Tanker and Melinda Speer owned the ice with incredible performances. "Team Davin Grindstaff" (Annette Florence, Kylie Cartwright, Stephanie Hao, Rob Lichtefeld and a couple more), took home a plethora of medal hardware, led by Davin himself, who set the example by earning the the silver medal in championship masters junior/senior men's. Over at the masters pairs event, history was made when the athletic and elegant team of Choleen Loundagin and Bilal Kheir finished with a resounding 68.95! Linda Price wants to know if you can hear her screaming from Seattle.

On the lighter side ... Century Leigh and Robin Johnson enjoyed handpicking rhinestones for RoJo's dress and sewing them on, and sharing glue and thread for Sharidan Williams-Sotelo's dress. Earlier in the week, Wendy Bauer put out a call for any "stoners" coming to the competition to help complete her dress. That must have done the trick because after several years of competing here, Wendy won her first medal. As the creative force behind the coveted "Wendy Bears," it was more than high time she was also rewarded. Congrats Wendy!

One of Donna Farver's highlights of the week was Rippon offering to coach her next year if Evelyn Gwi can't make it. Elizabeth Risberg's rendition of the infamous Tonya Harding incident earned her first place in silver ladies light entertainment, as did Jose Hinojos' "Redneck Woman" performance in silver men light entertainment. Amazing costumes and creativity.

Speaking of creativity, Lauren Day and husband Steve Goldstein brought along the ever popular beanie baby bazooka, with its audible "whoosh!" and ability to catapult tossies above tall hockey nets. I ducked when I was sweeping. What I didn't duck out of was the competitors' party Saturday night. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to blog from there, as what happens at the party stays in Arizona.

Sunday morning began much like the week did, but likely with less precise packing and a lot less sleep. All those nerves stuffed back into the suitcases and labeled for home, and the airport rush should have been easy. However, a broken conveyor belt in the Southwest terminal caused a back up that extended well into the multiple hours realm. The lines resembled that of a Disneyland ride, but with luggage and no music piping in from the flower beds. Oh, and no flower beds. I know my luggage took a ride on a different plane, so I hope everyone else and their belongings arrived where they wanted to and on time.

Those who stayed on a bit longer in Scottsdale had varying relaxing experiences. Stephen Trzaska visited the stunning red rocks of Sedona, but found he was most impressed by the awesome black and white cookies in the New York deli he found there. You can take the boy out of NYC ...

Post-nationals relaxation poolside was heard of, and Adrienne Howell, Mary Squires and Chris Shipley took in some Old Town Scottsdale action. Jennifer Simon's quick trip to Scottsdale was of course worth seeing so many skating friends, and Manley was pleased to find Lisa Fitzmaurice was her seatmate for the plane ride home.

If you are suffering from post "AN" blues, try to remember, as Pamela Federbusch reminded herself: Skating is your hobby and not your career. To perk you up, mark your calendar: Only 359 days left until the 20th U.S. Adult Championships in Hyannis, Mass.! Start planning your music, costumes and travel; it will be here before you know it, and we'll do this all over again.

I hope you all enjoyed this blog. I would have liked to cover everyone and all events, but I can only be in a few places at once. You can read more formal coverage on icenetwork.com and in SKATING magazine. Check Twitter (@AdultSk8USFS) and hashtag #AN2013AZ for pictures and quick notes.

Thanks for reading, and see you soon!

Saturday, April 13

It's Friday already. When you all read this, it will be Saturday. This week always goes by so fast. Being at a competition is sort of like being in Las Vegas; you go in, you get wrapped up in the action and you don't know if it's day or night outside. When you emerge, finally, after countless hours/days, you are full of adrenaline, somewhat disoriented and probably pretty tired. Anyone?

The adrenaline really does a lot to carry you through. But more than that, it's the intense connection with so many who share what we're all here for -- the love of this sport. This is never more evident than what I witness every time I watch ice dance. Dance is regal. Dance is elegant, refined. But more than that, it's almost a subset of adult skating where the camaraderie is always at a high. Dancers greet, hug and cheer for each other, even as they take the ice for their own performances. They stay and watch each other from the kiss and cry, clapping enthusiastically until each and every couple is finished. I had the privilege of announcing for several dance events this competition, and it really struck me. All of you, go home and find a partner and take up dance. Right now. Go!

OK, you can put down your lighters -- my waxing poetic is done, for now. But a little more dance recap before I move on. Josephine Lee and Jim Kamin skated to a medley that included "It's Dee-Liteful!" with so much energy that when it ended, I thought, "What? Already?" They earned gold with that! Regina Jadwisiak and her partner David Kobe stole the show with a display of romance that took us from an engagement all the way to the honeymoon. How? Well, the number started with each in traditional ending attire to the "Wedding March," moved to "My Girl," the ever cheesy but requisite reception tune, the "Chicken Dance," and finally? "Love Shack." Kids, cover your eyes! This is a family show! Nooo, they were tasteful and it was very entertaining.

As the completion nears its final day, it is also ramping up to the championship events. More coaches and skaters are turning up, including the effervescent Doug Mattis. Love him! Barb Reichert, U.S. Figure Skating's communications director is here to cover events, and our own Allison Manley, masters junior/senior competitor is freelance writing to cover the champ events and S.T.A.R.S. combine.

I want to give a special shout-out to the tireless officials here who have parked themselves rink-side in the freezing air for hours on end this week. There are many moving parts to be appreciated in making this and every competition successful, but the officials are the only ones who must sit in the cold air for extended periods of time. We thank you and are grateful for your expertise and cold noses.

Friday, April 12

What a day on Thursday! The gold ladies 1 group was so strong, the audience could not turn their eyes away. The cheers were deafening and the tossies were plentiful -- so plentiful, in fact, that competitor Samantha Schecter had trouble collecting hers. At the audience's urging, she got creative, using the front of her dress to hold the smaller ones. Stretchy Lycra is very handy! It's notable that best friends Elizabeth Finn, Lyssa Cobb, Samantha Schecter and Jessica Scieszinski are competing with each other in this group. Great group of ladies.

It was certainly a day for costume issues for bronze ladies competitor Susan Pugh when her dress decided to take a vacation from her upper body ... during her program ... facing the judges. This morning, I ran into Susan, who was smiling and wearing several colorful Mardi Gras bead necklaces. She jovially shared how many skaters came to her rescue for today's events with double-sided tape, and the audience cheered her on arrival to the ice with shouts of 'Bring the girls!' Never a dull moment.

In other news around the arena, bronze ladies 4 competitor Terryl Allen was overwhelmed with excitement to skate well in front of the judges and meet her goals for this competition. Proud of her teammates and loving her coach's smile, she effusively hugged her friends as they shared laughter and congratulations. Well done! Later, Allen was spotted trying to keep warm by wearing all her clothes. Poor lonely suitcase.

Silver ladies 3 competitor Zuzka Polishook gained a new fan in her friend's daughter Taylor, who surprised her with beautiful roses. Gold ladies 3 competitor Donna Farver was pleased with her skate, but noted more importantly how much fun she had. Lori Fussell winning gold in pre-silver solo dance was a great moment for her and her coach! Marcia Richards enjoyed her solo bronze dance event, despite her thoughts of not skating well. Following her event, a younger local woman in her 30s who recently began skating wanted a photo with Marcia to prove to her friends she is not too old to start skating. Go girls!

Despite the competition focus this week, Wanda Gelsebach insured it would not interfere with any Project Runway habits. Spotted around the rink: bronze ladies 2 competitor Denise Pendleton; gold ladies 1 artistic competitor Ashley Roche and her entourage Moo, Lola and Lacey; Angie Miske, bronze ladies artistic competitor and coach Todd Gilles. Silver ladies 3 competitor Cari Lee Remy looked beautiful, and the ever sparkly Century Leigh was there. Gold ladies 3 beauty Liz Chase, who is sitting out this season, and her daughter Kelly -- who is a sweeper this year -- were on hand. Championship masters pairs skaters Kim Sailer and Dave Garber, who have a surprise in store for their skate, were on site. Can't wait for that! Also seen: Paula Turpen and Mike Barwig, Debbie Leung and so many more. This lobby has a lot of action!

Pairs skaters Kristi and Glen Norman were pleased to step up their technical content from last year and stay upright for a convincing win, despite four months off. They are looking forward to watching the "young whippersnapper pairs" on Friday.

The adult skating committee was held and run by chair, Gail Sombati, with discussions about practice ice and various aspects of this competition. The LOC chair for next year was on hand to offer information for the 20th anniversary of the U.S. Adult Championships next year. It will be a great one!

The day ended with a celebration of former adult skating committee chairs Maggie Harding's and Tony Conte's birthdays. And no recap would be complete without a mention of what a fantastic job this LOC has been doing. A huge THANK YOU! to all the volunteers who are working tirelessly to keep this event running smoothly.

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, April 11

Started the day yesterday with a hug from fan favorite Thom Mullins with Chris Schwartz. I wonder what fabulous costume he has whipped up for this year! I enjoyed a short visit with the ever creative Ted Gradman, who was decked out in an African costume for a unique piece of program music, and then I ran into Rob Lichtefeld wearing his silver men's 3 first-place medal. Congrats Rob!

Another well-earned medal was seen on Merry Neitlich, who had been fighting a cold for four weeks. Go Merry! Kim Ellsworth-Flores looked beautiful and strong in her silver ladies 2 skate yesterday. Though I have yet to actually see her, I know Samantha Schecter is in town and has promised cake pops from her stash of creatively made baked goods. Where arrrrrre you Sam?!?!

Coaches spotted on the sidelines: Louis Vachon, Lloyd Eisler, Cindy Bortz-Gould and Janet Lee.

Today, the gold men and ladies compete in their open events. The gold men have given it their all, including Dennis Wickline who exhibited a Johnny Weir slide into an Axel. Gold ladies, what say you?

Silver ladies 3 competitor Zuzka Polishook's shoulder injury didn't stop her from stepping off the ice to a silver medal here at her first nationals. In a group of 22, that was well earned. The only odd question she got was whether the Kinesio Tape on her shoulder was actually hiding a tattoo.

For those of you wondering about the weather, it's been very pleasant. I don't care too much for hot weather, so for me it's been great. But I hear its about to get sizzling. Doug Mattis is due in soon. Coincidence? I think not.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 10

Suitcases all over Scottsdale were opening up to nerves and excitement as skaters and coaches arrived from around the country yesterday. The 19th U.S. Adult Championships begins today, and the barrage of Facebook status updates of flight arrivals and muddy rain from Monday's storm in Phoenix are slowly turning to good-luck wishes.

A quick visit to the Ice Den yesterday turned up the recently engaged Rachel Kuhn and her posse of roller derby queen Cheryl Morrison, Rochelle Revor and Julie Pietraszko. Local cutie skater Claire Loy was found enjoying a quiet moment in the coyotes rink kiss and cry. We'll be watching your sweeper action later in the week, Claire!

This facility is very nice, and as I wandered through while practice ice was taking place, it was evident that the LOC has taken great care in the set-up for this competition. Ice monitors are available for practice sessions, hallways are clean and everything looks ready to go.

One competitor I ran into has a very special journey to her arrival which I'll share at a later date. But running into Dorothy Ray and her longtime skating friend, Linda Francis, was especially meaningful: Dorothy is one of the few remaining competitors who has been at every one of these championships. Stay tuned for this.

It's particularly wonderful to see people we only see once a year. Many of you who use Facebook and Twitter know that they are great tools for keeping in touch, but they are no substitute for the live version. I'll do my best to share what makes you feel as though you're here for those of you playing along with the home game.

You can follow here, or on Twitter @AdultSk8USFS and with the official Twitter hashtag, #AN2013AZ.