U.S. Sectionals Determine Nationals Lineup
Eastern, Midwestern, and Pacific Coast Sectionals qualify skaters for U.S. Nationals.
Most of the top U.S. skaters may have come into the season already qualified for 2018 Nationals from finishing in the top five the previous year, or gotten byes in the form of international assignments scheduled at the right times. But all the rest of the U.S. skaters had to earn their way there. For the majority of the singles skaters, that started at one of the nine regional championships, which one determined by the skating club they belong to, and represent at all U.S. intranational events. The top four in each competition qualified for one of the three sectional championships.
This week, all those qualified or byed through that gathered in Massachusetts, Minnesota, or Washington State for the Eastern, Midwestern, and Pacific Coast Sectionals, where the pairs and ice dance teams joined them. Through four disciplines and five levels, from juvenile to seniors, they tried to make the special four-place podiums, with pewter medals below bronzes. and get one of the four qualifying spots to get to the big event.
At the senior level, most the actual competition for that was still only in the singles, because none of the pairs or dance fields had more than three entries, meaning everyone qualified. Not all the pairs and dance competitions even happened; if there are four or less entries, they can agree to not bother skate a meaningless competition. But for most of the younger skaters, and all the singles ones, this was a make or break affair.
Eastern Sectional FS Championships
The Eastern Sectional Championships in Boxborough had the smallest senior men’s field, with only five skaters. But it did have the highest score gotten this year, earned by Atlantic FSC’s Timothy Dolensky. He continued his strong season by being untouchable here, even when his skating wasn’t the cleanest. He was the only one to land the triple axel jump in both programs, though silver medalist Kevin Shum managed it in the short, and bronze medalist Jimma Ma landed two in the free. Ma also tried a quadruple toe loop, but fell on it. Pewter medalist Emmanuel Savary was more ambitious, going for a quad salchow in both programs, though he landed it in neither, or any axels. Curran Oi, the odd man out, didn’t try those hard jumps; he’s currently a guy enjoying skating while studying at Yale, and was expected to be fifth.
The senior ladies field included Emma Ma of SC of Boston, the most successful American girl on the Junior Grand Prix this year. Between a clean short program and a strong free, she had no trouble winning. If she tried no triple-triple jump combinations, nobody who did try them landed them anyway. Her fellow Bostonite and JGP veteran, Megan Wessenberg, planned one in the short. That went badly enough she was in fifth going into the free. However, a cleaner second-place skate there got her up to fourth and into Nationals. Silver and bronze went to Franchesca Chiera and Katie McBeath, two longtime journeywomen of Easterns. They’re not as technically strong; McBeath didn’t even try the harder triples in her free. But they’re very good at doing enough to make the podium here; Chiera’s never finished lower than second, and won three times.
Easterns was the only Sectional to have a senior pairs competition, and theirs had only two teams entered. One of them, Allison Timlen of Maryland’s Columbia FSC and Justin Highgate-Burtman of St. Clair Shores FSC, were still ambitious enough to go for side by side triple flips. They didn’t land them in either program, but they weren’t too far off in the short. Winning wasn’t a problem. Nor was it a problem for SC of Wilmington’s Julia Biechler and Iceworks SC’s Damian Dodge, who skated and performed on a different level from the other two senior ice dance teams.
The eight-skater junior men’s competition was a bit messy. Three men, including winner Maxim Naumov of Boston, attempted the triple axel, though only bronze medalist Peter Liu landed it. The junior ladies saw a better winning skate from Baltimore FSC’s Ting Cui, who came back from fifth with it. Silver medalist Audrey Shin pulled off the competition’s only successful triple-triple. Like the senior field, the junior pairs field had only two entries. Neither skated well at all; even winners Nadine Wang & Spencer Howe of SC of New York and Los Angeles FSC missed most of their jump elements, including a ambitious attempt at side by side lutz. Their ice dance field went up to six, and was stronger, but Caroline & Gordan Green of the Pavilion SC of Cleveland Heights and Washington FSC still stood firmly over the rest.
View full results here.
Midwestern Sectional FS Championships
Easterns might have the highest-scoring man, but the Midwestern Sectional Championships in Bloomington had more or less the strongest men’s field. And Alexander Johnson of Braemer-City of Lakes FSC wasn’t far off Dolensky’s score. His skates too were mixed bags, with him struggling with the triple axel but landing most of his other jumps. He did lose the free skate, however to two-time JGP medalist Tomoki Hiwatashi, who fell on axel and quad attempt in the short, but landed one of his axel attempts and a quad-triple in a very strong free. He took silver ahead of Jordan Moeller, who missed his quad and triple axel attempts in both programs but landed everything else.
There was a strong divide between the top three and the rest of the field, to the point that all the other four men could hope for was to win the pewter and the final spot to Nationals. That proved a close affair, with Ben Jalovick taking it over Colton Johnson by less than two points. He’d been in last place after a painful short, and his free wasn’t clean either, but landed enough for his higher presentation scores to do the rest.
The senior ladies competition was a good one, with winner Hannah Miller of Lansing SC especially skating two strong programs. Silver medalist Brynne McIsaac, too, had an impression free skate; hers was the strongest program technically. There was a close battle for the final two spots to Nationals between Emily Chan, Maxine Marie Bautista, and Ashley Lin, who were within a point of each other going into the free. Sadly, while Baustista landed the competitions only clean triple-triple in the short, she made too many mistakes in her free and was the one who ended up fifth. Chan’s high presentation scores got her bronze over Lin, though the latter was the best of the three technically. Poor Paige Rydberg, who’d been expected to contend, was fourth in the free skate, but was too far behind and finished sixth.
Midwesterns didn’t have a senior pairs competition, but they did have a senior ice dance competition. There were only two teams, but one of them was the newly reunited Alexandra Aldridge of Detroit SC & Daniel Eaton of Ann Arbor FSC, who celebrated their return with a win. Their short dance was especially good, though their free wasn’t as strong, and there Karina Manta & Joseph Johnson outscored them.
Broadmoor SC’s Alex Wellman and Dallas FSC’s Hannah Herrell posted the highest scores in the junior singles events of all three Sectional competitions, and she nearly matched him. Wellmen won largely because he landed most of his jumps. Harrell landed all of them, including a triple flip-triple toe in both programs. She dominated even when silver medalist Jenna Shi also delivered an excellent free, though she was less ambitious technically. Dallas also claimed the junior pairs title, with Audrey Lu & Misha Mitrofanov coming from behind to win when Laiken Lockley & Keenan Prochnow fell three times. Five teams finished both the pairs and dance events; in the latter, Washington FSC’s Avonlen Nguyen & SC of Novi’s Vadym Kolesnik were head and shoulders above the others.
View full results here.
Pacific Coast Sectional FS Championships
The Pacific Coast Sectional Championships in Spokane had senior competitions in the singles only. The star of the competition was Glacier Falls FSC’s Sean Rabbitt, who skated fairly well and entertained the small crowd with his showmanship on the way to senior men’s gold, even if he struggled with the triple axel with both programs. None of the other six men landed that either. Silver medalist Daniel Kulenkamp didn’t try, thus reducing his mistakes and stunning with the sheer beauty of his skating. Bronze and pewter medalists Scott Dyer and Sebastien Payannet also struggled with their axels, among other elements. Lucky for them, Shotaro Omori, former Junior World medalist and their main competition, didn’t try it and then still made too many mistakes, finishing fifth.
Pacifics usually has the strongest of the three senior ladies fields. This one wasn’t as stacked as they’ve been some years, but it was still pretty competitive. Not everyone delivered, though. Starr Andrews did, especially in her short program, which she won on the strength of, posting the highest score for a senior lady at all three Sectionals. She didn’t try the harder technical content she’d failed to do on the Junior Grand Prix, though, playing it safe with her hardest thing being the triple toe-triple toes she landed in both programs. They were the only triple-triples anyone pulled off. Silver medalist Tessa Hong attempted harder ones and paid for them, though she edged the free skate out by putting in an absolutely beautiful performance.
It was a triumph for Los Angeles FSC when they actually swept the top four. Bronze medalist Vivian Le had to hold on, though, a good second place short making up for a sixth-place free where she fell four times. Pewter medalist Kaitlyn Nguyen, on the other hand, had to come back from fifth. She struggled with some of her harder jumps and did only triple-doubles instead of her usual triple-triples. That bit of playing it safe allowed her to do enough to make Nationals.
Two All Year FSC members came back from troubled shorts to battle closely for the junior men’s title. Patrick Frohling won the free skate with a program worth watching despite a couple of mistakes, but Paul Yeung’s higher technical content in both programs got him gold by a little less than a point and a half. The junior ladies competition, sadly, was the kind of mess where St. Moritz’s FSC Alysa Liu won big just by skating a decent free. Although a clean triple flip-triple toe in a clean short helped too. Bronze medalist Lily Sun also landing an easier triple-triple in her short. Both of them tried triple-triples in their free skates too, but those weren’t clean.
Sarah Feng of SC of San Francisco & TJ Nyman of Broadmoor SC scored the highest overall total of any pair at any level at Sectionals this year, and were the only pair to break 100 in the free skate. Their side by side content included solo triple salchows and a three-jump combination, which no one else could pull off. Combining that with superior skating and artistry, and the rough conclusions of some of their other elements didn’t keep them from winning big in the five-team junior field. All Year’s Chloe Lewis & SC of New York’s Logan Bye likewise easily beat the other three teams in the junior ice dance competition, some consolation after their JGP woes.
View full results here. The U.S. Figure Skating Championships will take place in San Jose, December 29, 2017-January 8, 2018.