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Performance carries Digerness and

Neudecker to title BY TROY SCHWINDT Legendary Russian pairs coach Tamara

Moskvina has visited several of the hotbed train- ing camps for U.S. pairs skating in recent years, and one of the things she stresses to coaches and skaters is maintaining the quality of the skating no matter what mistakes are made. Tat message served Nica Digerness (Broad- moor SC) and Danny Neudecker (Seattle SC) well, as the second-year team upheld the integrity and pureness of their performance to the piano works of “Liebestraum” (“Love Dream”) despite falls on their two triple throws. Teir event-best component score helped lift them to the title with a total 153.35 points. “Regardless of the elements, good or bad,

making sure the quality of skating, unison and interpretation stay strong,” their coach Dalilah Sappenfield said of Moskvina’s philosophy. Neudecker said it was the best they’ve per-

formed the program all season. “Ben (Agosto, a coach at the Broadmoor SC)

calls it the butter,” he joked. “I was trying to fight for every point, trying

to sell it and perform it as best I could,” Digerness told icenetwork. “By the end, I was on autopilot, doing what I always do in practice.” Digerness, 16, and Neudecker, 20, have come a long way in a short time. Early in the sea- son, they weren’t sure if they would be competing in the junior ranks. But with hard work and the help of a com-

munity of renowned coaches at the Broadmoor SC, the duo hit their peak in Kansas City. “A shout out goes to Larry (Ibarra) for his

High Intensity Interval Training (HIITT) in the gym,” Neudecker said. “Ryan (Jahnke) and Ben on the component side, with edges and interpre- tation, and Drew (Meekins) with choreography.” Te champions also have made major strides on the technical side, Sappenfield said, adding throw triples, double Axels and a triple twist this season. Elli Kopmar and Jonah Barrett (Southwest

Florida FSC) continued their rise up the pairs ranks with a silver-medal finish. Kopmar, 13, and Barrett, who turned 20 on Jan. 28, arrived in Kan- sas City having won the novice and intermediate titles the past two seasons. Tey trailed the champions by .65 point heading into the free skate. Kopmar and Barrett’s free skate to “Flying”

from the Peter Pan soundtrack opened with a triple twist and included a throw triple Salchow, double Axels, solid lifts and two Level 4 spins. Tey finished less than one point behind the champions in the technical score, but nearly six points back in program components with a total of 147.90 points. “We left some points on the table, but I

Elli Kopmar and Jonah Barrett

thought they skated well,” coach Jim Peterson said. “Having to go first (in the last group) and trying a lot of senior-level elements is a challenge, especially when you’re 13.” “Tey’ll be eligible for a Junior Grand Prix

next year, which I’m excited about,” Peterson continued. “Obviously we’ll be looking forward to building on the component mark and their skating skills. Tis year was really about acquiring elements that would put them on the podium at a Junior Grand Prix, and now it’s about developing the skating skills, and I think they’ll be in great shape come September.” For the third consecutive season in junior

pairs, with three different partners, Austin Hale emerged with the bronze medal. Hale (Fort Wayne ISC) and Alexandria Yao

(Peninsula SC) finished third in both segments of the event, scoring 144.64 points. Free-skate high- lights to the powerful music “Heart of Courage” and “Somewhere in Time” included an opening

Alexandria Yao and Austin Hale

triple twist, two Level 4 lifts, two double throws and strong footwork. Yao fell on her side-by-side double Axel.

Te two came together in August and have

already developed chemistry on the ice. “I did novice pairs for two years and then took

a year off because I couldn’t find a partner,” Yao, 16, said. “When I found Austin I jumped at the oppor- tunity and moved to Fort Wayne. Alena (Lunin) has been a big help and supportive. I want to say she’s micromanaging, but in a good way. She knows what to do and if I have a question I can just ask her.”

Despite having only competed together

twice, Hale said he and Yao make a good team. “We have a nice flow and elegance about our

skating,” Hale, 20, said. “Te tricks are going to come with time, but we need to continue to work on our basic skating and power.” Lindsay Weinstein (DuPage FSC) and Jacob Simon (Skokie Valley SC) earned the pewter medal.

SKATING 41 Nica Digerness and Danny Neudecker


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