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higher than their mark at Midwestern Sectionals. “It means a lot because we have been work-

ing so hard this year and the hard work pays off,” Hagan said. Finster and bronze medalist Danylo Si-

ianytsia (All Year FSC) have the distance thing in common. While Siianytsia isn’t making a regular cross-country commute, he moved halfway across the world last fall when he relocated to Minnesota from Ukraine.

Te understandably shy Siianytsia, who

didn’t know English upon arrival in the United States, and his partner Jasmine Wong (Dakotah FSC) started skating together in August. It’s their first foray into pairs, and Wong has also only been skating since April of 2015. Coach Trudy Oltmanns spoke glowingly of

her young team. “Jasmine and Danylo have done a terrific

job,” she said. “Tey’re both learning how to skate and how to skate pairs at the same time. It’s a lot to take in and can be overwhelming but kids do a great job of making the transition.” Less than two points separated the bronze

medalists from the champions as they earned a score of 44.47 points for their Cirque du Soleil free skate.

Ashley Fletcher and Cayden McKen-

zie-Cook (Orange County FSC) claimed the pew- ter medal with a score of 40.57.


Partner together for three years, and you can practically finish each other’s sentences. Take Nastia Efimova and Jonathan Zhao, for instance. Te skaters had just won the juvenile ice dance title with a sassy Latin medley, and an ebullient Efimova could barely contain her excite- ment.

“I was just expressing myself, acting with the

music . . .” she began. “When the music is happy, you’ve got to be

happy,” her partner cut in. “When it’s slow, you’ve got to be a little slower.” Efimova and Zhao, who both represent the

SC of North Carolina, led from start to finish, dominating the two pattern dances — Fourteen-step and Willow Waltz — and surviv- ing a stumble from Efimova to earn Level 4s on four of the five elements in their free dance. Teir 88.02-point total marked a significant improve- ment over their seventh-place finish last season, and they won the event by nearly five points. “We did pretty good,” Zhao said. “I thought the spin and lifts were awesome. We trained really hard.”

“Overall, it was a strong skate, and I’m hap-

py with the work they’ve done this season,” their coach, Nathan Truesdell, said. “I try to make them competitive with the next level up (interme- diate). Teir confidence is growing, and that’s a big thing.”

Te tiny Efimova comes by her talent natu-

rally. Mom Natalia, a former ice dance competitor for the Soviet Union and longtime Holiday on Ice performer, coaches the team alongside Truesdell.


Efimova’s older sister, Alina, and her partner, Al- exander Petrov, placed seventh in junior ice dance in Kansas City. Te two teams skate together five days a week, for up to two to three hours a day. “Sometimes we kind of argue a lot, because

we are sisters,” Nastia said, as her partner, Zhao, cringed.

“Tey push each other and motivate each

other, especially on the days it’s not so much fun,” Truesdell added with a laugh. “Tey’re sisters, there are times they bicker, but they are always there for each other.” Second after the two pattern dances, Alice

Serbin (Colonial FSC) and Kenan Slevira (All Year FSC) skated a high-energy free dance to an African samba from Te Lion King, highlighted by well-done twizzles and a challenging straight-line lift. Tey placed third in the segment with 40.04 points, but were able to hang on to second place and gain the silver medal with 83.15 points. “I think today was one of the best skates

we’ve ever done in competition,” Serbin said after the free dance. “We took what we practiced and put it on to the competition ice.” Both skaters added that their true love was

performing the program for audiences. “I love the music; it’s so much fun to skate to,” Slevira said. “I remember in the beginning of

Nastia Efimova/Jonathan Zhao

the season when our coach (Dmitri Boundoukin) found it. It’s just so much fun to do, it almost makes training seem easy.” Fourth after the pattern dances, siblings Elli-

ana Peal and Ethan Peal (Skokie Valley SC) claimed the bronze medal with 76.25 points. Teir charm- ing routine to music from Mary Poppins was judged the second-best free dance of the event. “Tere were some things we can improve on and definitely work towards for next year, but I’m happy that all of our hard work really paid off,” Ethan said. “I’m working on my (facial) expressions,” El-

liana said. “I try to really sell the program and get things right on the music. I just really enjoyed my time here.” Skating is a true family affair for the Peals;

their father, Robert, a former U.S. competitor, is also their coach. “It’s hard as a parent to be able to stand back and let them go out and do their thing,” Robert said. “I think it’s more nerve-wracking for me to watch than for them to compete.” Sarah Dutton (Louisville Skating Academy)

and Emmett King (Louisville Skating Academy) placed fourth, taking home the pewter medal with 72.50 points.


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