Vlassov and Meekins Lead Novice Pairs Short Program

by Sal Zanca, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Julia Vlassov and Drew Meekins
Photo by Paul Harvath

(1/4/04) -  Russian or Soviet pairs have been dominating the world figure skating scene for years. Now their offspring are starting to dominate the the U.S. scene.

Julia Vlassov, whose father Alexander won medals in Europeans and Worlds competition in 1976 and 1977 for the Soviet Union, won the novice pairs short program with her partner Drew Meekins (Colonial FSC), at the 2004 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships Sunday afternoon. They had four first-place ordinals and three second places.

Vlassov, 13, is one of the fastest rising young singles skaters. She captured the U.S. juvenile girls title last year and won the intermediate title this past December. Although her father is Russian and she was born in Russia, Vlassov said she doesn't feel part of the Russian  tradition.

"I feel I have lived in America for as long as I can remember," said Vlassov, who came here when she was 4. However she speaks Russian most of the time with her father on the ice.

While Meekins doesn't speak Russian, don't think that he is left out of those conversations.

"I understand a lot of skating [terms in] Russian," Meekins, 18, said. "Usually I can follow along.''

Skating to Beethovan's Fifth Symphony, their speed was reminsicent of Soviet pairs. The speed entry into the double twist was one of their highlights. They completed their double flips easily in unison and accentuated it with one hand on the hips and another in the air.

"It was a clean  program and it is important to do all the elements," Meekins said.

Second were Mariel Miller and Rockne Brubaker (both of Broadmoor SC). They garnered the other firsts and second-place ordinals. Miller, 13, and Brubaker, 17, have been skating together for four months. They received some deductions because their spins were a little off.

"I did an extra turn coming out," Brubaker said. "We were on except when we came out of the spin.''

Miller has qualified for the U.S. Championships in novice pairs the last two years with different partners, coming in 13th and 11th.

Now, in second , there is quite a change.

"A world of difference," she said of skating with her new partner.

In third after the short program were Keauna McLaughlin and Ethan Burgess (both of All Year FSC). She is just 11 and barely 70 pounds while he is 20. And at 6-feet tall he towers over McLaughlin by almost 18 inches. But that's not new for Burgess.

"My first partner was about 50 pounds," he said. "But I was a lot younger then."

They finished third with a mix of ordinals ranging from third through seventh.

The pairs free skate is Monday Jan. 5, at 1:30 p.m.