Vlassov and Meekins Collect Novice Pairs Crown

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


(1/15/04) — Julia Vlassov (Individual member)  and Drew Meekins (Colonial FSC) won the novice event, moving up from fourth last year with a combination of the Russian past and American present - and possibly future.

Skating with  speed to music from "Mission Impossible,"  they took advantage of her skills as a singles skater to do unusual and difficult entries into pairs moves. This was shown by a small lift just before a huge throw triple Salchow and a hop just before the triple twist.

Nonchalant jumps and a very low forward inside death spiral were other moves in their routine that were impressive.

It's the first U.S. pairs gold medal for Vlassov, who's been accumulating them on the juvenile and intermediate level in singles. Her father  and coach, Alexander,  skated for the former Soviet Union. However, times have changed since the mid-1970s when he was winning medals in the pairs events.

"You work basically for figure skating now," Alexander said. "You don't think about countries. It is a good feeling to have a good skater, especially if it's your daughter - [it's] very nice to represent the U.S. now."

He said he could see something in his daughter but nothing really special when she started skating. However, he could see something in Meekins  when he wanted the young male skater to skate with his daughter in 2002.

"He is very calm," Alexander said. "It is important for a partner to be a calm and disciplined guy."

There is also a connection between the past and the present. The pairs champions ended their routine with her doing a layback while he skates around her. Russian coach Tamara Moskvina did that move when she was skating with Alexei Mishin in the late 1960s. Then she went on to coaching and one of her first successful pairs was ... Alexander Vlassov and his partner Irina Vorobieva.

Second went to Mariel Miller and  Rockne Brubaker (Broadmoor SC). They were really thrilled with their routine after doing all their elements relatively cleanly.

Miller and Brubaker skated to music from "Pearl Harbor" in appropriate colors of navy blue and white. When they were more than halfway through their free skate  she was smiling after hitting all their difficult moves, such as a lasso lift with a flip-down exit and a throw double Axel.

"We were very happy with the way we skated,"  Brubaker said.

Her actions showed more than words with a very big congratulatory hug at the end of their routine.

Third were Keauna McLaughlin and Ethan Burgess (All Year FSC). They were more than delighted with their bronze medal performance.

In fact they were more than delighted - "Awesome," Burgess said. Their highlight was a variation of the star lift, described by Brubaker: "She goes up in a regular star position and quickly goes to an overhead position to a reverse start. I don't think anyone else does that."