Castile and Okolski Lead Junior Pairs

by Sal Zanca, Special to U.S. Figure Skating Online
Brooke Castile and Benjamin Okolski
Photo by Michelle Harvath

Results/Photos/Starting Orders

(1/6/04) — Brooke Castile and Benjamin Okolski (St. Clair Shores FSC) opened the junior pairs short program Tuesday afternoon at the Gwinnett Center and finished with the lead.

Nearly two hours later, Andrea Varraux and David Pelletier (University of Delaware FSC) closed the competition and finished second.

Castile, 17, and Okolski, 19, had a string of marks above 5.0 for presentation in a graceful routine to "Ave Maria." Both admit they were nervous for various reasons.

"I was nervous because of starting off first," Okolski said. "I don't like starting off first, and we always get stuck that way,"

"I hardly ever get nervous for competition but here it was different," Castile added. "I think I was anxious and ready to get out there."

Their opening move combined difficulty and grace. The reverse press lift led to her having a position parallel to the ice, followed by a twist down to find her gently leaning on his shoulder as she came back to the ice.

"We call it back hand-to-hand-lay-sideways," Castile said. "Then I just stay strong and land."

The double twist was high and also in a near-parallel position by her.

"It's probably our best element," Castile said. "It's really natural for us." They had a bit of trouble on the double Axels with both making small mistakes.

Varraux and Pelletier, skating to "Art of War" by Vanessa Mae, earned a bye into this event because of their Junior Grand Prix events; they qualified for the JGP Final where they finished seventh. Both are clockwise jumpers and did double Axels. However, on the throw triple she had to step out and put her hand down to avoid a complete fall.

"It was the biggest one we've done in competition," Pelletier said. "I threw her too hard,"

The entry into the death spiral was unique. He is in a reverse hydroblade move while she is bending backward before her entry.

"Last year we were just playing around, and it happened by accident and it seems to be working," Pelletier said.

Third went to Shantel Jordan and Jeremy Barrett (Southwest Florida FSC) who did a very difficult changing hands lift in their routine to "Independence Day."

Here is how Barrett described the lift.

"It's a hard lift because you have to use the hand you don't normally hold your partner with," Barrett said. "It's a hand-to-hand-loop, switching over to your right hand and a somersault dismount."

She nearly went down on the throw triple.

"I felt I was leaning to the left in the air, and I couldn't get my foot out," said Jordan, 11. The free skate is set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, at Philips Arena.