Gold for Orscher and Lucash in Pairs at State Farm U.S. Championships

by Michelle Wojdyla
Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash,
photo by Michelle Harvath

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(1/14/05) — Earlier this week, Katie Orscher (SC of Hartford) and Garrett Lucash (Charter Oak FSC) weren't even sure they would be able to compete at this week's State Farm U.S. Championships. Lucash has been ill with multiple viruses and unknown infections — to the point where last week he could hardly lift Orscher during their practices. But Friday night he gathered the strength to skate what he considers a competitive personal best.

Orscher and Lucash, last year's silver medalists, were the clear winners of both the free skate and the overall title with their interpretation of “Samson and Delilah.” Rena Inoue & John Baldwin (All Year FSC) placed second, and Marcy Hinzmann (Winterhurst FSC) and Aaron Parchem (Detroit SC) took fourth in the free and remained in third overall.

Lucash praised his partner for getting him through a tough week.

“I guess it hasn't sunk in yet for me,” Lucash said. “Katie really pulled me through this tonight.”

In almost the same breath, Orscher showed deep respect for Lucash's perseverance.

“I'm proud of Garrett for keeping so strong this week,” Orscher said. “At the beginning I was scared. He showed that he was able to pull through.”

And pull through might be an understatement, as the team skated what might have been the best performance of their career. Dressed in lilac, Orscher and Lucash opened with a triple twist and side-by-side triple toes into double flips. The jumping success continued with another set of triple toes. They performed the rarely seen throw triple flip and a lasso tap combination lift that ended with Orscher in a handstand backbend on Lucash's thighs. The final lift was a little labored and the straight line footwork slow, but the enthusiastic crowd cheered them on.

One of the inspirations for the team's performance was Orscher's father, who was in the audience to watch them claim their first U.S. title and a spot on the World Team in March.

“Two years ago my parents got divorced,” Orscher explained. “I don't get to see my dad too much. He drove from Connecticut to Portland. He doesn't want to fly. He put so much dedication and time into coming to see me skate. My father is the most amazing guy in the world.”

Inoue and Baldwin's program to selections from the Trans Siberian Orchestra had some problems.

“We definitely made a couple mistakes,” Inoue said. “I'm proud of the way we continued. This isn't as well as we did in the Grand Prix. We definitely fought through from beginning to end.”

Their opening side-by-side triple Lutzes had problems. Baldwin's jump was two-footed and Inoue had a weak landing position. The throw triple Salchow opened up onto two feet, and a planned three variation star lift was aborted.

“It wasn't our best skate of all the long programs we've done this year,” Baldwin said. “We got outskated by Katie and Garrett tonight.”

Baldwin reflected on the end of their reign.

“It was an honor to be champion of the United States and have skaters look up to you and be able to represent [the U.S.] internationally,” Baldwin said. “We had skated well all year. The (U.S. pairs champion) title means the most to me. It was a disappointment to me tonight.”

The couple looked ahead to the 2006 State Farm U.S. Championships and felt confident that they would be eligible to compete in Olympic Winter Games.

“I am going to apply for (citizenship) this May,” Inoue said. “I wasn't sure at first. We have a good chance to make the Olympic team, (so) I made up my mind I'm going to apply for it.”

“I know Rena's Japanese citizenship is important to her,” Baldwin said. “She's doing it as a favor to me.”

Hinzmann and Parchem suffered from some nerves in their “La Esperanza” program.

“It's definitely very different being in the final warm-up,” Hinzmann said. “I was terrified out there. I tried to maintain composure.”

A bad fall on Hinzmann's triple toe was the start of their problems. She doubled the second attempt and later took a slow body slam into the boards on the throw triple Salchow.

“We were a little sloppy,” Parchem said, “but we're sitting in third and I don't care how we got here.”

Tiffany Scott (Colonial FSC) and Philip Dulebohn (Univ. of Delaware FSC) placed third in the free skate and fourth overall with their program to Cirque du Soleil's “Xotica.” Peter Tchernyshev did the choreography for this program as well as Inoue and Baldwin's.

“I'm happy with how we ended tonight,” Scott said. “We had a really good time out there and I think the crowd enjoyed it, too.”

The team's future is uncertain at this time.

“We haven't talked about that yet,” Dulebohn said. “We have to settle down awhile. I have to think about my life and what I want to do. Tiffany has to think about her life, then we'll talk about it.”

The future is certain for the upcoming international assignments. Named to the 2005 World Team:

Pairs
Katie Orscher and Garrett Lucash
Rena Inoue and John Baldwin
Alternates: Marcy Hinzmann and Aaron Parchem (first), Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn (second), Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig (third)

Ice Dancing
Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto
Melissa Gregory and Denis Petukhov
Alternates: Lydia Manon and Ryan O'Meara (first), Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin (second), Kendra Goodwin and Brent Bommentre (third)