U.S. Skaters Chase After NACS Trophy in Pittsburgh

Andrea Best and Trevor Young
Photo by Michelle Harvath

(8/24/06) - The U.S. Team had a successful debut at the first North American Challenge Skate (NACS) in Vancouver, Canada, over the weekend, taking a 114-72 lead over Canada heading into the second half of the series. The 2006 NACS Series now moves south for the final event in Pittsburgh, Pa., Aug. 24-27. Competition at the Mt. Lebanon Skating Rink begins Aug. 26 with novice pairs.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the NACS competition, which was originally established by U.S. Figure Skating and Skate Canada in 1997. The series consists of two competitions one taking place in the United States and one in Canada. The series was created to provide the benefits of international competition to novice- and junior-level athletes, and to help identify future talent. The first overall series trophy was awarded to the United States in 2001 and since then, the United States has won every year (2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005). In 2004 the point difference was 322-93, and in 2005 it closed to 199-167. Only the top three finishers from each country are eligible to receive points.

The United States will be represented by a total of 26 athletes making up 18 entries in the Pittsburgh event. The U.S. athletes come to Pittsburgh representing a total of 14 states, with six from Michigan and five from California alone. Other states represented are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.

The 2006 U.S. NACS Team was selected based on the skaters' placements at the 2006 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships, 2006 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships and 2006 sectional championships. All of the skaters competed as novices or intermediates at the national level during the 2005-2006 season. Six athletes are making their second appearance at a NACS competition: one lady, one man and two pairs teams.

Junior Pairs
Competing in the junior pairs competition are four pairs who faced off as novices at the 2006 U.S. Championships. Andrea Best & Trevor Young captured the silver while Meg Byrne & Nathan Bartholomay finished fourth, Chelsea Roach & Jeff Charbonneau finished sixth, and Janyce Okamoto & Ryan Berning finished seventh. Bryne & Bartholomay are making their second NACS appearance after finishing fifth in 2005.

Junior Ladies
A strong group of U.S. ladies in Pittsburgh is led by Michaelee Scarincio, who finished fourth at the 2006 U.S. Championships as a novice. In the same event Victoria Rackohn, Alexe Gilles and Kelcie Lee finished fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. Rackohn makes her second NACS appearance, finishing sixth as a novice in 2005.

Novice Men
The U.S. novice men's field consists of three men who competed at the 2006 U.S. Championships in the novice division and three men who faced off at the 2006 U.S Junior Championships in the intermediate division. Armin Mahbanoozadeh is the only returner from last year's NACS, having captured the silver in 2005 as a novice. He placed seventh at the 2006 U.S. Championships, while U.S. teammates Alexander Johnson and Craig Norris finished ninth and 12th at the same event. Sweeping the medals podium at the 2006 U.S. Junior Championships were the other U.S. men in Pittsburgh: Ross Miner won the gold, Alexander Aiken the silver and Max Aaron the bronze.

Novice Pairs
Four novice pairs teams head to Pittsburgh, including 2006 U.S. novice bronze medalists Tracy Tanovich & Michael Chau. They will be joined by Jaylyn Kelly & Gabe Woodruff, who finished eighth at the event, and Caitlin Yankowskas & Daniyel Cohen, who finished 10th. Yankowskas and Cohen also competed in NACS in 2005, placing sixth. The final novice pair is that of Emily Glassberg & Kurt Weiss, the 2006 U.S. intermediate silver medalists.