Team USA on Track to Win NACS Trophy in Pittsburgh

Michaelee Scarincio (with Suna Murray) leads the junior ladies short program.

(8/26/06) - Team USA is in good position to win the North American Challenge Skate trophy in Pittsburgh after a solid showing in the short programs on Friday. The U.S. skaters took a 114-72 lead last weekend in Vancouver, the first stop on the NACS showdown between the United States and Canada.

Junior Ladies Short Program
Michaelee Scarincio's ballet training was showcased Friday as she took an early lead in the junior ladies short program. Scarincio finished fourth at the 2006 U.S. Championships as a novice, and she recently began working with coaches Mark Mitchell and Peter Johansson in Boston.

The young skater is a ballerina off the ice, but it was her technical prowess that kept her on top in this program. She landed a double flip, triple Salchow-double toe and double Axel, and received a level 4 on her spiral sequence.

Second place went to Victoria Rackohn, who has amazing flexibility and uses it to her advantage with beautiful positions and extension, particularly in her spins. She fell on her opening triple Lutz combination and followed it with a double flip; she would have attempted a triple flip had she landed the Lutz, according to her coach's instructions.

Another member of the talented Gilles family from Colorado, Alexe, is in third place headed into the free skate. Gilles landed a double flip, triple toe-double toe and double Axel, although she had a shaky landing on the third jump element. Judges awarded her level 4s on her final two elements – her spiral sequence and combination spin.

Junior Pairs Short Program
Last year, Canadian pairs team Kyra Moscovitch and Dylan Moscovitch were set to compete at the North American Challenge Skate when Kyra broke her leg, forcing a withdrawal.

They're making the most out of this opportunity, as the team holds the lead after the junior pairs short program. Skating to music from the “Swing Kids” soundtrack, the team opened with side-by-side double Axels, but Kyra turned out and two-footed the landing. After that shaky start, the team roared back, landing a throw triple Salchow and showing good unison and speed on their level 4 side-by-side spin.

2006 U.S. novice silver medalists Andrea Best & Trevor Young are just behind the leaders after skating a solid short program to “The Pink Panther.” Like the Canadians, Best and Young landed a throw triple Salchow and had speed and unison on their side-by-side spins. Best went up sideways, however, on their side-by-side double Axels and she barely saved the landing. Because she jumped slightly into her partner's path, the two skaters almost collided. Despite the mistake, Best and Young collected the highest program component score.

Another Canadian team, Rachel Kirkland and Eric Radford, are in third after she fell out of the landing on the throw triple Salchow. Their other elements were solid, including a huge double twist and side-by-side double flips.

Armin Mahbanoozadeh with coach Traci Coleman
Novice Men's Short Program
American men hold the top four spots after the novice men's short program. Last year's novice silver medalist, Armin Mahbanoozadeh, is in first after hitting an error-free performance. He opened with a triple Lutz-double toe and then landed a triple flip and double Axel. His combination spin and sit spin were both graded level 4.

Alexander Johnson used clean lines to collect the highest program component scores of the segment (17.84). With 39.22 points overall, he's less than two points behind Mahbanoozadeh. Johnson also had a triple Lutz-double toe and double Axel, but his triple jump was a toe instead of a flip.

Reigning U.S. intermediate champion Ross Miner is in third with 38.07 points. His “wet suit” costume matched his surfer music, and both spins earned level 4. He hit a triple Salchow-double toe combo and just held on to the landing on his triple toe.

Teammate Alexander Aiken is in fourth.

Novice Pairs Short Program
Eleven-year-old Tracy Tanovich and partner Michael Chau, 15, took the early lead Friday in the novice pairs event. Skating to a race car theme (with music from the skating movie “The Cutting Edge), the pair notched a personal best score (40.23) in the short program, according to Chau.

Elements included a Group 5 lift with a lasso take off that changed to a one-hand hold, a level 4 spiral sequence and a unique death spiral at the end of the program. On the final turn, she turned in a full circle, but he didn't rotate at all. Chau then flipped his partner over his back to end the program. Their only error was on the side-by-side double Lutzes – she singled hers.

Canadians Steza Foo and David Struthers are in second place and are looking to win back-to-back novice pairs gold medals in this event. They skated to Nino Rota's “Romeo and Juliet” and opened with side-by-side double Lutzes and a double twist in which Struthers pulled Foo through his legs and up into the twist.

Third place went to Team USA's Caitlin Yankowskas and Daniyel Cohen, who finished fifth in this event last year. They landed side-by-side double flips, but four of their elements were graded level 1.