Notes From Midwestern Sectionals

(11/16/06) - The Midwestern Sectional is taking place at the Pelham Civic Center in Pelham, Ala., just outside of Birmingham. Despite the dreariness of the weather, there's still some pretty fall foliage, and of course, some good Southern hospitality.

The civic center is a terrific venue for a sectional; it's spacious, clean and has plenty of stands in the main rink to accommodate large crowds. It's only the second year that all events at the sectional championships are using the international judging system, and as of Thursday afternoon, all events are on schedule and running without any significant hitches.

Novice Compulsory Dance
The novice ice dancers were up early with an 8:15 a.m. starting time, led by reigning U.S. intermediate champions Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani. Compulsories didn't seem to be their strong suit in August at the Lake Placid Dance Championships, where they finished third in the rocker foxtrot and fifth in the paso doble (fourth in the compulsory championships).

Some of the kinks have been ironed out as the twosome from Colorado Springs won the paso and finished second in the rocker foxtrot behind Michelle Pennington and Cooper Johnston. Pennington and Johnston finished third in the paso behind the Shibutanis, and Megan Evans and Nathan Truesdell.

The Shibutanis are in first overall with 47.48 points, but Pennington and Johnston are less than a point behind with 46.90.

Novice Ladies Short Program
Angela Maxwell and Caroline Ferris were well ahead of the field after the novice ladies short program. Both of them checked off the required jump elements with ease: double Axel, triple toe and triple Salchow-double toe combination. Maxwell started her program with a combination spin followed by her spiral sequence before even attempting a jump.

Ferris's double Axel was especially nice, but her level four combination spin to end the program was a little shaky in parts.

Third place went to Deedee Leng, who stayed in the hunt despite receiving no points on her opening Axel. She helped herself by landing a triple loop and triple Salchow-double toe combination. Danielle Seitz skated first and held on for fourth place with a double Axel and double Lutz-double loop combination. She fell on her triple Salchow attempt.

Novice Men's Short Program
There weren't a lot of clean programs in the novice men's short program, but Daniel O'Shea came close enough to lead the field of 12. O'Shea actually landed his jumps without error - a double Axel, triple toe-double toe combination, and a triple Salchow - but he tripped randomly during a transition. That slight error cost him a one-point deduction.

Alexander Johnson was also clean and included a triple Lutz-double toe, double flip and double Axel, and a level four combination spin that highlighted his flexibility.

He's in second ahead of Victor Travis, who missed his triple Lutz combination but landed a triple toe and double Axel. Travis uses his long lines well in his overall skating skills and had well-centered spins. He had the highest program component scores of the top three, and the second-highest overall.

Junior Men's Short Program
With a lyrical and smooth skating style reminiscent of Johnny Weir, Minnesota's Eliot Halverson jumped out to a significant lead in the junior men's short program with 65.65 points. After finishing third in both of his Junior Grand Prix events, Halverson just missed qualifying for the JGP Final and the corresponding bye for this event. But he's on his way to a sectional title after landing a triple Lutz-triple toe that earned 11 points, a triple flip and a double Axel. His final combination spin went a little wonky, marking his only mistake. His program component score of 29.01 was easily the highest of the event.

Skating just after Halverson, Grant Hochstein scored 53.05 points for second place. He landed a triple Lutz-double toe but touched down on his triple flip attempt. His combination spin received a level four, and his program was highlighted near the end by a spread eagle into a double Axel.

First skater Jonathan Cassar fell on his triple Lutz combination but came back to hit a double flip and double Axel for third place. His program component scores were second only to Halverson's and helped keep him in the top three.

Note: Due to other commitments at the Midwestern Sectional Championships, I have not seen all events. Also, we do not usually cover sectional events, but as I was here, I thought I would provide some notes.