Gilles and McKernan Take Early Lead in Intermediate Dance Competition

by Michelle Wojdyla

Check out U.S. Junior Championships results and photos

(12/2/04) - Final rounds at the 2005 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships in Jamestown, N.Y., kicked off today (Dec. 2) with the intermediate compulsory dance.

The competitors were challenged by two dances, the Hickory Hoedown and the European Waltz, which are very different in style and carriage, and the results reflected this. Only Piper Gilles and Tim McKernan, who placed first, and Kellene Ratko and Collin Brubaker, who placed seventh, achieved the same result in both dances. There were ties for second, fourth and sixth places, creating an interesting scenario when the competitors were forced to “draw for the draw” to determine who would actually reach into the bag first to determine starting orders for the free dance.

In the Hickory Hoedown, Gilles and McKernan, last year's U.S. juvenile bronze medalists, had a slight scare when Gilles brushed the boards. But the two recovered and were clearly pleased with the results.

“(Gilles) nicked the banner covering the rink wall,” McKernan said. “We kept going because we have to.”

“The waltz was really good,” Gilles said. “I think it's the best European we've ever done.”

Tomorrow is a non-competing day, so the couple plans on “chilling out,” according to McKernan, who also wanted to give a "shout out" to his dad, Lt. Colonel Tim McKernan, who is currently serving in Kuwait.

Tied for second are Anastasia Olson and Greg Zuerlein from the Detroit Skating Club, who finished second in the Hickory and third in the European, and Chloe Wolf and Rhys Ainsworth from the North Atlantic FSC, who reversed those standings.

“I think I was more nervous for the Hickory than the waltz,” Olson said. “The European felt a lot smoother.”

For Wolf and Ainsworth, the compulsory dance was business as usual.

“In the past, compulsories have always been our best, so it's not a surprise but it's nice!” Ainsworth said. “It is a relief. It makes us want to try as hard to stay in second in the free dance.”

The intermediate dance event concludes Saturday at 1:10 p.m ET.