Articles, Articles by Barry Mittan

U.S. Junior Pairs Champs Just Miss Junior Worlds Podium

Mariel Miller and Rockne Brubaker

For Mariel Miller, 15, and Rockne Brubaker, 18, the 2005 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, was only the first time in their career that they had not been on the podium at an international event. They finished fourth in their first Junior Worlds, missing a medal by less than five points. Next season, Brubaker said their goal is “to come back to Junior Worlds and win.”

“I think the new system will benefit them because their skating skills are strong,” said coach Dalilah Sappenfield. “As a coach, the new system helps find weaknesses which we can correct to get more points.” “I like it a lot,” Brubaker said. “The old system was OK, but now you get points on everything you do. It evens things out. Before, if you were below fourth, you couldn’t win. Now you always have a chance.”

Previously, the 2004-05 United States junior pairs champions had medalled at all of their international events, winning the 2004 Triglav Trophy and the Junior Grand Prix in Courchevel, finishing second at the Harghita Cup, and taking the bronze at the ISU Junior Grand Prix Final in Finland.

Brubaker followed his older sister on to the ice when he was six. “I was always at the rink causing trouble so my mom put me on the ice,” he recalled. “I did Learn to Skate, then I played hockey for fun. I started to skate pairs at 12 because a girl at my rink wanted to do it.” He competed in juvenile pairs in 2000 and intermediate pairs in 2001 at Junior Nationals with Amanda Bishop, but didn’t medal.

Miller began skating when she was four. “I was skating at the rink at a birthday party and a coach saw me and asked me if I wanted to take lessons,” she said. “When I was nine, a guy at the rink asked me to do pairs so I did it for fun.” Miller placed third in juvenile pairs in 2000 with Jonathon Hayward.

The couple started skating together in September 2003. “Rockne was skating with another girl but it didn’t work out because she was homesick,” remembered Sappenfield. “Mariel had just broken up with her partner and I though she and Rockne would be a great match so I set up a tryout. We had just enough time to get their papers in for the 2003-04 season.” The pair went on to win the silver in novice pairs at the 2004 U. S. Nationals.

Although Miller still competes in ladies singles, she said, “It’s fun to be with someone and do stuff singles can’t do, like lifts and things.” Brubaker did both pairs and men’s singles until the 2003-04 season. “I like the variety of pairs,” he said. “It’s more challenging than just doing jumps and spins.”

The couple trains with Sappenfield in Colorado Springs, Colorado. They skate three pairs sessions six days a week. Brubaker also skates one singles session, while Miller skates two. They also do about ten hours a week off ice. Neither skater engages in other sports now, but Brubaker was on his school’s wrestling and basketball teams in eighth grade. He has one unusual habit of doing handstands in warm-ups before skating.

Sappenfield also choreographed the couple’s programs, both of which are the same as last season. For the 2004-05 season, Miller and Brubaker used “Romeo and Juliet” for the short and music from the “Pearl Harbor” soundtrack for the long. The couple used selections from “Grease” for their exhibition program. “My mom suggested Romeo and Juliet,” Miller said. “We were the right age for it.” “I was going to do Pearl Harbor with my previous partner,” Brubaker noted.

Both programs will be new next season. “We’re going for a different look next season,” Sappenfield said. “I want them to be more dramatic, with more chemistry and a better relationship with the audience.” Off ice, Brubaker likes to listen to classical rock. “I listen to a variety of stuff, except polka,” he said. “I like oldies like the Eagles, Chicago and Le Zeppelin. “I’m kind of into punk,” Miller said. Brubaker is also a musician. He played piano for about eight years and has played guitar for the last three years.

The skaters are both freshmen in school, but Miller is in high school while Brubaker is in college. He attends Pikes Peak Community College, taking a full load of classes, and plans to transfer to a university later to study business. “I like to run things and I enjoy working hard,” he said. “I want to run my own company.” Miller plans to attend college but is undecided on a career.

Off ice, Miller likes to listen to music, watch television, visit with friends and play with her dog, a miniature American Eskimo named Bailey. Brubaker likes to go out with his girlfriend. He likes to collect skating pins from other countries, while Miller collects magnets. Both skaters cited Italy, especially Venice, as the favorite place where they have traveled. They enjoyed riding the gondolas and seeing the historic churches and other buildings in the city. Beijing is one of the places that they would like to visit.

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