Wednesday, 21/3/2018 | : : UTC-7
Skate Today

McLaughlin and Brubaker Rise to Repeat Title

The reigning National Champions Keauna Mc Laughlin, 16, and Rockne Brubaker, 22, rose one spot to pull off a repeat win over newcomers Caydee Denny, 15,and Jeremy Barrett , 24.. The U.S. Figure Skating Championships are underway and three national champions will be crowned today in Cleveland.

Mc Laughlin and Brubaker the 2007 Junior World Champions captured the gold medal with a performance worth 117.76 points. They skated a romantic program to selections from the soundtrack ”West Side Story” by Leonard Bernstein.

The chemistry between the two partners is undeniable. Yet their technical content today was not to its usual standards. They outscored Denny and Barrett on the components by 4.57 points, but slipped behind the overnight leaders technically by 0.69 points.

The program got off to a shaky start when Rockne singled the back end of a planned triple Salchow/double toe combination and Keauna fell on the side-by-side triple toe.

“All the added pressure (to win again),” Rockne stated. “And Keauna being sick all week with the flu, I think we did a good skate and we owe it to our competitors because we would not have fought as hard as we did had we not had such worthy opponents. Having to fight as hard as we did and sticking together got us through today.”

The duo trains in Colorado Springs, Colorado, under the tutelage of Daliliah Sappenfield and Keauna’s mother Lei’Ina Mc Laughlin.

The throw triple Salchow and throw triple loop were highlights and seemed to float across the ice. They showcased four level four lifts which were well-done. However, they struggled with unison problems on the change foot combination spin.

“There were definitely moments in the program where I thought I couldn’t do this,” Keauna said of her battle with the flu. “I don’t know how I did it but I am glad it is over with.”

The duo captured the gold medal with an event total of 178.76 points.

“I think this nationals for us was one the hardest competitions we ever had to do,” Rockne stated about the intense pressure in defending their title..

It was a unbelievable competition for newcomers Caydee Denny and Jeremy Barrett. One that Denny and Barrett could have only dreamed of. Their short program was nothing less than stunning and in the free skate they again performed like Champions. They presented a technically demanding program to selections from the movie soundtrack “Spartacus”.

Denny, 15, who only began ice skating at age nine teamed up with Barrett, 24, and skated for a short time two seasons ago. They never competed together. Denny split with Barrett and went to Colorado to train, only to return to Florida last June, and give the partnership a second try. This time the partnership was magic and they qualified for the U.S. Championships here in Cleveland.

“Last summer I wasn’t skating pairs,” Denny stated. Jeremy and I picked up together really quickly and I think with our hard work ethic that is how we got so good so quickly.”

During their free skate they exhibited a lively and energetic performance which electrified the audience and earned them a program score of 114.76 points. The audience was not happy with the scores and boo’s unleashed from the crowd.

The program featured some spectacular elements including a level three triple twist, a rock-solid triple toe/double toe combination, a throw triple flip and a throw triple loop. Except for the pair combination spin the Floridians managed high levels on their non-jumping elements as well.

“We didn’t have any expectations coming into nationals, so to skate two programs that we thought were pretty good and to finish second is fantastic,” Barrett said smiling. “We’re happy with how we did. I think we fought for everything.”

Caydee and Jeremy captured the silver medal with a total score of 176.27 points.

“Our goal was to skate two solid programs as best as we could,” Denny said with excitement. “Being in second and going to World’s – I don’t think it sunk in yet.”

Rena Inoue, 32, and John Baldwin, 35, completed the event in third place to capture the bronze medal with 171.08 points. It was not their best competition and not their day as the six-time U.S. medalists struggled. They under-rotated a triple toe, collided on the triple twist, and two-footed a double Axel + double Axel sequence. They did produce a strong throw triple Salchow , throw triple loop and a backward outside death spiral.

“(It was) a little rough there in the beginning,“ Baldwin stated. Starting off with a little fumble on the triple toe, then for me on my second double Axel too bad it’s one of my strongest elements. I felt for me it lost a little steam. The throws Rena pulled off so beautifully I give her so much credit for that. What matters to us is performing for the audience, that’s why we come to these events. We’ve already accomplished our goals.”

Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig moved up two spots to capture the pewter medal with 159.95 points. Evora was all tears after their tender free program to “Pas de Deux”. The program was exquisite and highlighted by sensational elements from difficult entrances. Their choreography was stunning as well. Their throw triple Salchow was a beauty as was the throw triple loop. It was elegant, soft and packed with emotion.

“It just felt so good to skate how we know how to skate in front of everybody,” Amanda said teary-eyed. “We’ve been together for seven years and everyone’s always wanted us to skate a good program and everyone wants us to do well. (For us) To be able to do that in front of such a great audience, it meant so much to me. It’s like a dream come true.”

The pewter medal was not the only good news Ladwig has had recently. The two-time medalist also found out that his wife is two months pregnant.

Brooke Castile and Benjamin Okolski captured the fifth and final spot on the U.S. national team despite disappointing performances this week. Castile has been struggling with an ankle injury and continues to have difficulty with the landings on the throws and the jumps. They pocketed 102.55 points for their sixth ranked free skate and earned an event total of 157.01 points.

“We practiced great here, we’ve been practicing great at home. It’s just we haven’t competed more than four times in the last three years,” Castile said. “I feel like I need more time in competition to get my legs the way they need to be (and) to get the competitive edge back and to pull things out from nowhere when I need to.”

Castile and Okolski are gorgeous to watch and showed great promise when the duo won the National Championship in 2007. Their lifts are exquisite and their elegance on the ice is outstanding.

Chloe Katz and Joseph Lynch finished sixth with 156.15 points, Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin were seventh with 153.67 points and last season’s pewter medalists Tiffany Vise and Derek Trent were eighth with 148.91 points.

Keauna Mc Laughlin and Rockne Brubaker along with Caydee Denny and Jeremy Barrett will represent the USA at the World Championships and Caydee Denny and Jeremy Barrett, Rena Inoue and John Baldwin, and Keauna Mc Laughlin and Rockne Brubaker were named to the Four Continents team.

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