Regional figure skating competitions have begun around the country. Skaters at these competitions hope to qualify for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January.
The Southwest Pacific Regional Figure Skating Championships are just 1 of 9 different regional competitions happening across the United States. The top 4 skaters from these competitions will go on to skate in 1 of 3 sectional competitions. The top 4 skaters from those events will qualify to participate in the U.S. Championships. The area in which a skater resides determines which regional and sectional competition they will compete in. The skaters at this regional hailed from Southern California, Southern Nevada, and Arizona.
The judges take their seats just before the competition begins.
The top level (known as senior) ladies skated in 2 phases of the competition. The first phase, known as the short program, was held a couple of days earlier. This phase accounts for a smaller percentage of the total score. The freeskate, which was the event held on this evening, accounts for a larger percentage and is what ultimately determines the final standings.
The senior ladies at the competition began their freeskating event slightly ahead of schedule, due to the withdrawal of a few skaters in some of the earlier events.
The first group of skaters to compete were skaters who were lower in the standings after the short program, and were not really thought of as being medal contenders. Many of these skaters are new to the scene and are still getting acquainted with the more difficult technical elements in the sport.
Excitement began to build in the arena as the medal contenders took to the ice for their warm up. The crowd was awed by the triple jumps and elaborate spins which were being displayed by the skaters.
After all was said and done, a 14-year-old skater new to the senior scene stole the show and captured the title. The young prodigy, named Leah Keiser, demonstrated technique and maturity far beyond her years. She interpreted her music to "Dr. Zhivago" with ease. Her coaches are Frank Carroll (former coach of Michelle Kwan) and Christa Fassi (who, along with her late husband Carlo, coached Peggy Fleming and Dorothy Hamill).
Her program included a strong opening double axel-triple toe loop jump combination. A trip on a footwork sequence didn't distract her from executing a very difficult triple lutz jump toward the end of her program. She finished her routine with a Biellman spin, where she demonstrated great flexibility by pulling her free leg from behind her and hoisting it above her head while rotating on the ice.
She finished the competition with a total score of 148.91, over 25 points greater than her nearest competitor.
No video recording was allowed at the event. Only still photos were allowed to be taken. Here is a video of part of Leah's short program from another event earlier this year to demonstrate the quality of her skating.
2nd place finisher was Sophia Adams. She began her program, set to music from the motion picture "Titanic", with a hard fall on a triple salchow jump. She attempted the same jump again later in the program only to suffer an even harder fall. She appeared to hit her head on the ice during the fall, but was able to rebound and complete her program. She landed a few nice triple jumps throughout and gave a strong presentation to her program.
She finished the competition with a total score of 123.55 points.
Here is a video of Sophia skating at another competition earlier this year. She used the same music for this program at the SWP Regionals.
Veteran skater Danielle Kahle claimed 3rd place. She skated to music from "La Strada", which is the 3rd season in a row that she has used this music.
Her program was very conservative and consisted of mostly double jumps instead of triples. She was able to pull off a nice triple flip jump. She presented the program with charm and sophistication.
Her final competition score was 110.55.
Danielle is no stranger to the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, having competed numerous years in the event. Below is a video from 2007 when she placed a career best 6th place at that event.
Anna Malkova finished in 4th place. Her program included 3 strong triples, and she skated with great speed and attack.
She finished the competition with 100.75 points.
These top 4 skaters will advance to compete at the Pacific Coast Sectional Championships next month in Provo, Utah.
Further results from other events can be found at Icenetwork.com.