Skating advances to nationals

Vanessa Szalapski '10 pulled off two first-place finishes last weekend to help the Big Green capture third place at the Eastern Regional Competition.

Vanessa Szalapski '10 pulled off two first-place finishes last weekend to help the Big Green capture third place at the Eastern Regional Competition.

Lifted by the strong performances of Deborah Lee ’12, the Dartmouth figure skating team finished third at the Eastern Regional Competition last weekend, qualifying for the U.S. National Intercollegiate Championships. The competition was hosted by Boston University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, Mass.

Lee won all four of her individual events, including juvenile dance, preliminary dance, junior short and junior test.

Vanessa Szalapski ’10 contributed two more first-place finishes in the dance portion of the competition while Tenley Brownwright ’10 and co-captains Rory Grant ’11 and Natalie Falsgraf ’10 each added second-place finishes.

“We had a strong showing in dance,” Falsgraf said. “We are very pleased with our first-place finishes, which got us 20 points.”

The competition was divided into two groups dance and freestyle.

Within each group, there are numerous individual events, and a first-place finish in any individual event adds five points to the team’s overall score.

In the freestyle portion, Annie Saunders ’12 won the senior test event and Alex Mahler-Haug ’11 finished second in the juvenile free skate.

Aside from the individual events, there were also two team events the low team maneuver and the high team maneuver. In these events, each individual skater completes a single element and passes it onto one of her teammates.

One of the highlights of the weekend came when Dartmouth’s low team maneuver squad, consisting of all three of the Big Green’s rookies and two upperclassmen, was able to secure the victory in the event.

“It was great to see all of the freshmen win that event,” Grant said. “It was essentially their first time out there skating in this event and they did very well.”

The Dartmouth high team maneuver squad, which included four seniors and one sophomore, placed second in the more competitive division.

Figure skating powerhouses BU and the University of Delaware finished first and second, respectively, while Cornell University and Northeastern University finished behind Dartmouth in the standings.

The Big Green earned a spot in nationals by placing second in the northeast region second-place Delaware is not in the Northeast grouping.

Since the national championship was established in 2000, the Dartmouth figure skating team has qualified every year.

The team won its first national championship in 2004 in Amherst, Mass., signaling the beginning of a dominating run by the Big Green.

Earning the national crown each of the next four years, Dartmouth maintained an undefeated streak through the end of the 2008 season, in which it claimed its fifth straight national title in Ann Arbor, Mich.

At the 2008 championship, the Big Green scored 91 points, defeating second-place Indiana University by a healthy margin of 16 points.

Last year in Colorado Springs, the team settled for a third-place finish at the national championship.

Head coach Jacki Smith, who replaced Michael McGean after the 2008 season, is looking to bring Dartmouth back on top, Falsgraf said.

“[Smith] has been a really great coach,” she said. “She has brought new perspectives since she got here. She makes us work hard on our stamina and we now have more specific and individualized plans.”

A decrease in the size of the team has posed challenges, Grant said. Three new freshman skaters this year have to fill the shoes left by six graduating seniors last season.

“There are 35 starts and we only have 16 skaters,” Grant said. “That makes it more tiring and more challenging.”

The Big Green currently has 15 skaters on the roster. In 2008, however, Dartmouth fielded an even smaller team, with just 13 athletes.

After a second-place finish at a competition hosted by Cornell in the Fall and the recent third-place finish in Boston, the team is confident that it will have a strong performance against its comeptition at nationals.

“We are hoping to finish better than last year,” Falsgraf said. “It is nice to be on the East Coast this year, instead of somewhere out west, like in Colorado last year.”

The Big Green skaters will look to regain their national dominance April 27-28 at the U.S. National Intercollegiate Championships in Newark, Del.

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