On Cal Figure Skating’s Future
May 11, 2013 § Leave a comment
I wish longtime junior ladies’ Marissa Minovitz congratulations on graduating from Berkeley, and best wishes on her future aspirations. I wish Skating Club of San Francisco’s Kimberly Verzano congratulations on graduating from Lowell High (four years to go bonkers in Yonkers), as well as to fellow SCSF skater Magdalena Thornton, who leaves International High for Dartmouth. I wish junior skater Song King well in her health, her studies and her Greek professional and social commitments. I also wish synchro skater Annaleigh Yahata well with her studies and her Cal Dance Team commitment. Cal Figure Skating will continue on.
Dat Magic 8 Ball
You say it’s too early to be looking ahead at the Golden Bears and their future relevance in college skating, but it’s not. I’m purposely skipping ahead to the 2014-2015 intercollegiate season because it’s the first time since 2009 that the Golden Bears will be without Laney Diggs. You might want to start the excommunication procedures.
Cal Figure Skating 0 A.D. (After Diggs) will be led by seniors Sean Sunyoto, Teressa Vellrath, Samira Damavandi, Sravani Kondapavulur, Janelle Unger, Katrina Phan, and Michelle Hong, as well as juniors Gina DeNatale, Jay Yostanto, Matej Silecky, Amy Nguyen, and Kelsey Chan.
The team will add synchro skater Skating Club of San Francisco’s Annalise Mahoney and 2013 Pacific Coast Sectionals competitor Sara Billman for the 2013-14 season, giving these ladies some experience heading into the 2014-2015 season. The Golden Bears will definitely recruit from their backyard, adding more diamonds in the rough from figure skating clubs such as San Francisco, St. Moritz, Peninsula (San Jose), and All Year (Carson City).
By that point, the Golden Bears will match the Denver Pioneers and the three East Coast teams in terms of depth that every championship-caliber team needs. If the Golden Bears want to stay relevant in the intercollegiate figure skating landscape, they must use up most, if not all of their 35 allotted entries in all competitions. This is necessary in order to compete with the Blue Hens and the Moose of figure skating, but even more so when the team attempts to replace a phenomenal skater in Laney Diggs.
“Get off me,” She Said to Tracy Porter
The Golden Bears lose undergraduate Laney Diggs to graduation, barring any acceptance to any Berkeley graduate school programs. That’s just one skater, am I right?
In reality, you’re trying to replace a skater who has five US Championships appearances, carrying the Golden Bears team on her back though every single year she’s been at Berkeley. Whether it’s edges and three turns or nailing double axel combinations, Diggs is the clutch skater you want to ensure that you get to Intercollegiate Nationals every year. She finishes in the top 3 in every senior short program and free skate she has participated at the intercollegiate level. Her contributions at the dance events have added a layer of versatility to her game, while her gritty execution in the high team maneuver jumps never fails.
The boys have Diggs’ jumps covered in the high team maneuver, especially with other teams equipped to do triple lutz and axel combinations. But who else on the team can make up the points that Diggs earns in the senior short and championship free skate? What about the two dance events she can do?
A Laney-less Cal team seems unusual for Golden Bear skaters used to seeing Diggs put the team on her back. It’s made it simple for the team to make their minimum of two appearances at the regional competitions. It’s made it simple for the team to complain about the flight prices and hidden fees to get to the championship, instead of complaining about another year in which they didn’t make it at all. The 2014-15 season will be the time for Cal to show that it can stay relevant after Laney Diggs graduates.
It’s not all doom and gloom for the flagship University of California’s team. After the intercollegiate championships have been held in Hanover, NH and some city in the Midwest, the Championships come rightfully home to the Western Conference. Since Colorado hosted the last the the Championships were in the West, Katherine Specht and the USFSA committee of making things happen can flip a coin to choose between New Mexico and California next. The Golden Bears have a great chance to sleep in their own beds or at the very least, stay in their own time zone, giving them another advantage in trying to make the top 3.
If Jay Yostanto no longer is obligated to do his Junior Grand Prix assignments, he will team with Matej Silecky to form a powerful 1-2 combo in the junior men’s events. Sean Sunyoto resumes at the senior level, though he will no longer have a sibling rivalry in dance when Amanda graduates in 2014. Sravani, Michelle, Katrina, Teressa will continue to make up the core of the high team maneuvers along with Sara Billman, while Annalise, Janelle, Amy, and Samira holding the fort down at intermediate team maneuvers. Kelsey Chan will keep accompanying Teressa Vellrath at the gold and international solo level dances, while Samira accompanies Sean at the senior and junior dance levels.
The seniors and juniors listed above will have a figure skating season or three to know what it takes to get as many points as possible, whether that means skating up to the championship free skate at the junior or senior levels or passing the tests for different levels of dance. They will also successfully recruit new members of the team because as coaches and high level skaters, they are such prominent members of the skating community in Northern California. Regardless of any additions that the other championship-qualifying teams will make, I am optimistic that the team will take advantage of opportunities to make it to Nationals and finally make it to the podium.
The other thing? If Laney Diggs takes a fifth year or goes to graduate school here in Berkeley, you can turn that frown upside down and ignore everything I just said for at least another year.