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.

Oh. My. God. How dare you!!!!11!

Here I am blaspheming in the Church of the Golden Bear.

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.

4 years of college and graduation. Still shocking.

4 years of college and graduation. Still shocking.


“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?

What a wonderful idea.

What a great idea….

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.

Mind = blown.

Mind = blown.

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.

If the team succeeds without Laney P., I might just have to.

If the team succeeds without Laney P., I might just have to.

The Positives

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.

Oh. My. God. How dare you!!!!11!

Oh. My. God. Really!? All the triple axels!!!!11!?

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.

What did the bearpaw say to the face? Slap.

What’d the golden bearpaw say to the face? Slap.


Eastern Conference, Nationals Preview

March 24, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s time to talk a tad more about 2013 Intercollegiate Nationals. The same three teams from 2012 will represent the Eastern colleges at 2013 Intercollegiate Nationals: Dartmouth CollegeUniversity of Delaware, and Boston University.

Cry it out, Sacred Heart University.

Good job, good effort, Sacred Heart University. There, there.

USFSA needs to use both of its tiebreakers to determine that Dartmouth is first after two regional competitions, beating out Delaware. Both won one regional competition, requiring USFSA to see who got more points in the two competitions combined. Dartmouth beats Delaware by a grand total of two points.

I’m terrible at math and reciting things. You might just want to check the standings yourself to get some reassurance. Let’s project some rosters (not really accurate because I don’t know any of the new skaters) and elaborate on some observations. Below are the nitty, gritty rosters of who the California Golden Bears Figure Skating Team will be facing, but you probably just want the stray observations gift-wrapped. If scrolling down gives you Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, click here.

University of Dartmouth

Place at 2012 Intercollegiate Nationals: 1st (130 points)

Place after 2013 Regionals: 9 points (227 overall skater points), 1st

  • Liberty University Intercollegiate Competition: 1st place (110 points)
  • University of Delaware Intercollegiate Competition: 2nd place (117 points)


  • Pre-juvenile ladies Isabel Hines
  • Novice men’s Joseph Miller
  • Senior ladies/preliminary dance Iris Yu
  • Junior/novice dance Kelsey Anspach
  • Preliminary ladies Kristen Nehls
  • Jing Jiao
  • Junior ladies/senior dance Kirsten Seagers
  • Junior ladies/intermediate dance Caroline Knoop
  • Senior ladies Maria Sperduto
  • Senior ladies Katie Bates
  • Juvenile ladies/preliminary dance Chrissy Bettencourt
  • Senior ladies Cali Digre
  • Preliminary ladies Dawn Finzi
  • Juvenile ladies Elana Folbe
  • Intermediate ladies Sarah Gertler
  • Senior ladies/novice/intermediate dance/grad student Pinar Gurel
  • Novice ladies/grad student Anna Hatch
  • Preliminary ladies Renata Hegyi
  • Intermediate ladies/senior dance Bianca Jackson
  • Preliminary dance Susanna Kalaris
  • Juvenile ladies Emily Kong
  • Senior ladies Melissa Li
  • Pre-juvenile ladies Jenny Liu
  • Senior ladies Christine Mozer
  • Novice ladies Anita Naik
  • Junior ladies Samantha Oh
  • Senior ladies Victoria Rackohn
  • Pre-juvenile ladies Erin Tomalonis
  • Senior ladies Esther Wu
  • Senior ladies Julia Zaskorski
"Wow!" is correct.

“Wow!” is correct.

University of Delaware

Place at 2012 Intercollegiate Nationals: 2nd (97 points)

Place after 2013 Regionals: 9 points (225 overall skater points), 2nd

  • Liberty University Intercollegiate Competition: 2nd place (100 points)
  • University of Delaware Intercollegiate Competition: 1st place (125 points)


  • Senior ladies Dana Sivak
  • Senior ladies Melinda Wang
  • Senior ladies/senior dance Julianne DiMura
  • Junior ladies Allanah Barbour
  • Junior ladies Christie Kievit
  • Junior men’s Jonathan Jerothe
  • Novice ladies Brittany Sullivan
  • Intermediate ladies Clara Sherman
  • Pre-juvenile men’s Shaun and Bryan Schaeffer
  • Senior dance Lindsay Cohen
  • Junior dance Megan Marschall
  • Junior dance Jana Raisner
  • Novice dance Noelle Tuttle
Dartmouth, you're in the way. Frowny face.

Dartmouth, you’re in the way. Frowny face.

Boston University

Place at 2012 Intercollegiate Nationals: 3rd (80 points)

Place after 2013 Regionals: 6 points, 3rd

  • Liberty University Intercollegiate Competition: 3rd place
  • University of Delaware Intercollegiate Competition: 3rd place


  • Senior ladies Alex Volpicelli
  • Senior ladies Katharine Huntley-Bachers
  • Senior men’s Schuyler Eldridge
  • Junior ladies Gabrielle Lucivero
  • Junior ladies Tesssa Riccio
  • Junior men’s/Nationals competitor James Morgan
  • Novice ladies Olivia Wyrick
  • Novice ladies Devon Forest
  • Novice ladies Abigail Dutke
  • Intermediate ladies Livana Koznesoff
  • Intermediate ladies/senior dance Elizabeth Gibbons
  • Juvenile ladies Danielle Eble
  • Juvenile ladies Marissa Spanos
  • Pre-juvenile Rosalie Jiang
  • Preliminary ladies Menolly Wlater
  • Preliminary men’s/senior dance Andrew Korda
  • Preliminary men’s Hayman Chan
  • Senior dance Sarah Heerboth
  • Junior dance Olivia Donovan
  • Juvenile dance Krista Rochussen

Oh good, all teams have arrived.

Oh good, all teams have arrived.

Stray Observations

  • Do Male Figure Skaters Wear Tights? A fair amount of traffic for this site occurs when web surfers around the world look for “bulges”, pictures of bulging muscle mass or bulging pelvises. Sorry, no dirty material here. Meanwhile, competitions still don’t allow men to wear tights. Whatever outfits the men have to change into, I’m sure the competitions chairs will cordon off a locker room for men only so the ladies don’t see any male breasts. For the sanctity of figure skating! Think of the children!
  • More Men, More… Points? The addition of UCLA’s Joey Millet and Evan Bender and Golden Bear Matej Silecky will increase the number of points awarded to the junior men’s events. James Morgan, Jon Jerothe, and Joseph Miller can’t wait.  As for Golden Bear and senior skater Sean Sunyoto, he’ll provide Schuyler Eldridge some company in the senior men’s events. Each senior men’s championship participant will guarantee their teams at least four points in the free skate and two points in the short program. Booyakasha.
  • Sunyotos Know They Can Dance, Nationals Edition: Do-or-die showdown between Amanda and Sean in their dance events. Who blinks first? Who starts off the event on the wrong beat?
  • Well-Roundedness: Nope, I’m not calling anyone fat. Each of the East representatives have well-rounded rosters, making it imperative that the Golden Bears execute in all the events they’re in. Earn points.
Keeping the Golden Bears off the podium may be too tough.

Like eating tacos, keeping the Bears off the podium may be too tough.

  • I Can Digg It: After five Nationals appearances and two Intercollegiate Nationals appearances, gritty, veteran skater Laney Diggs still digs being the heart and soul of the Cal Figure Skating team. The best senior skater out west, along with sophomore Sravani Kondapavulur go to Mordor and face off against Dartmouth’s Maria Sperduto, Dartmouth’s Pinar Gurel, University of Delaware’s Dana Sivak and two-time Taiwanese figure skating champion Melinda Wang.
  • Alumnus Love: Joe Flacco goes whacko for his alma mater. He wishes Coach Joel McKeever and the Blue Hens luck.
Thanks, Mr. Flacco!

Thanks, Mr. Flacco! Hey, where’s Mr. Ellerbe?

  • Frowny Face: Last undergraduate competition for junior skater Marissa Minovitz. She and Gina DeNatale look to stop Dartmouth’s Caroline Knoop from winning all the junior events.
  • Championship on Repeat: With a triple axel, solid flying combo spins, and Teressa Vellrath covering the nitty gritty of the serpentine step, Cal Figure Skating is looking at another repeat as high team maneuver champions.
  • By Way of San Antonio: Coach Dani Schraner will be at Intercollegiate Nationals to enforce curfews and photobomb more championships pictures for Skating Magazine.
  • Complainers Gonna Complain: I heard Cal Figure Skating has some surprises they’re bringing to Mordor, New Hampshire. Oh, you don’t like surprises?
Thanks, Obama.

Thanks, Obama.


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