On UCLA and Cal at Nationals

April 8, 2014 § Leave a comment

Sorry, totally failed on imparting any figure skating wisdom before and during the Olympics. Let’s do a quick rundown for two of the colleges representing the West Coast (best coast) at this year’s US Figure Skating Intercollegiate Nationals in Adrian, Michigan.

Wait, what do you mean Cal and UCLA have figure skating teams?

Wait, what do you mean Cal and UCLA have figure skating teams?

UC Los Angeles

  • 3rd place at Tiger Challenge
  • 3rd place at Golden Bear Skate
  • 3rd place at Pioneer Open

UCLA, 2nd runner-up in the Pacific Region makes its second straight appearance at Intercollegiate Nationals, this year at the expense of a small but scrappy UC San Diego Skating club team. Too many Universities of California, far too few spots. Next time, UC San Diego. *patpat*

Who Leads The Team

thefigureskatinglawyer wishes Godspeed to Mericien Venzon and Emily Marie Chan, both big reasons why UCLA Figure Skating exists at Westwood and why UCLA has made its presence known on the national stage. That said, it’s up to Colorado native Maddison Bullock and Spokane, WA skater Joey Millet to lead the team to success.

Supporting those core leaders in the freeskate and dance events are senior Amanda Sunyoto, junior skater and SF Bay Area kid Evan Bender, and newcomer Ai Ohno. Good luck as well to Adrian Siew, Jillian Campbell, Therese Vesagas and Sarah Palaich and shoutout to team mom, Coral Chou.


Hey, speaking of Amanda Sunyoto, this is probably the last intercollegiate competition of her career before she graduates. It’s also the last chance to establish superiority over her kid brother, Sean Sunyoto, who may end his undergraduate skating career early to focus on his pre-dental studies. Who’s winning in the lifelong sibling rivalry? Well, that’s a tough one. Moving on before I get in trouble.

ohno, nononoYES

It’s pretty well-known that Joey Millet and Evan Bender will get UCLA their points in the junior men’s events, as well as play big parts in the high team maneuvers. Maddison Bullock will go ahead and give it her best at the senior freeskate but also on her dance events. Not sure where you’ll find Amanda Sunyoto during the competition? Look for her competing in the senior championship and senior dance events.

The X-factor you should keep your eye out for is freshman and novice skater Ai Ohno. She faces stiff competition from the East Region teams, including Dartmouth freshman and novice skater Maddy Thornton, but if her regional performances are indication of anything, it’s that Ohno’s clean skates (no falls, all top-2 finishes) will put tremendous pressure on the rest of field.


UCLA flies out of LAX and get into DTW Friday night. The Bruins have all weekend to drop the powder blue smackdown on its competition.

Anna Kendrick's excited. Are you excited?

Anna Kendrick’s excited. Are you excited?

UC Berkeley

  • 5th place at Tiger Challenge
  • 1st place at Golden Bear Skate
  • 2nd place at Pioneer Open

Cal, first runner-up in the Pacific Region makes their annual trip to Intercollegiate Nationals. Yay, Golden Bears.

Who Leads The Team

The Golden Bears had to scramble after Laney Diggs and Teressa Vellrath retired from intercollegiate skating. The team is also without ice dancers Kelsey Chan (not enough competitions) and Samira Damavandi (studying abroad in the UK). thefigureskatinglawyer sends his regards to Song King, Annaleigh Yahata, Jay Yostanto, Gina DeNatale and Katrina Phan. Seriously though, the team will be without Diggs and Vellrath, who earned a significant amount of points for Cal last year at Nationals.

Freak the fuck out.

Drop everything and freak the fuck out.

Team captain Janelle Unger and team president Michelle Hong take on the task of replacing Laney Diggs and Teressa Vellrath. Sara Billman, Sravani Kondapavulur, Amy Nguyen, Kirsten Flores, Audrey Tan, Audrey Phone-Chen, Matej Silecky, Aditya Nandy and Sean Sunyoto will assist Janelle and Michelle in figuring out how to improve on last year’s 4th place finish. Bless the hosts for providing Matej, Aditya and Sean their own locker room. God forbid they ruin the sanctity of figure skating should anybody see them changing.

New Leaders

UC Berkeley loses Katrina Phan, Michelle Hong, Sravani Kondapavulur, Janelle Unger and Sean Sunyoto to graduation next year. The team still has two cornerstone pieces to build around and keep Cal relevant for the rest of this decade. That said, US junior champion Matej Silecky and senior ladies Sara Billman will take on the bulk of the leadership during the rest of their time at Cal. Their broad network of skating friends and their strong presence at team competitions and events will make Cal known to Sara and Matej’s respective hometowns of Palo Alto/Silicon Valley and Verona, NJ. Yay, baby Golden Bears!

 New Head Coach

Head coach Dani Schraner is taking care of business in San Antonio, TX so the team added alumna Marissa Minovitz to the coaching staff.


Cal Figure Skating leaves the Bay Area from SFO/OAK Friday morning and arrives in DTW Friday afternoon. Have fun, everybody.

Young Carl Fredricksen's excited. Are you?

Young Carl Fredricksen’s excited. Do you have much excite?


2013 Intercollegiate Nationals Predictions

April 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

lol, this probably isn’t the last time I discuss things about 2013 Intercollegiate Nationals. Your Cal Golden Bears continue counting down until the weekend of April 12th-14th, when they fly out of the San Francisco Bay Area region and into Mordor, New Hampshire in three days. They will try to stop Sauron and the figure skating Uruk-hai from winning their 2nd consecutive title and 7th overall.

The nine teams participating in 2013 US Intercollegiate Nationals are UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Denver, Adrian College, University of Michigan, University of Miami Ohio, Boston University, University of Delaware, and defending champion Dartmouth College. I hope this is big enough to see (TWSS).

Sacred Heart/New Mexico, I know you're mad BUT THIS IS HOW WE GET ANTS.

Sacred Heart/New Mexico, I know you’re mad BUT THIS IS HOW WE GET ANTS.

Unless you attend the intercollegiate championships yourself or a generous historian shares pictures of the results in real-time, you and I have no way (until June/July) to find out in-depth results of how all nine participating colleges did. In the meantime, let’s discuss some final storylines going into the championship event and make up reasons to insert some pictures.

Trip to Nationals, written in the starz.

Trip to Nationals, written in the starz.

“Water is Wet” Kind of Predictions

  • Dartmouth, first place. University of Delaware Blue Hens and Cal Golden Bears may object but hey, Sauron’s gonna Sauron and plunder the competition. They’re only going to get stronger when more figure skaters flock to this championship-caliber team, including Skating Club of San Francisco’s Maddy Thornton. She will easily make it past the tryouts and earn points for her team during her undergraduate career.
  • High team maneuvers require at least a double axel for one of the required elements. The high-level male skaters that teams have recently added will up the stakes and require teams to throw down the fabled Iron Lotus triple axels. It’s probably difficult to recognize one if you’ve never seen a triple axel, even if it roundhouse kicked you in the face and introduced itself to you as a triple axel.
  • Unless you check the Midwestern Conference standings, you probably didn’t realize the Wisconsin Honey Badgers were replaced by Adrian Bulldogs.
  • If this championship event was held in Colorado, skaters entered in the maximum of five events would just lament everything. Five events with limited oxygen at 5000 feet above sea level? LOL F**K THAT. It may be a wee bit more doable when Hanover is only 150 feet above sea level but Godspeed to our friends doing long and short programs, two dance events, and one team maneuver event.
  • Andrew Korda of Boston University will skate against himself in the beginner men’s event. As an international level ice dancer, he’s going to incorporate a level 4 straight line step sequence into his program that has five single jumps (no axels) and two spins (no flying entrances). Good luck to you, Andrew Korda.
"Beginner."  ಠ_ಠ

“Beginner.” ಠ_ಠ

  • Hartford, CT is so close to New Hampshire. Looks like Professor Taryn Brandt will be bringing in some new Zumba playlists for the Western Conference locker room.
  • Dartmouth competition chair Jacki Smith will provide the males a males-only locker room because for the sanctity of figure skating, we cannot let the public see male breasts and pelvic regions. Thanks, Ms. Smith.
  • Looks like we’re traveling to the Midwest for Intercollegiates next year.
Quick, Southwest Airlines. Do a barrel roll!

Quick, Southwest Airlines. Do a barrel roll!

Superb Old Predictions

(or Terribly Wrong Predictions, amirite?)

(or Terribly Wrong Predictions, amirite?)

  • If you shift the “b” from one word to the other in “Super Bass” … oh my.
  • Breakout Skater: Rylie Pepich, University of Denver
    • 5th in novice short and 10th in novice long in last year’s Nationals has nowhere to go but further up the standings this year. The current president of the team was granted a waiver to compete at Nationals this year because she is transferring to the University of Seattle, making this her final intercollegiate skating competition in crimson and gold. Expect Rylie to be the inspirational skater that she always is, and to see her in the top 5 in both events. Good luck.
  • Breakout Team: Adrian Bulldogs, Adrian, Michigan
    • Miami (Ohio) and Michigan are most likely bringing teams to Hanover similar to the ones they brought to Colorado Springs last year. I don’t see a way for those two to crack the podium. In any event though, the team that can spoil anybody dreams of winning a big, shiny trophy, it will be the Bulldogs. Finishing in fifth place in their first ever regional competition, Adrian College proceeds to win the final two regional competitions, propelling them past perennial Intercollegiate Nationals contenders Michigan, Miami, and Wisconsin. It makes me think that Bulldogs could scare the shit out of some Blue Hens, Terriers, or maybe even some Golden Bears.
  • Laney Diggs and Sravani Kondapavulur will finish in the top 5 in their senior short and championship ladies event.
  • Sean Sunyoto will beat his sister Amanda in the final sibling match-up. He’ll also win both senior men’s events.
  • Teressa Vellrath will place in the top 2 in her international and gold solo dance events.
  • Gritty veteran figure skater Marissa Minovitz will come through in the clutch in the junior ladies events.
  • I’m willing to bet that there are at least four teams that employ skaters who can land triple axels.
  • I’m also willing to bet that we’ll hear various renditions of Claire De Lune four times this weekend. At least the narrative of skaters loving their sport is a better love story than Twilight.
  • Cal Berkeley will make it into the podium this year and let Brock award the pewter badges to another team. Sorry, Boston University.
  • UCLA will not crack the podium this year. When they get back Emily Chan, Mericien Venzon, Maddison Bullock and a few more competitors, they too will become an unstoppable force in intercollegiate skating. They aren’t Bruining Cal’s weekend though.

Cal Figure Skating is currently enjoying a time where all skaters it participates in Intercollegiate Nationals year after year, but potentially rank in the top third of the standings every single time. When their plane(s) touch down on the San Francisco International Airport tarmac Sunday evening, they’ll have a bigger, shinier trophy to show for it. Skate on, you Bears.




Denver Pioneers, Nationals Preview

March 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

It’s belated but I am glad to hear Emily Deanne Richard is alright and back in the United States, following serious injuries and subsequently successful surgeries.

Young Emily Deanne in a car fueled by all her swag.

Young Emily Deanne in a car fueled by all her swag.

This is the officially unofficial Nationals preview of the 2012-2013 Denver Pioneer Figure Skating Club team. Someone dared them to make it to Nationals by participating in only two competitions. Denver skaters did that and won them both. Next time, they’ll try to get to Nationals by participating in only one (just kidding, USFSA said that’s not possible).

Results after Regionals

Place: 10 points, First

  • Golden Bear Skate: N/A
  • Tiger Challenge: 1st place
  • Pioneer Open: 1st place

The Pioneers were the top team out West. From last year’s team that finished 6th at 2012 Intercollegiate Nationals, Professor/senior ladies Taryn Brandt graduated, while Emily, intermediate ladies Maddie Moyer and novice ladies Lena Nguyen are not competing during this collegiate season.

Wahhhh :'( Who else will show up?

Wahhhh 😥 Who else will show up?

Projected Nationals Roster (assuming no one passed any tests since last year)

  • Senior ladies Samantha David
  • Senior ladies Lisa Moore
  • Senior ladies Virginia Meyer
  • Senior ladies Erin Orchard
  • Senior ladies ice dancer Megan Marsh
  • Junior ladies Ana Sorenson
  • Junior ladies/ice dancer Sophie Fritz
  • Novice ladies Rylie Pepich
  • Novice ladies/ice dancer Sam Fenwick
  • Novice ladies Lauren Montgomery
  • Juvenile ladies/ice dancer Kailaini Smith
  • Juvenile ladies ice dancer Alicia Prince
  • Pre-juvenile ladies Andrea Frishberg
  • Preliminary ladies/Cubs fan/Grillmaster Karen Yamasaki
  • Amber Dierking
  • Kaylee Lino
  • Hannah Falvey
  • Katherine Thomas
  • Brandy Lewis
  • Taylor Stimpson
  • High team maneuvers: Samantha, Erin, Lisa (jumps and spins). Megan gets the serpentine step sequence
  • Intermediate team maneuvers: Rylie, Sam, Lauren
  • Low team maneuvers: Karen, Andrea, Alicia, Kailaini


Stray Observations

  • Denver usually wins the West because they bring out so many skaters, almost always using up their maximum of 35 entries. In 2012-13, it remains the case. We’ll see if they bring all 20 skaters or bring a little less to Hanover. It might have been the easiest thing to fix, especially after that gnarly three-way tie.
  • The team is well-rounded, top to bottom, with some skaters being involved in all facets of the collegiate competition, from one or two ice dance events, short and long programs and a level-specific team maneuver.
  • Megan Marsh will probably do gold solo or international solo against Cal’s Teressa Vellrath.
  • Every team out West have said goodbye to Denver International Airport until next year except for the Pioneers. They’ll go down about 5000 feet in altitude to hang with their skating friends in New Hampshire.
  • The Pioneers look to improve on last year’s 6th place finish, using the good luck brought forth by cameo appearances by the Taryn Brandt-Dani Schraner connection.
Can't hear you over the sound of "We just made Nationals."

Can’t hear you over the sound of “We just made Nationals.”


Magic # is 5… wait, Cal has a figure skating team?

October 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

The second competition on 10/27 calls for your Golden Bears to head to Colorado Springs and fight Tigers, Pioneers, Rams, Bruins and Lobos on the ice for the privilege to go to Intercollegiate Nationals. The team flies from their choice of OAK or SFO to Denver International, take a two hour drive from the outskirts of Denver, past Aurora and to Colorado Springs, where they’ll set up shop at Honnen Ice Arena, the site of last year’s Intercollegiate Nationals.

When the number of Giants wins and Dodgers losses add up to five, then… wait up, that’s not right.

“Jeez, get your sports together.”

Thanks, Rocky.

The Bears, Bruins and Lobos roll their points over from their top 3 finishes in the previous competition. This gives each of these teams a little more breathing room, as the Colorado teams try to grab the remaining points in the last two competition. In one scenario that I did in my head, the Cal and UCLA could book their plane tickets to Hanover, New Hampshire early if UCLA gets first and Cal gets second overall. That leaves both teams with an insurmountable points lead, while the four remaining teams fight for the last spot. As long as they each get top 3 finishes in the Tiger Challenge, both teams would still need to skate the Pioneer Open but would be in great shape to qualify.

If either team gets less points then that (Cal stays at 3, UCLA stays at 2 or gets 3), then the Pioneer Open will be critical for all teams. Every team loves torture and high blood pressure, nervousness and anticipation.

Skaters You Might See

Marissa Minovitz, Gina DeNatale, Matej Silecky, Laney Diggs, Janelle Unger, Kathryn Poniatowski, Amy Nguyen, Teressa Vellrath, Sravani Kondapavulur, Katrina Phan, Michelle Hong, Samira Damavandi, Alex Lin, Sean Sunyoto and Hannah Benet. Maybe freshman Jay Yostanto?

“What do you mean ‘I can skip this one’? I already bought plane tickets!”

This is the list of Cal skaters from the first competition. These skaters have the flexibility to go to this competition or the final one to fulfill their two regional competitions minimum requirement, and may choose to skip this one due to midterms or not wanting to spend money on plane tickets and hotels this early. Legit reasons. Some skaters may not skate the Tiger Challenge in order to qualify at Southwest Regionals for the real deal Nationals. With all this said, Cal still needs to show up against all the improved Colorado teams and New Mexico.

Different Challenges

On top of the number of skaters that the team will compete against, especially within their own events and competition groups, the Golden Bears will need to train for the high altitude. According to Google Maps, Colorado Springs is over a mile/approximately 6010 feet above sea level. Cool thing is, less air resistance, you jump out farther. Bad thing is, if you’re not used to it, you’re dying after you rehearse your short, long and dance programs.

McKayla, not impressed with your cardio.

With the sheer increase in the amount of skaters, it’s likely that the events will not be one to two-team showcases. Marissa and Gina probably won’t be alone in the junior ladies short, while Laney, Katrina, Sravani and Michelle will have more company in the senior ladies short, long and senior ladies championship free skates.

According to this dated, yet awesome sports med site (doesn’t open to a new window), heart and respiratory rates go up to counteract the lack of oxygen in places of high altitude. The increased breathing rate throws off the pH balance in your body via respiratory alkalosis, reducing your body’s tolerance to lactic acid. Granted, I’m not sure if this happens drastically in a matter of a weekend but I got a feeling figure skating 6000+ feet above sea level @Colorado College vs. 40 feet @Oakland Ice makes some difference in many skaters’ routines.

Feeling like death after your morning skate.

UCLA skaters Mericien Venzon, Emily Chan and Maddison Bullock will probably be at Colorado Springs if they want to skate at Nationals. Whether or not Joey Millet, Sarah Palaich, Alejandra Acosta, Therese Vesagas, Amanda Sunyoto, Evan Bender, Coral Chou and other new additions to the Bears in powder blue fly out as well is up in the air.

Colorado College: Beyond student contact Linda Alexander and senior skater Janet Miao, I don’t know much about their team.

Colorado State: No home ice this year as the Golden Bear Skate was added into the Pacific rotation. Coach Pam and skaters Simone Rios, Fran Tait and Molly Parsons, among other skaters drive down from Edora Pool and Ice looking to make their 2012-2013 intercollegiate debuts.

Denver: Lots of skaters returning. You’ll probably see the same skaters who show up for this competition at the last one if they want to compete at Nationals. Look for Lauren Montgomery, Sophie Fritz, Maddie Moyer, Rylie Pepich, Karen Yamasaki, Lisa Moore, and a whole lot of other skaters representing the Pioneers. Shoutout to Lena Nguyen, chillin’ like a villain in New South Wales, which is not even close to the UK. It’s in Australia.

New Mexico: Romilly Tsinahjinnie, Josh Coleman, Krista Keay and Chelsea Erven look to build upon their third place finish at the Golden Bear Skate. They look forward to seeing their skating friends from Colorado and California after a six hour drive from Albuquerque.

Call Kenny Loggins because we’re getting pretty close to a:


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