Leah Keiser Shines at Liberty International

Wins Both the Short and Long Programs

Leah Keiser and Ron Ludington.

More than 700 singles and pair skaters attended this year’s Liberty summer competition in Aston, Pa., despite the high entry fee of $235 to compete in both a short and long program and $150 for one program only.

Approximately 100 officials were in attendance at this popular summer competition.

California’s 13-year-old Leah Keiser, a pupil of Frank Carroll, won both programs in the senior "A" division. She opened her flawless, world-class short program with a great triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. “My technique is pretty consistent now. I have worked hard,” Keiser said.

She also excelled in style and choreography, which she worked on with Canada’s Lori Nichol.

Her long program to the soundtrack of "Dr. Shivago" was good, but unfortunately she fell on two jumps. Nevertheless, she would be a worthy candidate for a Junior Grand Prix assignment, but as she failed to qualify for nationals last season, there is little chance of that happening.

Keiser was coached by Ron Luddington at Liberty as Carroll could not attend the event.

Second was Ukrainian champion Natalia Popova who trains with Viktor Petrenko in Hackensack, New Jersey. She performed six triples in the long and is hoping to qualify for Europeans and Worlds in 2012. She was injured last season and did not compete.

Samantha Cesario of New York, a pupil of Mary Lynn Gelderman, won both portions of the senior "B" ladies event with two flawless programs. Second was Angela Wang of Salt Lake City.

The 2007 World junior champion, Stephen Carriere, who spent two years in Wilmington but now trains in Boston, won the senior men’s short program. He showed an excellent triple Axel, which had been a problem for him for two years. Unfortunately, he stepped out of the triple toe loop in the combination after landing a solid triple Lutz.

Second was Keegan Messing of Alaska who showed the best spins of the field, but he had a fall on the quad toe loop. Wesley Campbell was third and Armin Mahbanoozadeh who also missed a quad attempt, placed fourth.

Carriere and Mahbanoozadeh did not compete in the free. Messing won the long in spite of a few mistakes by a very close margin - five-hundredths of a point over Scott Dyer from Maryland and two-tenths of a point ahead of Alex Zahradnicek (Wilmington).

The short program of the new American pair, Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, to the soundtrack from “East of Eden” was another highlight at Liberty. After only training together for two months their elements are already spectacular, especially the triple twist.

Their free program to “Nessun Dorma” is almost ready and will be debuted at the Indy competition.

Winner of the long program was the new Canadian pairs combination of Jessica Dubé and Sébastien Wolfe, despite three mistakes.

Second in both portions of this event were Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir of Boston.

Without doubt, the major highlight of the junior competitions were the programs of U.S. novice champion Nathan Chen from Salt Lake City. At the tender age of 12, the diminutive young man showed excellent combinations such as the triple Lutz-triple toe loop, as well as many other triples, all executed with a musical interpretation. He said he plans to add a triple Axel to his arsenal in the fall.

Polina Edmunds of California was by far the best of the 60 junior ladies.

America's Kylie Duarte and Colin Grafton were first in the junior pairs competition. They made an excellent impression on everyone.