Elvin (Jayar) Walker and Vicki Luy — a highly experienced duo that has reported on and photgraphed figure skating events for IFS for more than a decade — are in San Jose, California, covering the 2018 U.S. Championships. Jayar and Vicki will be filing daily updates and photos — backstage and on ice — from the junior and senior events this week.

Junior Ice Dance Final/Results

Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko claimed the 2018 U.S. junior ice dance title on Thursday in San Jose, California. Caroline Green and Gordon Green placed second, Chloe Lewis and Logan Bye were third and Eliana Gropman and Ian Somerville, fourth.

Here is what the top three teams had to say at the press conference after the competition:

Carreira: “We’re really happy that we were able to make it happen. We’ve been working really hard, and it’s paying off. There is still a little shakiness that we need to work on. We want to improve our footwork and make our twizzles more together. We have a lot of things to work on before Junior Worlds.

Ponomarenko: “We set this goal at the beginning of this season, and we strived to be national champions and it worked out. It was a great event with a great audience. I feel like it was very clean, but not very emotional. We need to step up our game emotionally if we want to be in that top rank at Junior Worlds. It’s something that we will work on back at home, and hopefully go to Junior Worlds ready.

The duo will head to the World Junior Championships in March. When asked how they will prepare for this competition, Ponomarenko said, “We need to work on the emotion of our programs. We also need to work on cleanliness of the elements. Our overall performance needs to be at its A game, and if we do that and skate our best, we have a good chance of getting first place.”

Caroline Green was recovering from a stomach virus, but said that she had “lots of rest and a lot of fluids and all that jazz. I definitely felt a lot better coming into today’s performance.”

On winning the silver medals at such a young age:

Caroline, 14: I think that it just shows our strength as a team so far, and though we do have a lot of things to work on, it just goes to show that we are growing in the right direction. Juniors isn’t the end goal — hopefully in a few years we will be in this rink in seniors.

Gordon, 16: I thought it was one of the best skates we’ve done in competition so far this season. I thought our footwork was probably the most solid we’ve done all season, though it’s still not as clean as we would like it. I thought our twizzles were probably the best that we’ve done in competition. The skate was very good, but I think that we still have a lot that we can improve.

Chloe Lewis on winning the bronze medal:

Chloe: I think that we are both very proud and happy with how we skated. Both programs were really strong. I think some of the best that programs that we have done. The short dance was our highest score ever, and both programs were really strong. I am really happy with both of them. We hit our levels, but the second marks weren’t as high, so I guess that we have to work to improve our presentation. We’re becoming more consistent technically, so I think that will allow us to work more on our movement.

On their program:

Logan: We actually received the levels that we wanted to. Footwork can always be improved, but as far as levels go, it feel like we hit everything that we wanted to.

Junior Men’s Final/Results

Camden Pulkinen claimed the junior men’s title in a runaway victory. His combined score of 219.29, put him almost 20 points ahead of the runner-up. “I felt pretty good, definitely a little nervous, actually. But, I was like, ‘OK, this is important. This isn’t just another event. This is U.S. Championships. How bad do you want this?’ And I was like, I want this bad.’ So I put that on myself, got myself into it and did it.

“I don’t know if you could see it, but I was just a little nervous. Maybe it’s just because I was expected to win this title or I didn’t do as well in the short, but I definitely felt a little nervous.”

Dinh Tran did not let skating in front of a hometown crowd and his family hinder him from putting out probably his best-ever free skate, one good enough to propel him into second overall. “It feels great. The crowd was loud. It makes me happy; it makes the experience a whole lot better, the 16-year-old said. “It means a lot [to make the podium in San Jose]. It really shows how much work I’ve put into this and I wasn’t really focused on medaling, but more focused on what I needed to do and medaling was just kind of a bonus.

“It was less of a nationals experience because I was at home, so it was different, but it was a lot of fun with all my supporters and everyone just being happy around me.” Tran scored 199.95.

Maxim Naumov skated into third with 179.00. The 16-year-old said, “It was actually kind of hard. I’ve been sick, so it was a little tough, but I pushed through and it was good. 

“I’ve been working on consistency on my jumps and obviously a lot of the things that I did last year. I’ve just worked to perfect that. I have been struggling with an ankle injury for about a year and a half now that has been hindering me for sure — I had surgery late April 2017 — but I was able to push past that and deliver the programs I did today.”

Junior Ladies Final

A couple of my thoughts:

Alysa Liu is fearless. She skates without giving a hoot about anything. I saw her dad holding her out on the concourse before she skated. He had his cheek on her forehead, and was just snuggling her. “Today I stayed focused, and I only thought about the element that I was working on,” Liu said. “I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I am happy that I was able to skate the way that I do in practice. My coach always says that you should fake it until you make it, so that’s why I always look so calm when I compete. I may not be calm, but I really try to make sure I look that way.

“I got a fever last night, and today my throat is sore. It was hard to sleep, so I took some Advil, and my dad made me some wheat grass juice. I also had some lemon juice with honey, but that didn’t work so I ate some cough drops. I also drank some Chinese medicine. 

“I find the Russian ladies motivating. They have such good jumps. I really look up to Evgenia Medvedeva. I like everything that she does. Her jumps are amazing and her performance is amazing. I hope to be like her one day — or I hope that I can be like her today!”

Pooja Kalyan, 15, is a beautiful young lady. Every detail was perfect from her hair down to her nails. She must have detail-oriented coaching. She is very well spoken and seems to have a great head on her shoulders. “The first thing I really wanted to do here was land all my jumps and skate clean, and then I wanted to perform to the audience. I wanted to show joy and bring that to them.

“I never skated in such a big arena with so many people before. We only have two rinks in the whole state of Arkansas, and I don’t know of another skater from there who has competed at nationals. I’ve always been self-motivated, but I draw inspiration from watching other skaters on Youtube or from watching them when I travel out of state to train from time to time.”

Ting Cui, 15, captured the bronze medal after finishing in 11th in the short program. She is now training with Vincent Restencourt who moved from California to Aston, Pennsylvania, specifically to coach her. “I was disappointed after the short program, so I just let it go today, and I am really happy about that. I had nothing to lose today. I think that a lot of my inconsistency is because of a mental issue. I just have to learn how to not let the pressure get to me.”

Junior Ladies Final Results

Junior Pairs Free Skate/Final Results

Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov claimed the junior pairs title this afternoon in a convincing manner. Lu, 15, and Mitrofanov, 20, earned 112.51 for the free skate and a combined total of 173.31. “This definitely gives us a boost in confidence,” said Mitrofanov. “It shows that we are improved in focus and in performance. We still need to improve our speed and power, but our elements definitely have more connection.”

Sarah Feng and TJ Nyman, who have been skating together for just eight months, show great promise. They had two falls in their long program, but still moved up one place to capture silver with 155.57. “I have a sense of accomplishment for what we did today. Our coaching team have been helping us in practice, and we’re starting to see the result,” said Feng, 18. 

“I know that we can do a lot better than we did today,” 17 year-old Nyman said. “We were both a little shaky, and had to fight through the whole program.”

Laiken Lockley and Keenan Prichnow struggled with the landings on all the jumps in their long program, but finished third with 153.04. “We had to refocus and reconnect after each mistake,” Lockley, 15, said after the competition. “I think we did well with working together to the end of the program.”

Nadine Wang and Spencer Howe placed fourth with 135.96 points and earned the pewter medal. 

Junior Men’s Short

Camden Pulkinen won the junior men’s short program by a breath over Dinh Tran. Pulkinen scored 67.88 and Tran was just 0.60 of a point behind with 67.28. They were the only two of the 12 men in the field to successfully land the triple Axel. Maxim Naumov (son of Evgenia Shishkova and Vadim Naumov) sits in third with 64.07.

“Last year I felt like a dark horse at the U.S. Championships, but this year I am more experienced and I am more confident,” Pulkinen said. “I have more mastery over my skating than I did last season. I felt like I wasn’t in touch with my performance but this year I feel like a new performer. 

“The issues in the program with the camel-change-camel and the flip-toe have been identified, and the issues are being resolved. I didn’t have superb short programs in Austria, Poland or Japan, but I did have superb free skates so I’m feeling pretty confident going into Wednesday.”

Tran, a San Francisco native and one of five children being raised by a single mother, claimed bronze at the novice level last season.

Junior Ladies Short

Alysa Liu, a 12 year-old from Oakland, Calif., ran away with the junior ladies short program win with a score of 63.83 points. The dynamo delivered a clean program to Maxime Rodriguez’s “Spanish Flame” to take the lead. Liu skated first, and set the bar high with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination and lively choreography to win over the judges and the packed arena.

“I skate in a lot of competition and shows, so I am used to skating in front of the crowd,” she said. “I really like performing and I love doing my jumps. There will be a little pressure in Tuesday’s free skate, but I will just try to do my best.”

 Junior Pairs Short

Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov earned 60.80 points in the junior pairs short program tonight. The Dallas-based duo have a slight lead heading into Tuesday’s free skate. “It feels great to have such a solid performance,” Lu said after the competition. ‘Especially after some good and some not-so-good practices here this week.”

It is a close race at the top with three teams separated by two points. Laiken Lockley and Keenan Prichnow sit in second with 58.67 and Sarah Feng and TJ Nyman are just 0.30 of a point behind them with 58.37.