Friday, November 7, 2014

Summer and Fall Bring Wilson and Brown Some Silver and Gold

Sara, skating with Justin, passed the Pre-Silver Foxtrot dance recently,
Sara & Justin at CIA on test day, Oct. 22, 2014. 

wrapping up a six-month stretch of competitions -- including the team's first gold medal win -- and two successful dance test sessions.

Sara has one more Pre-Silver pattern dance to pass. The ice dance team can then test their novice free dance. That will bring them one step closer to becoming eligible to compete at sectionals in 2015.

A lot is unfolding for Sara and Justin; their challenging future ahead, though, is built on a solid past.

Team Sunfire at Worlds.
An ice dance team for 18 months now, the two teenagers also are members of Team Sunfire, a synchronized skating team that practices at Clearwater Ice Arena (CIA) and finished its season strong at Boston's 2014 ISI World Team
Championships in August.

The 12-member synchro team culminated the season Aug. 2, 2014, at the New England Sports Center, skating the best it had all year. The synchro team won two silver medals for its short and long programs.

For Sara and Justin, the trip to Boston was a fitting ending to a busy and exciting summer that began at the 2014 Sunshine State Games Figure Skating Championships in Ellenton, Florida.

At the May competition, the dance couple won their first gold medal for their juvenile free dance performance.

They made several improvements to the nearly two and a half-minute program, which is set to two pieces of music -- a 50s ballad and the Jitterbug. They were a joy to watch. To view their performance, click below. :)

The Ellenton event was their first competition as an ice dance team. Below are pictures capturing their debut.

Keeping one's cool and being yourself at competitions sometimes isn't easy. For the most part, though, Sara and Justin put what others may think aside. Here is a video of the two warming up with their hand-clapping routine before they took to the ice at State Games. :)

Two weeks later after competing at State Games, Sara and Justin performed their juvenile free dance one last time. They're now working with their ice dance coach, Marianne Tisch, on their novice free dance. Capturing their final juvenile performance at CIA's Figure Skating Exhibition Show on May 31, 2014, was a treat. To see the video, click below. :)

During the summer, the two teens had a more intense schedule, increasing lessons with Coach Marianne and adding more practice time.

The summer was also filled with a local synchro competition and a test session. At CIA's 28th Annual Summer Competition in June, Team Sunfire won first place in both its short and long programs.

Team Sunfire at CIA's June competition

A month later, Sara and Justin were back ice dancing in front of the judges. Both passed their pattern dance tests.

Justin, skating with Coach Marianne, passed the Rocker Foxtrot, a Silver-level dance.
Skating with Coach Marianne, Justin passes 
the Rocker Foxtrot in July. 

Some of the judges' comments included:

* neat, close steps

* nice lilt to dance

* solo well-skated

* flowed well

* nice lilt

* nice smile

Sara also passed her dance tests on July 16, 2014. Skating with Justin, she passed the Ten Fox, a Bronze-level dance, and the 14 Step, a Pre-Silver dance.

Sara passes two pattern dance tests in July.
Some of the judges' comments included:

* neat, sharp steps

* bold swings

* good carriage

* good expression

* good unison

* neat, close mohawk (a turn that involves a change of foot but not a change of edge)

Wilson and Brown after the July test session.

Weeks later, the two teens hopped on a plane to join Team Sunfire skaters at Worlds. In addition to winning two silver medals, the synchro skaters brought home some wonderful memories.

Along with several other teammates, Sara and Justin enjoyed a three-hour, scenic cruise aboard the Provincetown II, Boston Harbor's largest cruise ship.

Several skaters also attended the Benefit on Ice show where they met former Olympian Mirai Nagasu, and Ross Miner, the 2013 U.S. National Silver medalist.

Of course, they carved out time to do some sightseeing around Boston. The slideshow below shows some highlights.

With their sights set on sectionals next year, the two skaters now need to pass novice moves in the field and their novice free dance. In addition to passing the Pre-Silver European Waltz pattern dance, Sara must also pass one Silver pattern dance to compete at the novice level. All these tests must be passed by Sept. 1, 2015, to qualify for Eastern Sectionals.

Because Sara, 17, attends high school -- she is a senior this year -- summer is the best time to bump up the time spent on the ice. Justin, 18, has always been home schooled -- or more specifically "unschooled," which allows him to spend time on what interests him most. He officially became a high school graduate in April.

The two have a long road ahead and, hopefully, it will be paved with more successful tests and perhaps more silver and gold. But without a doubt, it will be a road paved with lots of ice.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Looking beyond the scores to the next great skate

Sometimes figure skaters can come away from a performance feeling great about it, regardless of the scores the judges ultimately give.

Recently, that could not have been more true for Justin and his ice dance partner, Sara Wilson. The Wilson and Brown Ice Dance Team skated three programs during Clearwater Ice Arena's test session on Wednesday, March 19, 2014. However, only two of their performances passed.

All three judges passed the two bronze pattern dances -- the Willow Waltz and the Hickory Hoe Down. 

But the final score for their juvenile free dance program didn't reflect how well Justin and Sara - and others - thought they did. Of course, they realized they needed improvements - they both wanted to smile more and increase their speed and flow. But it's the judges who ultimately determine the quality of the performance.

Two of the three judges didn't pass their free dance. A program must be passed by at least two of the three judges. 

Below is a video of their personal best juvenile free dance program with their proud parents watching. 

The two judges who didn't pass the program thought the lift Justin and Sara performed at the beginning of the program wasn't allowed. So after the teenagers performed their free dance, the judges asked them to do another lift to replace the one they felt didn't qualify. Justin and Sara did the new lift but it didn't meet the requirements, according to one of the judges.

However, it turned out having them perform a new lift wasn't necessary because the original one was allowed.

Shortly after the test session -- with rule book in hand -- Coach Marianne Tisch pointed out the original lift in the program was correct. As a result, one of the judges apologized for the mistake. But according to United States Figure Skating rules, once the scores have been turned in no changes can be made. The third judge who passed their performance didn't question the lift.

Naturally, Justin and Sara were disheartened.

"I felt like it was a clean program," Sara says. "It was disappointing, but we'll show the judges..."

" good we can be," Justin says, finishing her sentence, which they both acknowledge is something they often do.
Justin and Sara wait to skate on test day.
Their friend, Julie, at bottom left, joins them
for moral support.

"Like Meryl and Charlie," Sara responds, smiling, referring to the Olympic Champion Ice Dance Team of Davis and White.

Their plan intact, their spirits seem lifted as they simultaneously break out into a hand-clapping routine from one of their favorite Kit Kat commercials. The two often laugh and joke with each other and spontaneously erupt into routines they've made up. 

Even though they were dealt a setback, they're moving on, taking the judges' suggestions for improving their game. The dance couple will retake their free dance test in about a month. 

"Our focus is to pass the free dance and add more emotion and expression to our program," Sara says. 

Photos from their juvenile free dance on test day.  

The pair have been working hard since May of last year when they decided to become ice dance partners. Justin, who passed his juvenile free dance in 2011 with a previous partner, is helping Sara pass hers so they can together test up to the novice level to qualify for sectionals next year. An advance freestyle skater, Sara just started ice dancing less than a year ago.

Ice dancers must test up in both pattern dances and free dances to compete. The levels for pattern dances are Preliminary, Pre-Bronze, Bronze, Pre-Silver, Silver, Pre-Gold and Gold. The levels for free dances are juvenile, intermediate, novice, junior and senior.  Because Justin is 18 years old, he and Sara must compete at the novice level in free dance and at the Silver level in pattern dances. 
Justin & Sara at the November test session.
Justin also tested & passed the European
Waltz, a Pre-Silver dance, at the
session that day.

Justin has tested up to the Silver level in pattern dances, with only one more dance to go to meet the novice requirements. 

Sara, 17, is catching up fast. Skating with Justin, she passed the first six pattern dances in November. They are the Dutch Waltz, Canasta Tango, Rhythm Blues, Swing, Cha-Cha, and the Fiesta Tango. She has passed a total of eight pattern dances in 10 months.

"It feels awesome that I've passed so many tests in such a short time," Sara says. "Hopefully, we'll keep the pace up so we can go to sectionals."

Monday, May 20, 2013

Justin skates to 'Pursuit of Freedom' at State Games, 2013 (Video)

This is Justin performing his freestyle program at the Sunshine State Games in Ellenton, FL, recently. He had such a great day on Friday, May 10, 2013. He landed all his jumps in his open juvenile 'jumps only' program (see video in previous post). He then went on the ice about two hours later to skate his freestyle program to the music 'Pursuit of Freedom,' written by Dorian Markovac. His freestyle performance was another personal best! (See video below.) The good times continued, too. The next day, on Saturday, he captured first place in Pre Silver solo dance. As always, we are so proud of you Justin!! 

Some pictures from the two-day competition:

Justin's 'jumps only' program at State Games, 2013 (Video)

Here is Justin landing an axel, a double salchow and a double toe, single toe combination on May 10, 2013 at the Sunshine State Games in Ellenton, FL. I got a little excited after he landed his double toe, which is evident when the camera goes all over the place for about two seconds after he lands it. But I quickly regained my composure and caught the ending. :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Congratulations to Julia Paige Grant and Justin Brown! *

Julia and Justin at CIA after Julia
passed all six dances.
Julia, skating with Justin, tested and passed six ice dances recently.

It was quite an amazing feat because she was suppose to test for only three preliminary dances: the Dutch Waltz,
the Canasta Tango, and the Rhythm Blues.

Justin, who has already tested up to the pre-silver level, skated the dances with her. The two became an ice dance team three months ago.

During the Feb. 6, 2013, test session at Clearwater Ice Arena, the judge was impressed with the first three dances. After Julia and Justin finished, the judge asked Julia if she wanted to test the next three dances. 

The teenagers were surprised, but said yes.

They went back out on the ice and skated the pre-bronze level dances beautifully. The three dances at this level are the Swing,
the Cha Cha, and the Fiesta Tango.

Julia garnered some wonderful comments from the judge on all six dances:
Julia and Justin at the February test session.
* good unison and knowledge of steps
* well-matched couple!
* skated on solid edges with good flow

* strong, erect posture

* good knees and deep edges!

* nice, tight cross-behinds

* very nice feel for music and good timing (Swing Dance)

One guy came up to them afterwards and said, "you guys were fun to watch."

Needless to say, we thought so too! Way to go Julia and Justin!!
Julia and Justin practice at Tampa Bay Skating Academy.

* Unfortunately, the partnership with Julia didn't work out. We miss Julia, and we wish her the very best in everything she does. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Justin Performs "Pursuit of Freedom" 2012 (Video)

Here's a video of Justin skating to "Pursuit of Freedom," written by Dorian Markovac. He performed this program at Tampa Bay Skating Academy's Saturday Winter Wonderland show. It was beautiful!

Justin and his single's coach, Diana Deka, added 30 more seconds to the program after he performed it in September at the Ellenton competition. The additions include a back camel spin into a tango spin and more footwork. He also replaced one of his axels with a double salchow.