Goodbye to Sectionals!

Hi everyone!
Well here I am at the airport on the way back to Cambridge after a long week here in Utah.  Here's the play-by-play of yesterday!
We got up pretty early to go to our twenty-minute warmup.  We decided to just take it easy and only plan on a brief overview of our free dance just so that we wouldn't push ourselves to the point where we'd be too tired.  After all, we are at altitude here and we knew that a lot of our friends had begun to really feel the altitude even though it's only 4,400 feet, which by the standards I got used to in the Pacific Northwest, meaning the 6,800 feet of Jackson Hole, never seemed too intimidating.  Our warm-up went really well, and we got everything taken care of that we wanted to do.  It was great to feel so relaxed and calm going into our free dance.  After that we went back to the hotel to sleep for another hour before heading back to the rink.
I always get a bit stressed and nervous before I skate, and this year wasn't too different.  There's always this feeling of fear and anxiety for me, but I was able to get it under control with some belly breathing.  It also helped that while I was warming up, the student of a coach friend of mine skated her program to one of my favorite power songs, "Butterflies and Hurricanes" by Muse.  The song is about how this is our time, this is our moment, and how we have to do our best.  I think having my power songs is one of the best ways to get myself motivated and ready to go for competition, and for each competition I usually pick a new power song to work with.  This time, though, I actually went back and got my playlist of power songs from 2007, the last time I competed in Salt Lake City.  In any case, my power songs got me all ready to go!
Our five-minute warm-up went by quickly as well.  We made the decision to use it as a chance to get our feet under us more than to prepare our elements (a decision I only would not actually recommend to freestylers!), so we only warmed up two of our seven elements.  Last time we performed our free dance, which was at Harvard's An Evening With Champions ice show, we went out and skated our program without any on-ice warm up before the program, so this time we felt especially comfortable with the program.  Because we skated 5th in the Short Dance and 4th in the Free Dance, we had some very long backstage waits, so having a five-minute warmup didn't change much in how we felt.  I think those were the longest backstage waiting times I've had yet in my career - I've never skated so late in a flight before.
Roxette and I passed the time in the same way we did at both last year's Sectionals and at Nationals - by taking a bit of time to calm down and get focused, then by lip-syncing and dancing to our competitors' music backstage.  It sounds like a sort of weird ritual to have, but it helps us get relaxed and comfortable, get a little bit of blood flowing, get us into and feeling the music, and makes us laugh.  We usually lip-sync to whoever is skating to one of our power songs, "I'm Feelin' Good," which is a perpetual power song favorite, and then we also danced along to some Big Bad Voodoo Daddy before we got on the ice to get our feet under us during the break while the scores for the team before us were prepared.
Our program felt really good, I think.  We went out and hit everything pretty well, and the audience seemed really really involved.  Our music is from the Broadway version of "The Addams Family," and we got quite a few laughs and smiles from the judges as we performed the beginning of the program, which is really goofy and fun.  It's a new sort of theme for both of us to explore, because we've both done almost exclusively dramatic and classical programs, so it's a new but fun challenge to take on the silly and campy characters from The Addams Family.  Apart from my missing a hold near the beginning and one turn that I didn't control well in the circular step, we nailed the entire program.  In fact, we were awarded level 4's for every element except our step sequences, which was a really exciting moment for us.  We also gained several points from our grades of execution.  Our technical base value was the highest in the event (tied for first), and the total technical mark was only .14 behind the leaders, which was so exciting for us.  We even learned that we aren't too far from getting higher levels on our step sequences, so we should be able to push our score even higher.  Our total free dance score was 64 point-something, right up against the winners' 66 point free dance, so we were so thrilled to have been so close to the other teams.  In fact, our free dance score was the 4th highest of any Junior team in any section.  Not bad for a run through where we just wanted to make it to the end!
We spent the rest of the afternoon watching the other events.  Roxette's brother came in 3rd in Novice Men and will also advance to the U.S. Championships, and we also got to watch the Senior Ladies and the Senior Dance event.  Seattle Skating Club's Senior Lady, Olivia Olsen, skated a great free program to Swan Lake, and came in 10th overall.  I also ran into SSC's Sarah Gonzales, who was first alternate to the event.  Sarah is one of SSC's many collegiate skaters, and she is thriving here at the University of Utah, continuing to train alongside her studies.
We were especially excited to see our friends and training mates compete in the Senior Free Dance event, which turned out to be one of the highlights of the competition.  My former roommate and his partner skated a great James Bond-themed free dance to take silver, while my training mates from Michigan skated to gold with a brilliant free dance to "Stairway to Heaven" choreographed by Christopher Dean that had the audience on its feet.  After that my parents and I went over to my aunt and uncle's house and had a nice birthday dinner for my uncle and my mom.  When we got back to the hotel it was late, and so we packed for a bit and I went downstairs to spend some time with my friends.
All in all, it was a great end to a great competition.  It certainly had its stresses and unexpected moments, but we were so happy with the way it all came together in the end for us.  We know we have a lot to work on for Nationals, but we're really excited to get back to work after some much-needed downtime to rest and recover.
I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving and I'll see you at Christmas!

Mark's Sectionals Blog #3

Sectionals Blog 3

It's been a very busy week so far, and we haven't had much access to Internet either at the rink or at the hotel.  I think my last update was on Tuesday, so I'll start from there.

Tuesday we had an unofficial practice in the early afternoon, then our official short dance practice in the late afternoon.  We mostly needed to get our feet under us after the long trip - we were both a lot more tired than we had originally thought!  All those practices went really well and we felt really good going into Wednesday.  I also got to see our wonderful Juvenile Dance team, Gianna Buckley and Caleb Niva, and they looked wonderful on practice.  I also ran into our Senior Lady Olivia Olsen while warming up.  Not literally, though!

On Wednesday we followed the same plan, getting our feet under us on the unofficial ice then getting things set and comfortable on the twenty-minute warm-up.  I can't say how nice it is this year to actually have twenty-minute warm-ups.  Last year, we had nothing other than the one official session on the normal rink, and had to do all our other preparation at another rink nearby, meaning we were especially unsure of how the rink's ice would feel on the day of the competition.  We didn't feel our best on the unofficial or the warm-up, but we put on our game faces for the competition and we put out a pretty good performance in the Short Dance.  We ended up third in the segment because we missed a few of our levels, but the program read extremely well and I think the character of the dance really came across well.  It was especially nice to see that we got a lot of positive grades of execution, including solid +1's on the straight line lift and the midline not-touching footwork.  In fact, our footwork was the highest-valued footwork in the event!  We only got level 2 on our patterns, but there's plenty of time to grab those extra levels between now and nationals.  We're just so happy that we got that program out of the way because our free dance is more familiar and comfortable to us.

On Thursday we took an unofficial session to get our feet back under us and to get familiar again with our free dance, and we also got to watch Roxette's brother jump into second place in the Novice Men's short program.  Thursday also saw Gianna and Caleb place fourth in the Juvenile Dance event, meaning they'll be moving on to Junior Nationals in East Lansing, Michigan next month!  I'm just sad I won't be there that week to cheer them on!

Olivia also competed on Thursday, skating a nice short program that included a triple flip, triple toe loop, level 3 footwork and several strong spins on the way to a 10th place finish in the segment in a challenging field.  She competes her free skate shortly after our free dance tomorrow!

Today we decided to take as a recovery day for the most part.  Unlike most competitions, for some reason this year we have two days between our events instead of skating them back to back, which is really weird for me!  Last year was the first time I didn't skate events on consecutive days, and I'm not sure if I'm sold on the idea of a break.  Regardless, we took full advantage today, and chose to just do our official practice and get our free dance set to our satisfaction and call it a day.  Our free dance is to music from "The Addams Family" Broadway musical, and it's a lot of fun to perform because it has all sorts of different characters and Roxette and I get to really play off of each other.  We also have all sorts of fun lifts and tricks in there to keep things interesting.  After our practice we stayed to watch a few events, and we got to watch our Ann Arbor teammates win the Novice Free Dance and the silver medal in Novice Dance.  Later on I got to cheer on friends in Junior Men, and I just got home from cheering for my many friends who competed in the Senior Short Dance, including training mates, friends and former roommates!  It was a great event and I can't wait to see their free dances tomorrow.

Well, a lot has been going on, and we're having a total blast!  I'll try and get some more updates out before I leave on Sunday!




Sectionals Blog #2 - Breakfast!

Well we made it to Salt Lake City late last night in one piece, after some long and bumpy rides from Boston.  I discovered this morning that our hotel doesn't have free wi-fi, so I'll likely be blogging from my phone the rest of the week... Hopefully I'll find some at the rink I can use!
Today we're mainly just focusing on getting acclimated to the new surroundings.  I didn't sleep all too well because I'm so used to bad dorm room beds, but I still feel awake and refreshed!  We've got two sessions of practice today; one unofficial and one official for our Short Dance.  It's going to be really great to get out there and skate finally!
The first day is probably one of my favorite days of the competition because, at least for us dancers, we haven't seen most of our friends since Nationals back in January, or as the case might have been, the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships, so that first day is one full of happy reunions and hugs.  I can't wait for breakfast when I get to see so many of them!  Last night I got to see one of our coaches from Michigan, Yasa, at the airport, and hopefully today we'll get to see our training partners!  I'm also really excited to finally see some of the new faces of Team Seattle who will be competing in Juvenile Dance, as well as our two Senior Ladies, Olivia Olsen who is competing, and Sarah Gonzales (who lives and trains here at the University of Utah - yay college!), who is first alternate.  A few other familiar faces will also be here from Team Seattle, and I can't wait to see everyone!
I'll do my best to report on all of Team Seattle this week; sometimes I'll have to take a nap here or there, but hopefully I'll be able to keep you all updated!
Now for food!

Mark's Sectionals Blog - Entry #1

Hey everyone back in Seattle!

Mark Jahnke & Roxette Howe, photo by Sarah BrannenRoxette and I have been in a whirlwind of preparation for our big trip to Salt Lake City this week!  Since there are a lot of new faces back at SSC since I trained there I figured I should probably start with an introduction.

I'm Mark and I began skating at Seattle Skating Club back in 2002 when I first moved to Seattle.  For almost every day for the seven years that followed I made the trek up to Olympicview Arena in the wee hours of the morning to skate before school.  I graduated from the Lakeside School in 2009, and moved to Boston to go to Boston University, and them transferred to Harvard University, where I'm a junior concentrating in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.  Somehow between all of my classes and coursework I have managed to find the time to train full-time.  Luckily, I'm actually a bit ahead on work right now, plus we have not one, but two days of downtime between our events this week, so there's plenty of time for me to stay up-to-date on my schoolwork.  Oh, and practice.  I almost forgot about that part!

My partner Roxette and I have been skating together since May, and we've been working very hard this season to get things together.  We just made our performance debut last month at Harvard's annual An Evening With Champions show alongside Oksana Baiul and Kim Yu-Na among other luminaries, and we're hoping to improve even more this week at Coasts.  Roxette is from Los Angeles and has been skating since she was very young, and has been ice dancing for two years.  She, too, is a college student taking a full course load from Oakland University, where she is a freshman.  Unlike me, though, she's always on top of her work, and because of her diligence, actually has very little work to do this week.  At some point it'll hit me what a good strategy that is!

I'm writing this to try and put off the packing process.  Ironically, despite crossing two mountain ranges and time zones, this will be one of my shortest trips yet to a competition - a mere four hour flight!  That pales in comparison to some of my other trips, the longest of which lasted 36 hours one-way in a caravan of SSC skaters and family members coming home from Junior Nationals.  THAT was an adventure!

Regardless, in the morning I will find myself lugging a suitcase and garment bag to class despite the strange looks of the students around me.  And then, the adventure begins!  I'm really looking forward not just to competing, but to seeing everyone who will be coming in from all over the Section.  We'll also get to see our training partners and one of our coaches from Michigan, too, which will be especially fun!  As some of you know, we train during the school year in Boston with Barret Brown and Tom Lescinski, and during summer and school breaks we train in Ann Arbor, Michigan with Yaroslava Nechaeva and Yuri Chesnichenko.  It's a great combination, and it has allowed us to really improve every aspect of our skating.  We're really excited to show off our hard work!

Until then,

Mark and Roxette



Holiday GALA is December 10th!