For the second year in a row, Yukon will be represented by figure skaters at the national championships.
Whitehorse’s Rachel Pettitt and Bryn Hoffman qualified for next month’s nationals with top-10 placings at the Skate Canada Challenge in Edmonton on Thursday.
“I’m so excited,” said Pettitt. “I just have to get back to training and hopefully peak by the time nationals come.”
Last season Pettitt became the first Yukon skater to win gold at national championships and at the 2015 Canada Winter Games while in novice women.
Now in junior women, the 16-year-old took ninth place out of 54 skaters in Edmonton.
“It was another learning experience for me,” said Pettitt. “Going into my short I felt very nervous, even for my practices and my warm up. But I managed to loosen up a little bit in the long. Overall I’m pleased with how I skated.”
Pettitt, who skates for Yukon’s Arctic Edge Skating Club but trains in Kelowna, scored 43.99 for 11th in her short, 76.72 for eighth in her free, for an overall score of 120.71 – about 10 points off her personal best.
She also placed third for skaters in the B.C./Yukon section at Challenge.
“In my short I had a few mistakes, but I managed to get all my difficult elements done,” said Pettitt. “I didn’t have any falls or anything, it was just not the best I could have skated it.
“In my free program I pretty much landed all my jumps – I slipped out of one. Unfortunately I had an invalid element, so I lost six points, so that wasn’t the best.”
Hoffman and Albertan skating partner Bryce Chudak punched their ticket for next month’s nationals with a fifth-place finish in junior pairs.
The two placed fourth at International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix competitions in Colorado and Poland this season.
“It definitely wasn’t what we were hoping for,” said Hoffman. “We went into this competition coming off a super high from both our grand prix. We were ranked the top international Canadian team …
“It wasn’t the finish we were disappointed with, but we didn’t skate nearly as well as we had been training or how we skated at competitions previously.”
Hoffman and Chudak, who train in Calgary, scored 43.90 in the free, 74.94 in the free for a combined score of 118.84.
They placed seventh at the 2015 National Skating Championships in January.
“We plan to keep training and we’re going to work with our sports psychologist and our coaches to try to figure out what went wrong, what we can do better and improve for nationals,” said Hoffman. “We have high goals for nationals and we want to accomplish them even though Challenge didn’t go as planned.”
Hoffman, 18, also competed in junior singles, finishing 39th and will not compete at nationals in the category. She posted a combined score of 91.08.
It didn’t help that her free was her fourth performance in two days with both pairs programs falling between her short and free for singles.
“That was only my second singles competition of the season because I took time off singles when we were doing internationals for pairs in Colorado and Poland,” said Hoffman. “I’m disappointed with that result, but my main focus this season has been pairs, so I’m not super upset with that one.”
Arctic Edge’s Mikayla Kramer skated in her first Challenge competition last week.
The 13-year-old placed 21st out of 60 skaters in pre-novice ladies, a division not held at nationals.
“I was just going to have fun,” said Kramer. “At the beginning of the season I didn’t even think I would make it to Challenge, so I was just so happy that I made it.
“I was going for around 18th place, but the positions didn’t really bother me.”
Kramer registered a 29.19 for 22nd in her short, 50.47 for 21st in her free, for an overall score of 79.66.
She qualified for her first Challenge with a fourth-place finish at the B.C./Yukon Section Championships last month with a score of 91.49.
“I did skate better at sections, but sections was the one that counted for me to go to Challenge. But I was till very happy with my skate at Challenge,” said Kramer.
“It was so much fun and the best part was probably meeting two Olympians afterwards,” she added, referring to Canadian Olympians Kaetlyn Osmond and Gabrielle Daleman.
The 2016 National Skating Championships willl take place Jan. 18-24 in Halifax.
It won’t be the first time Pettitt and Hoffman compete in Nova Scotia. They represented Yukon there at the 2011 Canada Winter Games.
“Hopefully it’s at the same rink,” said Pettitt. “That would be cool. It was nice.”
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