by Michelle Wojdyla

The dance competition at the Eastern Sectional Figure Skating Championships opened this afternoon at the Factory Ice House in Wake Forest, N.C. with the novice compulsory dance. After the American Waltz and the Kilian, Chloe Wolf & Rhys Ainsworth have a 0.4 lead over Katie Wyble & Justin Morrow, 49.38 to 48.98. Wolf & Ainsworth won the American Waltz, while Wyble and Morrow took the Kilian.

“[The compulsories] felt as good as they have this past month, so we’re really happy about how we skated,” Ainsworth said. “We’re just trying to do our best.”

“If that means we get to nationals, then that’d be great,” Wolf added.

Wyble and Morrow were all smiles after seeing the posted results.

“We’ve only been skating together for five and a half months,” Wyble said, “so it’s a relief to be at the top for only skating together that long. We figured that everyone would be so close to each other that it’d be a dog fight no matter what.”

Teams in third through fifth are fighting a tight battle with less than 0.2 separating them. Claire Schretlen & Chase Brogan (41.91) took third in the Killian and fifth in the American Waltz, while Una Donegan & Andrew Korda (41.85) reversed that. Liza Branella & Ben Nykiel (41.72) took fourth in both dances.

Schretlen & Brogan are also in their first season together, and are pleased with the progress they have made since the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships in August.

“We’re happy with [third],” Brogan said. “It felt like we did two good skates. I feel like we’re a lot more together now, a lot more used to each other.”

A stumble in the Kilian cost Donegan & Korda over a point in GoE.

“I think what happened is I stepped out too far on the cross roll going into the choctaw on the fifth pattern,” Korda explained. “I caught an edge and fell back on my heels a little bit. We recovered, though. No falls.”

“Usually it’s me doing it!” Donegan said, as their coach, Hilary Gibbons, laughed behind them. “It’ll be better when neither of us do it. There’s nothing we can do about it now. We’re going to go out and skate a good free dance tomorrow.”