Next year, the national figure skating championships will be back in Salt Lake City - they were here as the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1984 - but for this season, the national championships are in Baltimore next month, and four members of the Utah Figure Skating Club have qualified.
Bountiful's Holly Cook (senior ladies), Centerville's Kenna Bailey (senior pairs), Farmington's Clay Sniteman (novice mens) and Layton's Shannon Smith (novice ladies) will compete in Baltimore Arena Feb. 6-12 for national placements.Cook, a high school senior, will be back for her third try in the senior ladies' division; she has been eighth and sixth in her first two years at the highest level skating has to offer.
Former national champion Debi Thomas, the Olympic runner-up, has retired to a professional life, leaving Jill Trenary and Karen Kadavy as the two most experienced senior ladies.
One of Cook's biggest young rivals will be former world junior champion Kristi Yamaguchi of Berkeley, Calif., who defeated Cook at the Pacific Coast Sectionals earlier this month. "I judged that meet," says Ida Tateoka, an international judge who belongs to the Utah Figure Skating Club. She said Yamaguchi is extremely graceful.
Yamaguchi also finished ahead of Cook at Skate America last year, taking third to Cook's fourth in the international event. Yamaguchi just returned from the NHK championships in Japan, where she finished second.
There will be 18-20 skaters in the senior ladies competition; other divisions will have closer to 12 competitors each - the four top finishers from each of the sectional competitions.
Bailey, 18, and her partner, John Denton, have just moved into the senior class this season after winning the national junior championship last year, and their possibilities "are hard to predict," says Tateoka, noting that the top two pairs from last year, Jill Watson/Peter Opegaard and Gillian Wachman/Todd Waggoner, retired following the Calgary Olympics. Wayne and Natalie Seebold, 10th in the Olympics, are the top returning pair.
Bailey and Denton have trained the past two seasons in California with John Nicks, a top national coach, but Bailey retains her affiliation with the UFSC. They finished second at the recent Pacific Coast Sectional.
Sniteman is in his second season as a novice; he was fourth nationally last season and was third at Pacific Coast this season. Smith is in her first year of novice competition and was second at Pacific Coasts.