Utah's Holly Cook turned in a near-perfect performance in Saturday's final freestyle event at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships to finish fourth overall and establish herself as one of the nation's best skaters.
Cook received a standing ovation from a crowd of 13,000 following her performance at the Baltimore arena.She was the last skater to take the ice following a trio of near-flawless performances by Jill Trenary, who finished first overall; Kristi Yamaguchi, who took second; and Tonya Harding, third.
"It's hard to stand in the back room and listen to everybody clap," Cook said. "I just kept thinking, `Thank goodness I don't have to follow Kristi again.' I hate to follow her. It was hard following Tonya, too, but I figured I've gotta go out and do what I gotta do."
Although she said she could hear the applause, Cook couldn't see the seven triple jumps that Yamaguchi and Harding each completed during their routines. But her coach, Kris Sherard, was standing rinkside and knew what Cook faced in the freestyle - the longest event and most important, accounting for 50 percent of the total score.
"It was the most emotional performance for me ever watching Holly skate," Sherard said. "I had been sitting in the back room with her. I knew what she was up against, and I knew what she was feeling. I told her to forget everything else and set a goal for herself. I was very proud of what she did."
Cook acknowledged that her last triple-toe jump had her worried. "I thought I was going to fall, but I thought, `No way - I've landed all my triples so far and I'm not going to give up now.' So I just held onto it."
Her determination particularly paid off with the nine freestyle judges. Her lowest mark for technical merit was a 5.4 and her highest mark was a 5.8 out of a possible 6.0. The extremes for composition and style were 5.3 and 5.8.
Her scores were the only ones resulting in boos from the audience, which apparently thought they were too low. Three of the judges ranked Cook in third place, three in fourth and three in fifth.
"I'm happy with my fourth-place finish," Cook said. "I wanted to finish third or fourth, and I achieved my goal. I also wanted to come here and try everything and I did, so I am happy."
The Viewmont High senior said she'll work on adding another triple jump to her freestyle program.
Cook's fourth-place finish makes her the second U.S. alternate on the World Championship Team competing in Paris next month. She will go to the competition if one of the other three top finishers can't compete.
The Utahn's powerful performance ended a week of excellent results for Utah club figure skaters. Kenna Bailey of Centerville and her partner, John Denton, finished sixth in their first appearance in the senior pairs division, while Clay Sniteman finished fourth in the men's novice and Shannon Smith seventh in the ladies' novice.
Bailey and Denton handled the difficult moves well in their routine until Bailey fell trying to land a double flip-jump combination.