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Kahle and Wong Leading After the Short Program

January 07, 2002|Lauren Peterson

Danielle Kahle has made a habit of scaling a hill near her home in Thousand Oaks nearly every day for conditioning purposes.

"It's a mile up and a mile down," Kahle said.

For exercise Sunday, the 12-year-old climbed to the top of the heap after the short program in the novice women's competition in the 2002 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships at the Sports Arena.

Going into today's free skate, Kahle has an edge over second-place Lisa Dannemiller of Ann Arbor, Mich., and third-place Natalie Mecher of Waukegan, Ill.

The performance by Kahle, the Southwest Pacific regional and Pacific Coast sectional novice champion this season, continues a successful year. "She's really blossomed," said Nadine Graziano, her coach. "She seemed to be very comfortable out there."

Novice men's leader Jason Wong of Lexington, Mass., also made himself at home in his first trip to Los Angeles, and he had reason to be upbeat after taking a circuitous route to the championships. Wong, who placed ninth at last year's nationals, had to overcome nearly five months of not skating last year because of a broken left ankle.

The injury, partially related to a recent six-inch growth spurt, meant the 15-year-old needed a bye into regional competition. An injury to the same ankle after regionals brought byes into both the sectionals and nationals.

"It's been a struggle," said Wong, who was the first competitor of the day and set a high standard with six first-place votes, two seconds and a third. "But I wanted to skate well, and I wanted to show I deserved all the byes."

Casey McCraw of Colorado Springs, Colo., is in second place, and Robert Dierking of Jamestown, N.Y., is third, going into the free skate. Katie Boxwell and William Sears of New York lead the novice pairs competition, and Meryl Davis and Charlie White of Detroit are leading the novice dance competition.

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