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Forum and wire reports, Published January 30 2011

Moorhead's Ladwig, skating partner finish second at U.S. Figure Skating Championships

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Moorhead’s Mark Ladwig and his skating partner on Saturday position themselves to get spots representing the United States at the World Figure Skating Championships.

Ladwig and Amanda Evora finished in second place in pairs at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, a few points behind Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin.

The U.S. can send only two pairs to the worlds event in Tokyo in March.

When Yankowskas first suggested to Coughlin that they skate to “Ave Maria,” Coughlin said absolutely not.

His mother – his best friend, the woman who dragged him to the rink when he was a child and supported him every step of the way over the next two decades – died in the middle of the night last Feb. 24.

His emotions were too raw, too fresh to be confronted day after day.

“I didn’t think I would be able to get through the season,” Coughlin said, his eyes welling up.

Now all that grief and sorrow has been replaced by feelings of joy and triumph.

Yankowskas and Coughlin won their first pairs title at the U.S. Championships, mesmerizing the crowd with their angelic yet powerful “Ave Maria” program. Later, Olympic and world silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their third straight ice dance title, leading a 1-2-3 sweep by their rink in Canton, Mich.

After Coughlin’s mother died, he had no interest in skating to something that would lay his emotions so bare.

“What I wanted to do was go out and clown around on the ice and not acknowledge what happened. That would have caught up with me at some point,” he said. “I dealt with it every day and it eventually got a little easier.

“I knew what I was feeling inside,” he added. “I’m not the most artistic skater – I kind of look like a linebacker on ice sometimes, and I know that. They helped me take what I was feeling and put it on the ice.”

When the final notes of the music trailed off, Coughlin buried his face in Yankowskas’ hand and began to weep. He then stood up and searched the crowd for his father, waving and smiling when he finally located him.

“That’s something we’ll keep with us forever,” Coughlin said. “I told myself no matter what we did today, to get out there on the ice and perform that program was going to be a happy moment for me.”

Topping that moment would have been tough, and Evora and Ladwig never came close. They had three visible errors, including her putting her hand down on a throw triple loop and a shaky landing on their last lift.

Yankowskas, of Pellham, N.H., and Coughlin, of Kansas City, Mo., finished with 188.45 points, more than three points ahead of Olympians Evora and Ladwig. Defending champs Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett rallied to finish third after a poor short program, but it wasn’t enough to secure a third straight trip to the world championships.

“The short program was pretty tough for us, and it would have been easy to give up. But we definitely fought for everything today,” said Barrett, of Venice, Fla. “We definitely need three teams for worlds because there are so many good teams out there.”