Eliot Halverson checked into a hotel Wednesday night, just to maintain the routine he follows for a national championship. Rohene Ward has stayed at his Minneapolis home, preferring to sleep in his own bed and play with his miniature pinscher puppy.

Both local skaters ran through their first official practice sessions at Xcel Energy Center on Thursday, tuning up for the men's short program they will skate tonight. They already have spent plenty of time at the rink; Halverson watched the junior women's free skate and the junior men's short program, while Ward coached Kirsten Olson of Savage to a seventh-place finish in the junior women's competition. Thursday, both said they are eager to get onto the ice for real.

"Getting here was probably the biggest goal for me," said Halverson, 17, a St. Paul resident who won the U.S. novice title in 2006 and the national junior title last year. "I get to compete and show off in front of the crowd. I'm really excited."

Ward, 24, was ready to get on with a busy week. "I'm ready to be done," he said. "It's been a long process, and I'm ready for a vacation."

Halverson did not practice his jumps Thursday, following his philosophy of tapering his training before a big event. Ward did, and coach Page Lipe said he was unusually calm. Halverson's short program is set to "Libertango," while Ward will skate to "Eleonore."

Ward plans quadruple jumps in both programs and said his aim is to leave these nationals satisfied with his performance. "It's all about how you feel, and I want to feel good," he said. "I want to feel proud."

Chau team third

They didn't have the trademark glasses, but they did have the prep-school attire -- and the magic. Skating to music from a "Harry Potter" movie, Michael Chau of Oakdale and partner Tracy Tanovich finished third in Thursday's junior pairs short program with 50.83 points.

Chau, 17, and Tanovich, 11, just moved up to the junior level this season after winning the U.S. novice title in 2007. Though they dressed like the teen wizard, they showed impressive maturity and difficulty in their program. Chelsi Guillen and Danny Curzon of the Coyotes Skating Club of Arizona were first with 53.65 points, and Jessica Rose Paetsch and Jon Nuss of Colorado's Broadmoor Skating Club finished second with 52.13.

"That was the best short program we've done all year," said Chau, who lives and trains in Florida. "There's no pressure on us as first-year juniors. And we feel very good about our long program."

They will perform that free skate to the Nutcracker's "Snow Queen Suite" -- a perfect Winter Carnival theme -- this afternoon.


Even world-class athletes stumble once in a while. Ryan Bradley, the defending U.S. men's silver medalist, stepped awkwardly off a curb on Thanksgiving and did some damage to his left ankle.

Bradley said he has an avulsion fracture, in which the ligament pulled away a piece of bone and left bone chips in the joint.

Still, he has trained even his quad jumps through the discomfort. He took the quad toe loop out of the "Godfather" short program he will perform tonight but plans to use it in the free skate.

Hubbells win ice dance

Siblings Madison and Keiffer Hubbell rebounded from a fall in Tuesday's original dance to win the junior free dance, giving them the U.S. junior ice dancing title.

The Hubbells moved up from their second-place finish last year to earn their first U.S. championship. They scored 167.48 total points to finish ahead of Piper Gilles and Timothy McKernan of Broadmoor Skating Club (161.66).