There was a point where teams in the Mixed Pairs division at the FPA Worlds would be fighting for second place. Between 1995 and 1998, Dave Schiller and Amy Bekken were so dominant that they seemed unbeatable. Last year, Schiller and Bekken did not compete, and Dave Murphy and Brenda Savage won the mixed crown. This year, Bekken is expecting her first child with husband Schiller, and Dave Murphy suffered a career ending back injury in the spring. There would be another new mixed pairs champion.
Now, that didn’t mean Dave Schiller was relinquishing his mastery of mixed pairs. The seven time champion teamed up with Judy Robbins to make a run at an eighth title. And Brenda Savage didn’t give up either. Even after developing an entire routine before Murphy’s injury, she persevered and teamed with Pat Marron for the Worlds.
Other teams were chomping at the bit too. Jeff and Cindy Kruger have competed together for years with uneven results, but they were a dangerous team. Arthur Coddington and Lisa Hunrichs Silvey were a new team on a roll; they won the Summerfest Open over the Krugers, Judy Robbins/Larry Imperiale and several other formidable teams.
Two new contenders emerged at the Worlds. Anne Graves and Peter Laubert seedbusted into the finals by placing second behind Hunrichs Silvey/Coddington in the stacked first semi. Mary Jorgenson and Dan Yarnell did not make an impact at the Summerfest Open, but they exploded to win the second semi. Amid these emerging teams there was disappointment as well. The Krugers edged last year’s runners up, Lori Daniels and Paul Kenny, for the last finals spot by only 0.5 points.
Mixed Pairs provides very diverse performances. Some teams approach the division like any other. They play a straightforward game, create cool co-ops, go for hard moves and see what happens. Brenda Savage/Pat Marron, Jorgenson/Yarnell and Dave Schiller/Judy Robbins are examples of this type of team.
Other teams treat Mixed Pairs as its own animal, with its own personality and style of routine. They emphasize the interaction of the male and female players and create something unique that is not usually seen in the Open or Women’s divisions. The Krugers, Graves/Laubert and Hunrichs/Coddington represent this approach. Neither philosophy is required, and which is favored depends on who is on the judging panel. As with any freestyle competition, the most important thing is to pull off the performance in as appealing way as possible with few errors.
Defending champion Brenda Savage and Pat Marron had qualified third in their semifinal pool, so they led off the finals. They were an athletic team. Savage is known as one of the most aggressive women players, and Marron is of the most technically sound and quickest players in the game. Their co-ops were solid and packed with technical skills like a Savage’s scarecrow brush and her counter juice take off Marron’s throw. They went for big moves and big catches, but both players seemed to get spooked by the wind. They seemed tentative, and it disrupted the momentum of their performance. At one point, Savage and Marron made two The saves in a row because of wind issues. They went for a lot, but they also dropped seven. That took them out of contention for the title, but they might have been kept back in the standings because of their music. Their song was lively but hypnotic. It didn’t showcase their team and drill home the magnitude of what they did pull off.
The thing is, someone should tell the Krugers that they should be winning every time they step on the field. It’s a mystery why their talent has never brought them a major mixed pairs championship. Their routines include some of the most difficult co-ops in mixed pairs, and they are a very polished team. When the finals come, though, they never seem to pull their routine off cleanly, and this year was no exception. They put themselves in a hole with three early drops. Cindy caught a big spinning crow to get them back on track. They continued to attempt huge moves and combos. Cindy yogi’d to a phlaud pull by Jeff. Jeff sent a barrel skidout to Cindy. Cindy hit skid row, a double spinning barrel catch and a one handed turnover. Jeff cartwheeled into a spinning barrel catch. In case you haven’t noticed, this is not basic freestyle. These are world class, aggressive moves. And the team had a structure to their routine. Their speedflow section ended on a music break. It seemed like they stuck with their planned catches even though a tricky wind made those catches harder, and despite the quality of what they attempted, they ended up with seven drops.
Anne Graves and Peter Laubert were two of the success stories of the 2000 FPA Worlds. In 1999, Laubert was eliminated in the prelims in every division he entered. In 2000, he came back and made the finals in all three divisions he entered. Graves had an awesome weekend, hitting her big moves and playing ultra-clean in both the Women’s and Mixed finals. Graves and Laubert’s routine did not include the level of difficulty of the previous two teams, but it had a higher level of confidence. Laubert and Graves played solid and clean with only two drops and lots of co-ops. Graves caught several gitises, including one to end the routine. Laubert caught a spinning crow and executed his trademark body rolls and back shoulder roll with a juice pullout. This was the underdog team all tournament, and they seedbusted unrelentingly. They laid down the law for all teams to follow.
Something must have worn off from Graves/Laubert because Schiller and Robbins were next and turned it on to a thumping dance version of Candle In The Wind. Their routine was more edgy and had less flow than Graves/Laubert, but the difficulty level was off the scale. It was a tech attack. Robbins had a little trouble with the wind on the first co-op, but they held it together, caught and moved on. Schiller was on fire, hitting an upside down bolt kick very accurately to a behind the back catch, executing his one handed turnover through his own double legover, and pulling off under the neurons after a standing gitis pull. Robbins kept up with double spinning pulls and technical passes to Schiller in the co-ops. Schiller ended the routine with a catch on the end of the music, and they left the field with only two drops and two saves.
Mary Jorgenson and Dan Yarnell had three tough acts to follow: Graves/Laubert, Schiller/Robbins, and their own scorching semifinal performance. As is often the case, there was a letdown, and they could not duplicate their level of play from the day before. They dropped the first co-op. Jorgenson missed her trademark gitis catch. Yarnell missed a reverse kick from the ground, and had two drops and a save all in a row near the end of the routine. The highlights of their performance were how they conveyed the Texas vibe of the music, Yarnell’s double spinning phlaud to end one of his indies, and a crushing crow by Jorgenson. They finished with seven drops and were out of contention for the title.
Lisa Hunrichs Silvey and Arthur Coddington’s routine was very different from Schiller/Robbins’. Whereas Schiller/Robbins combined co-ops with a shredfest, Hunrichs Silvey/Coddington used a choreographed approach to create something more theatrical with three separate pieces of music. It had plenty of difficulty, including playing the first half of the routine with two discs. Each player was also capable of hitting massive indies, but it was a different kind of routine. Their job was to pull it off and let the judges sort out the details.
Hunrichs Silvey and Coddington played solid throughout the entire four minutes. They hit their opening perfectly and didn’t seem to experience any of the wind problems the other teams dealt with. The opening included co-ops in which one disc spun on the spare disc and others that demanded switching the spare disc from hand to hand. In another co-op, Hunrichs Silvey threw a double disc overhand, and both players executed simultaneous one handed turnovers on their weak spin.
On her first indie, the wind held Hunrichs Silvey’s set up and she dropped her planned gitis, but Coddington came back with a tumble while holding the second disc into a spinning crow. On her next indie, Hunrichs Silvey seemed spooked by the previous drop and let a flamingo catch get away from her.
They got back on track through another set of co-ops that included a music change from dance music to Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger.” It was here that they hit their stride. Coddington hit a solid but slightly conservative indie to set up a third indie for Hunrichs Silvey, who came back with a vengeance to catch her combo with a phlaud. That set Coddington up to let loose. He completed a triple spinning legover pull to a double spinning diving crow.
Their ending was a fun mambo instrumental, which they hit well except one co-op pass that bounced off Hunrichs Silvey’s leg onto the ground. Their last co-op included three restricted sets to restricted pulls and ended with Hunrichs Silvey grabbing a standing gitis on the end of the music.
It took the judges a while to sort it all out, but in the end Hunrichs Silvey/Coddington edged Robbins/Schiller 65.4 to 64.6 points. Graves/Laubert took third with 57.7. The Krugers and Jorgenson/Yarnell were in almost a dead heat for fourth, with the Krugers taking the decision 53.6 to 53.1. Defending champ Savage and Pat Marron had to settle for sixth with 50.7 points.