Ice Network

Wheaton teams sit one-two after samba short dance

McNamara, Carpenter show inventive lift; Pogrebinsky, Benoit sit third
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Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter took a big step toward finally reaching the top of the junior dance podium by winning the short Wednesday with 64.16 points. -Jay Adeff

Two teams from Maryland's Wheaton Ice Skating Academy (WISA) sit atop the junior field after 12 couples performed Latin American-style short dances at the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Wednesday night.

The Silver Samba, a bright, quick pattern dance done in close Killian (side-by-side) hold with deep knees, took center stage. No team performed it better than leaders Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, who earned 64.16 points and took a 3.55-point lead over their WISA training partners Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons.

McNamara and Carpenter, second in this event last season, skated with speed and attack to Nature Lounge Club's "Heart of Africa." They gained Level 4's for both of their Silver Samba patterns, as well as for an inventive straight line lift that had McNamara stretched diagonally across her partner.

"We love interesting lifts, and you only get one lift in the short dance, so you want to highlight it and make it impressive," Carpenter, 18, said.

"We wanted to show something people had never seen before," McNamara, 15, said.

Their remaining three elements, including twizzles and midline steps, earned Level 3, and they also notched the event's highest program components scores.

The skaters spent much time working with their WISA coaches, including Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak and Dmytri Ilin, building their speed and stamina.

"The Silver Samba is a very energetic dance," Carpenter said. "It's a big pattern, and in order to fill the entire ice, you want to have a lot of good speed and coverage, to show all of the lobes (of the pattern)."

The Parsons siblings, winners of the 2014 U.S. junior bronze medal, were just a step below their training partners, gaining Level 4's for their lift and twizzles but Level 3's for both Silver Samba patterns.

"It was pretty good, not our best, but we accomplished what we set out to do," Michael, 19, said.

"I think we can bring even more emotion, more power into it," Rachel, 17, said. "I felt like we skated clean, but I feel we could have done more."

It's already been a big week already for WISA. The academy brought 10 ice dance teams to Greensboro, winning gold in the juvenile and novice events, as well as two other medals.

Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit sit third with after a showy, energetic routine that brought many classic ballroom moves to the ice. The tall, well-matched couple showed one of the best lifts of the event: a fast closing rotational with Pogrebinsky in a full split position. The lift, twizzles and one of the samba patterns gained Level 4, and they earned 58.92 points.

"It was definitely one of our better skates," Pogrebinsky, 16, said. "We were living it."

The couple trains in Novi, Michigan, under a group of coaches headed by Igor Shpilband. They also work with area ballroom experts Susan and Steven McFerran, who help train many of Shpilband's teams in the intricacies of ballroom.

"The McFerrans are absolutely phenomenal; they are great at what they do," Benoit, 18, said. "We spent a lot of time with them both on and off the ice, really working on getting the minute pieces of the movement. Elli is a natural; it took me more work."

Shpilband, who is coaching five junior ice dance teams in Greensboro, teamed Pogrebinsky and Benoit in April 2014, and he is delighted with the result.

"They are a very hard-working team," Shpilband said. "Both of them are good skaters, and they are a good match. They follow up with all of the corrections they are given, which is a very good quality to have."

The coach is less pleased with this season's short dance requirement of two patterns of the Silver Samba, which takes teams about 60 seconds to perform.

"The structure of this season's short dance is a bit congested," he said. "You have to do two patterns of the Silver Samba, and the (midline) steps, with the other requirements (twizzles and lift). So, in three minutes you have to show all of this, plus a little skating and dancing. It's tough to do. Sometimes you go from one element to the other."

Two other teams coached by Shpilband and his associates -- Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko, and Holly Moore and Daniel Klaber -- sit fourth and fifth, respectively, heading into Friday morning's free dance.