Ice Network

McNamara, Carpenter repeat as junior champions

Parsons siblings win second silver in a row; Novi team claims bronze
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Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter captured their second straight U.S. junior crown, taking the title with a personal-best score of 170.04. They are just the fourth U.S. dance team to win back-to-back national junior championships, joining Jessica Joseph and Charles Butler, Morgan Matthews and Maxim Zavozin, and Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton. -Jay Adeff

Another season, another set of gold and silver junior ice dance medals for Wheaton Ice Skating Academy training partners Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, and Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons.

Completing the "Groundhog Day" trifecta, Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit won a second consecutive bronze.

McNamara and Carpenter, the world junior silver medalists and winners of the Junior Grand Prix Final in Barcelona last month, showed a subtle and emotionally diverse interpretation of Bizet's Carmen filled with finely crafted elements, including a straight-line lift with complex changes of position that many senior teams would envy. They gained four Level 4 elements, earned 96.62 points for the free dance and finished with 170.04 points, nearly 15 more than last season's winning total.

"There were a few bobbles here and there, but our ultimate goal for this competition was to show our maturity in the performance aspect of our program, and I think we did a really good job of doing that," McNamara, 16, said.

Bizet's passionate opera has been interpreted by too many ice dance teams to count, but adding their names to the ever-growing list was a risk McNamara and Carpenter were willing to take.

"Part of the challenge that inspired us to pick this music was trying to show our own interpretation of it, and what we felt about it that was different than other teams we've seen skate to it before," Carpenter said.

Now it's on to the 2016 World Junior Figure Skating Championships in Hungary, where the Maryland-based couple is expected to fight for gold.

"We definitely want to take the maturity and presentation and multiply it and go even further at junior worlds," Carpenter said. "This was a dry run to see how far we could go, and I think, based on this performance, we learned we can go even farther with it."

The Parsons skated an intricate, dramatic program to a medley from the Medialuna Tango Project that featured four Level 4 elements. It earned 95.17 points, giving them a total score of 165.46, a more-than-20-point improvement from last season.

"That was the most cohesive program we've done the whole year," Michael, 20, said. "We were very together the whole time. We made a few mistakes; actually, we made some of the same exact mistakes (on twizzles and footwork) together."

The four Maryland-based skaters, who have trained side by side at Wheaton Ice Skating Academy (WISA) since they were young children, have competed several seasons at the junior level. Neither team has decided whether it will move up to the senior level next season.

"It's a step that requires a lot of input, a lot of thought, a lot of consideration from many factors," McNamara said. "We're young, we have time to grow, we're still growing, and we want to make sure when we make that jump it's at the best possible moment."

Pogrebinsky and Benoit's free dance to a medley of Romeo and Juliet soundtracks capitalized on the tall couple's long lines and striking on-ice presence and power.

"I think we both thought that it could have been a little stronger toward the end," Benoit said. "It was really a modern take on the Romeo and Juliet story; we were trying to escape, together. Whether we succeeded or not is left open at the end of the program."

The couple, 13th at junior worlds last season, trains in Igor Shpilband's group in Novi, Michigan, where they share the ice with world silver medalists Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

"We train at the same times as most of the senior teams, so it allows us to watch how Igor coaches them, and how they reflect on his feedback and what they can do with it," Pogrebinsky said.

"Each coach has the ability to get to know each skater as an individual and dissect the way they learn," Benoit said. "The way Igor teaches us versus the way he teaches Madi and Evan and other teams is all toward the same goal but all completely personal."

Another Novi team, Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko, skated a lively free dance to selections from Yugoslav musician Goran Bregovic and placed fourth with 152.79 points.