Ice Network

Wheaton Academy next dance mecca of the U.S.?

McNamara and Carpenter, Parsons driven by friendly intra-rink rivalry
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Training mates Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons (left), and Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter pose after winning the silver and gold medals, respectively, at the 2016 World Junior Figure Skating Championships. -Getty Images

When the success of American ice dance is brought up, the discussion usually focuses on the many elite training centers in Michigan.

However, there is a new location in the United States that may give the crew in the Wolverine State a run for its money as the unofficial ice dance capital of America: Wheaton, Maryland, home of 2016 world junior champions Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter and world junior silver medalists Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, who train alongside each other under the coaching team of Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak and Dmitry Ilin.

In addition to winning the world junior title in Debrecen, Hungary, this season, McNamara and Carpenter won their second consecutive U.S. junior title, both of their Junior Grand Prix (JGP) assignments and the 2016 JGP Final in Barcelona, Spain. The Parsons siblings won gold at each of their JGP events, finished third in the JGP Final and took junior silver at the 2016 U.S. Championships.

The Wheaton skaters' success at the 2016 World Junior Championships was the best showing for U.S. ice dance teams at the event since 2009, when Madison Chock and Greg Zuerlein, and Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani finished first and second, respectively.

Icenetwork talked with McNamara and Carpenter, and the Parsons about their success this season, their experience training at the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy and their plans for the future.

Icenetwork: You each showed strong performances at the world junior championships, winning gold and silver for Team USA. What are your thoughts on this achievement?

Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter: We're definitely very happy with both our performances and the results at junior worlds. The U.S. has many strong up-and-coming ice dance teams and is very competitive as a country in figure skating, so it feels good to be keeping up that reputation for our country and take home the world junior title. We're excited to keep improving upon what we did in Debrecen and to carry the U.S. to many more victories!

Icenetwork: How do you feel about your season in general?

McNamara and Carpenter: We were so happy with how the first part of the season had gone. We really wanted to finish it even stronger than it began and skate our programs the best we ever had, leaving nothing on the table. The result clearly shows that we accomplished exactly that.

Icenetwork: You compete against each other on the ice at times, but it seems like there is a warm relationship between your teams off the ice. How are you able to be competitors and friends at the same time?

McNamara and Carpenter: We believe it is pretty simple: Both of us enjoy the friendly competition we have as teams. Moreover, we know that we've both improved immensely over the course of our careers because we're always pushing each other to be better in practice and competition. The rivalry between us has helped to bring us even closer.

Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons: Our secret to staying friends on and off the ice is embracing the rivalry and using it to improve. We are incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to train with another great team that pushes us to always be on top of our game.

Icenetwork: You each train at the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy and share a coaching staff. Tell us about the atmosphere at the academy and working with Kiliakov, Novak and Ilin.

McNamara and Carpenter: All of our coaches are fantastic. They all bring their own perspective and style to training, so we always benefit from working with each of them. This is what makes our group so successful for so many skaters. Because our coaches see things in a unique way, each team can learn and train in the way that's best for them. We have been working with them from such a young age, they really are like family to us.

Parsons: We would not be where we are today without our incredible coaches. The academy is really just a huge family, and it's both comforting and encouraging to know we all have each other's backs. Having multiple coaches means we have many different sets of eyes telling us what we can do better. We think we have the best training program in the world.

Icenetwork: And what can you tell us about your work with Novak, who contributed so much to the choreography of each of your beautiful programs?

McNamara and Carpenter: Elena Novak is an extremely talented choreographer. She sees programs in music before she even steps on the ice to put together the movements. That being said, Alexei also helps to choreograph our programs. We are lucky because with both of them working together, we get the best possible choreography for our programs.

Parsons: We love working with Elena. She is a great coach and a creative choreographer, and every year we look forward to creating new programs together.

Icenetwork: Many consider Michigan to be the capital of ice dance in the United States, and even the world. In your opinion, can Wheaton become the next one?

McNamara and Carpenter: There is no doubt that Wheaton will become the next ice dancing capital in the U.S., if not North America as a whole. Part of the reason that we're only just starting to be recognized is because we are still relatively new to the international skating world compared to the coaches who have teams in their late 20s. The many successes that the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy has already had nationally and internationally proves that its training is producing a new wave of champions.

Parsons: Without a doubt. Not only do we have highly competitive junior teams on the world stage, we have many little teams with huge potential. You will be seeing champions coming from the academy for a long time.

Icenetwork: How do you see yourselves as competitors at the senior level?

McNamara and Carpenter: The transition from junior to senior is the biggest move there is between competitive levels. Senior is extremely competitive, especially on the international scene. We will have to apply absolutely everything we've learned over the course of our career if we want to be successful in senior when we do decide to move up.

Parsons: We see some really intense competition in senior. It was a very fun season to watch and to see our future competition, as well as our role models. We are always inspired by watching the senior teams.

Icenetwork: It's too early to talk about new programs, but could you share some ideas, images and emotions that you would like to portray on the ice next season?

McNamara and Carpenter: For the next season, we want to continue improving on everything we've been working on. This includes both our technique and strength. We want to continue to develop our maturity on the ice as a figure skating couple, and show different skills and personalities in order to enhance the emotional depth of our skating.

Parsons: Each year we try to put ourselves outside our comfort zones, so expect something completely different from what we've done before and something very fun to watch.

Icenetwork: What about your skating will you try to improve this offseason?

McNamara and Carpenter: During this offseason, we want to get our bodies in the best shape possible so that we can magnify the power and size of our skating. We want to continue to show our maturity and better improve our presence on the ice that makes us stand out. In addition, we want to eliminate any potential for injury while we are training during the competitive season.

Parsons: We are always working with our coaches to improve our technique. This offseason we will work to improve our speed, edges and power. We are also working hard to improve our presence and emotion on the ice.

Icenetwork: What would you like to achieve next season?

McNamara and Carpenter: Just like we've said, we want to continue to improve upon what we've already put out over the course of the last season and in Debrecen. Showing that we are on top of the competition is always our goal. However, we feel that the most fulfilling achievement is making ourselves better as a team. Our biggest goal is always to do the best that we can do, skate strong and enjoy ourselves along the way.

Parsons: We want to show the world that we are still improving every year. We will continue to push ourselves to be the best that we can possibly be and, hopefully, that will translate to success internationally.