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Aldridge and Eaton own one-point lead after short

Bonacorsi, Travis hot on their heels; Wheaton Academy teams perform well

Eaton and Aldridge recorded 54.42 points to finish first in the junior short dance
Eaton and Aldridge recorded 54.42 points to finish first in the junior short dance (Tom Briglia)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(01/25/2012) - Alexandra Aldridge took the ice for the short dance Tuesday dressed in bright orange-red, with an attitude to match.

"We had a lot of fire going into it," the 17-year-old Aldridge said. "We were ready to skate and dance."

That they did. The Junior Grand Prix finalists showed a Latin spark throughout their routine to Mark Anthony's "I Need to Know," skating brisk Cha Cha sequences and fast twizzles, and closing with some blazing Mambo steps. It added up to 54.42 points and a 1.03-point lead going into the free dance.

"I think that so far this season that was one of the most exciting short dances we've done," said Aldridge's partner, Daniel Eaton.

"Coming here from a competition where only the top six in the world are able to attend brought stars to my eyes. It was really overwhelming. We had a lot of fun there, and we skated great [placing fourth]. Nationals is huge for us and it's another stepping stone on a long list."

Aldridge credited their Detroit Skating Club coaches, including Pasquale Camerlengo, Anjelika Krylova, Massimo Scali, Elizabeth Punsalan-Swallow and Natalia Annenko-Deller, for getting them in top shape.

"Definitely we feel very prepared because we trained so hard for the final," she said. "We kept that same training pace going into nationals. It's paying off."

The short dance, an International Skating Union-devised hybrid of compulsory pattern dances and three additional elements, debuted in the fall of 2010. This season, juniors must include two sequences of the Cha Cha Congelado, done consecutively. They may be combined with other Latin rhythms including Cha Cha, Rumba, Samba, Mambo and Merengue.

Lauri Bonacorsi and Travis Mager opened their program with a superb three-part twizzle sequence. Their Cha Cha sequences were executed close together, and the program closed with an exciting rotational highlight [non-scoring] lift that had Bonacorsi in a straight horizontal position.

The 2011 U.S. junior silver medalists, who train in Aston, Pa., under 1980 Olympic ice dance champions Natalia Linichuk and Gennadi Karponosov, earned 53.39 points.

"The Cha Cha patterns weren't bad today; there is always room for more, more, more," Mager, 21, said. "It's a great springboard if there is more to our season, hopefully."

"We're happy because we skated a clean program and we feel we can do even more tomorrow," Bonacorsi, 18, said. "Our free dance is a program that is really special to us and we're excited ... We're ready to fight. There's another part of the competition; it's not over yet."

"I think the free dance speaks to who we are as skaters," Mager said. "It's more a style that we can do well, not that we can't do Latin, but I think [the free dance] showcases our talents even more."

Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons arrived in San Jose fresh from their fourth-place finish at the "_new">2012 Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Their short dance was highlighted by Level 4 twizzles and a highlight rotational lift with Rachel's legs in attractive bent positions. The Wheaton Figure Skating Academy (WISA) students earned 50.80 points.

"I thought we skated pretty well," Rachel, 14, said. "There were definitely things we could have improved on, but we had a good skate."

"It was a clean skate," Michael, 16, said. "We could have gotten our levels on the Cha Cha; we got Level 3 on both sequences. We'd like to improve that."

Another team from WISA, Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter, is fourth with 49.11 points.