Parsons, MacMillan reign in juvenile dance

Family affair in Lake Placid for both skaters and parents

Juvenile dance gold medalists Rachel Parsons and Kyle MacMillan love Lake Placid.
Juvenile dance gold medalists Rachel Parsons and Kyle MacMillan love Lake Placid. (Jo Ann Schneider-Farris)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(12/13/2008) - Bringing home the gold is great, but having fun is more important.

Rachel Parsons and Kyle MacMillan, who train at the Wheaton Skating Academy in Maryland, won juvenile dance gold at the 2009 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships on their first try, but Parsons' mom is more impressed by the good cheer at their Lake Placid bed-and-breakfast.

"It's fun, because you're not doing it alone," Christine Parsons said. "I couldn't care less about the results. The group at Wheaton is so social. We're all staying at the same place here at Lake Placid. The kids are running from room to room, saying, 'Do you have any ketchup? Any milk?' while the adults are sitting having coffee and sewing up costumes."

Parsons and MacMillan, two 11-year-olds who train under Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak and Dmytri Ilin, share the ice at Wheaton with six other teams, including Parsons' brother Michael, who's competing at junior nationals in intermediate dance.

"We're one big family," Christine Parsons said. "We're so lucky to be part of it."

The youngsters took the title with 83.29 points, winning both the compulsory dances (the Fiesta Tango and Ten Fox) and the free dance.

"I thought we skated pretty well," Rachel Parsons said of their program on Saturday, set to selections from Edvard Grieg.

"There were some things that could have been better, but I especially liked the twizzles."

The youngsters have only trained together for a year, and this was Parsons' first trip to the U.S. Junior Championships. MacMillan placed sixth in juvenile dance last season with Victoria Suttora.

"I think we were able to win because our coaches helped us a lot, and we both concentrate a lot when we practice," MacMillan said. "[The Academy] is really well organized, because you've got different groups and so on."

MacMillan added that goals for next season include moving up to the intermediate level and medaling at the U.S. Junior Championships again.

The silver medal went to Colorado Springs-based siblings Rebekah Schneider-Farris and Joel Schneider-Farris. They placed third in both compulsories, and their Tango free dance also took third, giving them a total of 76.75 points.

The duo is coached by Tiffany Hyden-Dombeck at the World Arena, where they share the ice with juvenile dance bronze medalists Katie Shipstad and Logan Bye and many other pair and dance teams.

"I thought it was probably the best free dance we did all year," 12-year-old Rebekah said. "We had a lot more expression and speed than we usually do."

Her 15 year-old brother agreed.

"It was a good one, the best so far. Of course, we'll have a new dance next season," he said.

The youngsters also compete in juvenile pairs and are coached by Dalilah Sappenfield, the trainer of U.S. pair champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker.

"It's cool to do both; it keeps things interesting," Joel Schneider-Farris said. "It's not like one is easier than the other. The jumps in pairs are a little bit harder, but then again in dance, the lifts can be harder, and the footwork is more complicated.

"In pairs, there's a library list of lifts you have to do, but in dance, you do what you want. Your coach and choreographer make them up, but you have to do them."

Shipstad and Bye's free dance, set to music from Hairspray, placed fourth, but they were second in both compulsories and ended the event with 76.71 points, a miniscule four-hundredths of a point out of second place. They are coached by Patti Gottwein-Britton and Rich Griffin; U.S. senior dance competitor Trina Pratt choreographed their lively free.

"The program felt very strong," the 12-year-old Shipstad said. "We both messed up our twizzles, but other things were good."

Like the other top teams, Shipstad and Bye are inspired by training with so many other youngsters in a family atmosphere.

"It's fun to watch the other skaters," Shipstad said. "I like having them on the same session. It's always interesting to see what everyone else is doing and try to get better."

"I like it too," the 10-year-old Bye added. "It inspires us and keeps us going."