Parsons siblings ride "Firebird" to novice title

Colorado Springs and Detroit-based teams take silver and bronze

Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons topped the novice dance field in Greensboro.
Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons topped the novice dance field in Greensboro. (Paul Harvath)


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By Lynn Rutherford, special to
(01/24/2011) - While they just missed winning today's free dance, Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons' inventive routine to Stravinsky's "Firebird" gave them the U.S. novice title.

The siblings looked in command at the start, hitting a complicated combination lift that showed off Rachel's flexibility. Although they faltered slightly on their synchronized twizzles, gaining just Level 1 for the element, their 60.46 points was good enough for second in the event. With winning scores in both compulsory dances yesterday, they gained gold with 112.82 points.

"The lifts went pretty well today," Rachel, 13, said. "I can usually get into my positions well enough, but the hard part is doing it quickly."

As often with sibling teams, even a big win didn't come without a disagreement.

"I really thought it was great," Rachel said.

"You were great -- I think I could have been better," Michael, 15, said. "I didn't make any mistakes, but I could have been more expressive."

The siblings, who train at the Wheaton Ice Academy in Maryland under Alexei Kiliakov, Elena Novak and Dmytri Ilin, skated with other partners until this season. Now, they're firmly committed to building a career together.

"We really want to move up to juniors next season and maybe start traveling internationally," Rachel said.

"That would be great," Michael said, in agreement for once.

Colorado Springs-based Jessica Mancini and Tyler Brooks took first in the free dance and captured the silver medal with a charming routine to Louis Armstrong's rendition of "La Vie en Rose" and "La Mer."

The program, highlighted by Mancini's spunky personality and a solid twizzle sequence, earned 60.51 points. They ended with 109.19.

"We were a new team this year; I was intermediate last year, and we've been working like crazy," Brooks said. "We came here with not too high expectations, but it's turned out great."

"That's the best we've performed the program all season," Mancini said. "We tried to tell a story and the audience responded with smiles."

The bronze medal went to Detroit-based Kaitlin Hawayek and Michael Bramante, who performed a sophisticated routine choreographed by coaches Pasquale Camerlengo and Angelika Krylova to selections from The Red Violin and Strictly Violin.

The challenging program gained Level 4s for five elements, but a mistake on the combination spin dropped it to Level 2.

"This is my first nationals, and people have always told me your first nationals is memorable. They were right," Bramante, who teamed up with Hawayek about six months ago, said.

Hawayek, who lives in Buffalo, N.Y., endures a grueling commute to train at the Detroit Skating Club.

"It's a five-hour drive, and I'm there four days a week," she said. "Anything to skate."

Elliana Pogrebinsky and Ross Gudis, who train with the Parsons siblings at Wheaton Ice Academy, were fourth with 105.91.