Bent and MacKeen take narrow lead in junior ice dance

Mackenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen perform their Short Dance at the 2013 Canadian National Figure Skating Championships.

Mackenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen perform their Short Dance at the 2013 Canadian National Figure Skating Championships.

The 2013 Canadian Tire National Figure Skating Championships continued with the Junior Short Dance, which was exciting and nearly clean. Mackenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen (EO) are sitting in first place, followed by Madeline Edwards and Zhao Kai Pang (BC/YT) and Caelen Dalmer and Shane Firus (BC/YT).

Bent and MacKeen earned a personal best of 60.62 points for their Marilyn Monroe-inspired program to music from Smash which featured a smooth blues sequence. The duo really sold the theme in the second half.

“We have worked this program so hard and we just enjoy doing it all the time,” Bent said. “I think to finally have it to a place where we’re really happy with it is a great thing.”

Bent (15) and MacKeen (18) have a successful career over multiple levels—they have medals from the novice and juvenile levels—but they have not been in first going into the free dance at nationals since they were juveniles in 2008. They are not letting any pressure rattle them, though.

“We’re going to do the exact same thing, just trust our training, and get out there and compete again,” MacKeen said.

Hot on their heels are Edwards (16) and Pang (17), who won the components marks and garnered more positive Grades of Execution (GOE) than Bent and MacKeen. However, they only earned a level 3 for both Blues patterns, as well as their twizzles, while Bent and MacKeen received level 4 for those elements.

They scored 59.01 points.

“We don’t know for sure,” Pang said about the twizzles, which looked excellent to the untrained eye, “but on the third twizzle, I might have spun it.”

Edwards and Pang defeated Bent and MacKeen at Challenge last month, and they are motivated to skate well in the free dance, knowing that they are still in the game.

With the best international results of the junior teams this season, as well as three past national titles under their belt, performing under pressure is something that Edwards and Pang excel at doing.

“We don’t expect anything. I think we have a lot of experience, and it’s given us confidence, which is good for us,” Edwards said. “We still have to go out there and perform and do our job.”

Another battle has shaped up for the bronze medal, with three teams within just a few points of each other. Dalmer and Firus are leading that pack.

Sitting in third (52.73) heading into the free dance is a familiar position for Dalmer (15) and Firus (18), and they are hoping to hang on for their first national medal. They really performed in the program, making the elements look easy.

“I felt really good, especially just because it’s Nationals,” Dalmer said. “I think that’s the best we could have done.”

Heading into the free dance, Dalmer and Firus just want to enjoy their skating and make sure they save their best performance of the season for last.

“We’re going to just give it,” Firus said. “Give it all.”

Victoria Hasegawa and Connor Hasegawa (QC) are only half a point behind with 52.22 points. Their Blues levels were 2 and 3, the lowest of the top four, but they performed with freedom, something that they have been wanting to work on this season after a disappointing start to the year.

Following several competitions that were below their expectations for themselves, the Hasegawas made a major change, switching their training base from Montréal to Canton, Mich., with Marina Zoueva and Oleg Epstein.

Melinda Meng and Andrew Meng (QC), former training partners of the Hasegawas, are in fifth place (50.31). As last year’s novice silver medalists, they have made an impressive leap to the junior level, fitting in with a crowd of second- and third-year veterans.

The Mengs were one of the only teams in the field to try the hip-hop rhythm in the short dance, and their performance level has grown exponentially over the course of the season.

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