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Juvenile Champs Want Intermediate Gold

by Barry Mittan
Barry Mittan

The 2004 U.S. juvenile ice dance champions, Ilana Morse and Jackson Raney, moved up to intermediates this year, hoping to take another gold.

The 2004 U.S. juvenile ice dance champions, Ilana Morse and Jackson Raney, moved up to intermediates this year, hoping to take another gold. “We want to win intermediate now,” Morse said. “I want to compete as long as I can. I want to skate forever.” They began their season by finishing third overall in the compulsory dances and sixth in the free dance at the Lake Placid Ice Dance Championships in August.

Morse, now 14, said she began skating when she was five because she had seen skating on television. “I first started ice dancing when I was nine,” she continued, “When I tried it I liked it better than freestyle.” Raney, who is now 12, started skating when he was six. “My brother was already skating and I followed him into it,” he said. He started dancing when he was eight. “I didn’t like jumping,” he said. “So I tried dance and I liked the music and the programs better.”

The dancers began skating together in 1999 after Raney moved to New York from Texas and both skaters needed a partner. The dancers train at Sport-O-Rama Ice Rinks in Monsey, NY with Inese Bucevica. They train before and after school every weekday for about three and a half hours a day in the summer and two hours a day in the winter. Morse takes ballet twice a week. Other than that, their off ice training is sporadic (2-4 times a week) as they have to concentrate on their schoolwork.

Morse just started ninth grade in the local public high school, where her favorite subject is math. What she likes most about being in school is participating in school plays, especially musicals. Morse has already appeared in productions such as Guys and Dolls and Annie Get Your Gun. Raney has just started seventh grade through home schooling. He also enjoys math. The Skaters don’t have any specific plans for a career although Morse said, “I’ll probably coach skating while going to college.”

Both of the skaters are musically inclined. Raney plays the guitar, while Morse plays the flute. He likes rap and rock music, while she prefers pop and hip-hop. Both of the dancers like to skate to fast, upbeat music. “They’re better at quick and fast music,” said Bucevica, who choreographs all their programs. “Last year they did swing music, but this year, I wanted something happy but more serious. We are using music from a Federico Fellini movie, 8 1/2, that hasn’t been used too many times in this country.”

“We started on the free dance in February,” she continued. “At this level, every little thing is much harder, more advanced. Every skill takes more time to learn. It’s hard to do everything in unison. It’s a lot of hard work for them to learn a dance they will do only three times. But they are a good match at this time. They have good personalities and don’t fight. Ilana usually takes the lead. Jackson is more laid back. At this point, it all works.”

For fun, Morse likes to hang out with friends and go to the movies, and go shopping at the mall. Raney likes to go to the mall, play video games, and build go-karts. He likes action and comedy movies, while she’ll watch “anything good.” Both of the skaters like to chat and play games on their computers. “I’m online more than I should be,” Morse admitted. Morse has over 150 Beanie Babies and collects ceramic shoes, while Raney collects animals. He currently has a cat, a dog and some fish and used to have a snake and 20 hamsters, one of which he gave to Morse.

Both of the skaters have already traveled extensively with their families. Raney has been to Jamaica, Turkey, Italy and the Mediterranean. He enjoyed Rome the most. Morse has been to Europe, mainly London and Paris, and on a cruise. She wants to see the rest of the world someday.

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