Mackenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen dance their way to gold in junior dance

A year of work, a year of travel, a year of learning and finally, Mackenzie Bent and Garrett MacKeen are the Canadian junior ice dance champions.

Bent, 16, of Uxbridge, Ont., and MacKeen, 19, of Oshawa took the silver medal last year in junior and so took the past year to hone their skills further, get some junior grand prix events under their belt and try some new things.

They skated to a medley of Karen Carpenter, Beach Boys and other songs from the era, the idea spurred because coach Carol Lane particularly liked the winsome notes of Carpenter. So Bent and MacKeen danced to a host of tunes from the era, and even a vocal that wasn’t a singing voice, but a radio host voice.

“We wanted something a bit boppy,” Bent said. “It grew on us,” MacKeen said. The judges at the Canadian Tire National Skating Championships give it all the nod.

One of their lifts in the free dance caused them anguish before their international season started, when Bent fell and got a concussion from a lift where she lies on MacKeen’s back and he pushes her up, matching the lyrics. But a team skating behind them in practice made it all go awry. Bent spent three days in bed, doing nothing. It could have been worse: her tailbone took the first impact of the fall.

The new champions won the free dance with 82.98 points and the overall gold medal quite comfortably with 142.61 points.

Melinda Meng, 14, and Andrew Meng, 17, of Montreal won the silver medal with their beautiful routine to House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, choreographed by Marie-France Dubreuil and Patrice Lauzon. The young team was third in the free skate with 77.65 points and second overall with 134.54 points.

Bronze medalists Brianna Delmaestro, 18, of Port Moody, B.C., and Timothy Lum, 18, of Burnaby, B.C. finished only .29 points away from a silver medal (134.25) with a strong second-place finish in the free skate, earning 79.65 points, only three points away from a free skate win. Delmaestro and Lum joined forces only this year.

Bent and MacKeen had a season of strong international experiences, winning the gold medal at a junior grand prix event in Riga, Latvia. They finished seventh at the other, puzzled by the difficulty levels that the technical panel had handed them in the short dance – and then being unable to climb back out of the hole for the free. “We performed well,” MacKeen said.

“We didn’t get much feedback,” Bent said. “That was kind of the way it was. “ But the twosome came back with a new mindset, trusting their training. “It was a learning experience,” Bent said.

Beverley Smith

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