Top Kids take to Park City Ice
When Midge Farkas’ husband Tom wanted to retire to Park City she had a few questions, but the most important one was whether there was a skating rink in the area. It was just weeks before the Park City Ice Arena was to open, so Farkas gave the OK and the family made the move from Silver Spring, Md., where Farkas had pursued her professional skating career for 25 years.
Two years after the move, Farkas is finally bringing a little bit of her hometown skating rink to Park City. This week, the Park City rink will host junior ice skaters from the Wheaton Ice Skating Academy in Maryland as they train and prepare for the U.S. Junior Ice Skating Championships bring held in Salt Lake at the end of the week.
Farkas has kept in close contact with her Maryland comrades since making the move, especially one young skater. Kristina Rexford, 10, one half of one the youngest intermediate ice dancing pairs in the country along with partner Michael Parsons, 12, arrived on Monday with her mother, Karen to prepare for the competition at the end of the week. The Rexfords were the Farkas’ neighbors in Maryland, and as Karen tells it, the reason her daughter is skating. For years the Rexfords would watch Midge head to the rink, piquing Kristina’s interest. Finally, the Rexfords decided to enroll their daughter, then age five, in a skating class, and the rest was history. Kristina was soon noticed by the former Russian champion skater Elena Novak and became involved in the Academy. Now Rexford and Parsons compete in the intermediate division among much older pairs.
The Academy is a brainchild of Novak’s partner Alexei Kiliakov, also a Russian champion. The two run a rigorous ice dancing program in Maryland teaching juvenile and intermediate skaters.
"They don’t let our American ways slip into skating," Rexford laughs.
According to Rexford, Kiliakov teaches the students in a group setting, comparable to how ballet dancers are trained. She says the unconventional set up has produced a true team that has finished well at numerous competitions.
"It helps kids not be so lonely and it makes them feel like a team," Rexford said.
Training follows the traditional rigorous Russian style. The children train six days a week and activities include skating, ballet, ballroom dancing and strength and conditioning exercises. Most of the Wheaton kids compete and win against much older youth.
"They work us really hard, but they get results," Rexford said.
Ice dancing is a bit different than traditional pairs skating. Although many of the moves are the same, overhead lifts and jumps are not allowed. The emphasis is on footwork and is comparable to traditional ballroom dancing. Balance and coordination between the pair is of the utmost importance.
When Farkas learned that the Wheaton school would be heading to Salt Lake for the national event, she jumped at the chance to bring them up to the Park City rink. After talking to rink general manager Stacey Noonan, she was able to secure practice time for the youth.
"I understand what they’re going through," Farkas said. "I really wanted them to come up."
Not only is the practice ice at Park City far less expensive and more flexible than the practice time at the competition site in Salt Lake, but the time spent in Park City is invaluable to all parties involved. For Kiliakov, it’s an opportunity to keep his highly talented students and their planned routines under wraps. For the students it’s a chance to practice far away from the pressure and spotlight of the competition.
"They can just get out there and acclimate," Rexford said. "Stretch their legs and get ready for Wednesday."
For the Park City rink, it’s an opportunity for budding young skaters in the community to witness the prowess of some of the most talented skaters in the country.
It’s also an opportunity for Farkas to show off the beauty of her town and her favorite ice rink.
"The kids are excited to skate somewhere new," Rexford said.
Rexford and Parsons took second place at the recent Champions Cup in Philadelphia this past September and a hoping for are similar showing this weekend. The Wheaton Academy will practice at the Park City rink in the early part of the week. The U.S. Junior Ice Skating Championships will take place Wednesday, Nov. 28 through Dec. 1 at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex. Qualifying rounds will begin midweek, with the final rounds on Friday and Saturday. To purchase tickets, visit http://www.usjuniorchampionships.com.
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When it comes to the U.S. census, let’s just say Park City has… room for improvement.