Dedication paid off for Detroit dancers at the JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest in Miami.
The 11 dancers won 20 medals in 17 dances in early August in the cool comfort of the Herbert and Nicole Wertheim Performing Arts Center at Florida International University.
“We practiced for several months,” said Detroit dance coach Linda Taylor. “We were there every Sunday for a couple hours in the dance studio at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield. That helped us come together as a team.”
Practice isn’t a foreign concept to this group of teenagers.
“They all compete through a dance studio. They have competitive dance in their background,” Taylor said.
All 11 Detroit dancers won Maccabi gold for their Israeli and open group numbers.
After earning bronze and silver in Israeli dance the last two years, Detroit made it to the top this year.
“[Dancer] Sloan Lemberg is a big reason for that,” Taylor said. “She reworked our routine, made it more fluid and entertaining.”
Lemberg also was a member of Detroit’s bronze- and silver-medal winning Israeli dance teams in 2015 and 2016.
Detroit’s Mandi Fealk, Haley Whelan, Emma Goldschmidt, Chloe Schram and Nicole Spizizen earned gold medals for solo routines, Lemberg, Rachel Weiss and Alex Mison won silver medals and Alana Appel won a bronze medal.
Two small groups — one with Fealk, Spizizen, Weiss, Schram and Ava Mison and the other with Lemberg, Appel, Whelan, Alex Mison and Mari Lynn — each won a gold.
Duos of Alex Mison and Whelan and Appel and Lynn also were gold-medal winners.
Dancers can win medals for their choreography.
In the 15-16 age group, Detroit won bronze and silver for the Lemberg, Appel, Whelan, Alex Mison and Lynn small group and Lemberg’s solo.
In the 13-14 age group, Detroit won silver and gold for Schram’s solo and the Fealk, Spizizen, Weiss, Schram and Ava Mison small group.
Detroit’s dancers, along with the other athletes and artists in Miami, participated in the JCC Cares community service project, helping the Sole Hope organization transform donated blue jeans into shoes for children in Uganda.
“It was the most impressive and moving community service project I’ve seen in the five years I’ve been involved in the Maccabi Games as a parent and coach,” Taylor said.
Her daughter Melanie Taylor, a Detroit dancer for four years, was the dance team’s assistant coach this year.
Detroit swimmers Michael Umanskiy and Kylie Pazner also returned from Miami with medals.
Umanskiy won 10 medals: four gold, two silver and four bronze.
Two golds came in individual medley relays and the others were in the 400 freestyle relay and 200 backstroke.
He won silver medals in the 500 freestyle and 200 breaststroke and bronze medals in the 200 freestyle relay, 100 breaststroke, 400 IM and 200 freestyle.
Pazner won gold medals in the 500 freestyle and 200 freestyle relay, silver medals in the 200 backstroke and 400 medley relay and a bronze medal in the 400 freestyle relay.
Other Maccabi Results
Detroit’s Jenna Silverman won a gold medal in 16U girls tennis in Miami. Madison Narens of Detroit had to leave the competition in the semifinals because of an injury.
Benjie Stern of Detroit was a member of the Austin (Texas) 14U boys soccer team that finished 1-4.
Detroit had one volleyball player. Nia Kepes was on a team with players from Bensonhurst (N.Y.) and Miami.
“We had two wins, two losses and one tie and we finished in fifth place,” Kepes said. “I didn’t mind not winning a medal, though, because all that matters is we had fun.”
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