Skaters from all across the country will converge on Greensboro, North Carolina; as the national championships take place all week, leading to the top four Senior categories. In addition to a ticket to Shanghai, China for Worlds, national envelopes will be decided for next year’s Junior and Senior Grand Prix assignments. The is the second time Greensboro played host to nationals, having hosted the event previously in 2011.
Here are our picks for this weekend.
Analysis – This category is deep and has lots of potential. All nine skaters who had a bye this season have a chance to make the podium this weekend. Of course, the top draw is defending champing Jeremy Abbott, who avenged his 2013 Worlds snub with an Olympic birth the next year. However, he had a lackluster Grand Prix season (two 5th place finished at Skate America and NHK Trophy) and has opened the door to fellow Olympian Jason Brown. Brown’s Grand Prix season also had mixed results (2nd place at Skate America and 5th at Rostelecom Cup), but will be a solid contender for the podium this weekend. Last year’s 3rd place winner Max Aaron has potential to win the top spot, as well. Currently ranked 10th in the world, he took 3rd at this year’s Skate Canada, but took a step back at Rostelecom Cup. The fourth skater is Richard Dornbush, who came in 3rd at Cup of China, but faltered at Trophee Bompard, finishing 7th.
Skaters to Watch – Stephen Carriere, Joshua Farris, Ross Miner, Douglas Razzano, and Adam Rippon each have some international experience under their belt and have a chance to move up in international national envelope selections. Of the skaters making Nationals that has the potential for future greatness, keep an eye out on Nathan Chen. He’s won numerous international competitions on the junior Grand Prix circuit over the last two years and is making his senior debut this weekend.
1. Jason Brown
2. Richard Dornbush
3. Jeremy Abbott
Analysis – This is one of the deepest lineups in recent memory. However, a few of the skaters have struggled with inconsistency in international competition this Grand Prix season. One skater that hasn’t lost her touch is Ashley Wagner, who had an incredible fall season with a 2nd place finish at Skate Canada, 3rd place at Trophee Bompard and a berth in the Grand Prix Final, where she finished 3rd. Gracie Gold had been a bit below her potential when she finished with disappointing finishes at Nebelhorn Trophy (3rd) and Skate America (3rd), but she came back and won the NHK Trophy to qualify for the GP final (She was forced to withdraw due to injury.). Polina Edmunds just wasn’t right skating, finishing 4th at Cup of China and 8th at NHK Trophy. Neither has Mirai Nagasu (6th at Skate America, 4th at Rostelecom Cup), but both will figure to be in contention.
Skaters to Watch – Courtney Hicks has come on strong this Grand Prix season, being a triple-double combo of making the podium at Skate Canada and Trophee Bompard this fall. If she does hit it, she may be the surprise (Not really) of the weekend. Other skaters that will look for possible national envelope selections are Ashley Cain, Samantha Cesario, Christina Gao, Hannah Miller and Angela Wang. Of the skaters who made it through sectionals, Karen Chen & Caroline Zhang have the potential of cracking the top 10.
1. Ashley Wagner
2. Gracie Gold
3. Courtney Hicks
Analysis – US pairs have struggled within the last two years, and with the loss of three top teams is in danger of falling further behind internationally. That said, there is a glimmer of hope with the latest crop of pairs team that “could” make waves internationally. The best of the best are Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim, who were 4th in each of their Grand Prix appearances this season (Skate America and Trophee Bompard) and are currently 6th in the world. Their main competitors are Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier who close in the ISU World rankings in 7th with a 2nd place finish at Skate America and a 4th place finish at Rostelecom Cup. Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage also will figure to play into podium contention after 5th and 4th place finishes at Skate America and Skate Canada. Olympian Nathan Bartholomay will have a new partner this year, as Felicia Zhang was replaced by Gretchen Donlan.
Skaters to Watch – Marissa Castelli won last season’s pairs championship with Simon Shnapir. His departure opens the door to a new partnership with teammate, Mervin Tran. Two teams to watch out for are Jessica Noelle Calalang & Zack Sidhu, who made their senior debut in Grand Prix (7th at Cup of China and 5th at Rostelecom Cup) and Tarah Kayne & Daniel O’Shea who have former 2-time silver pairs medalist Amanda Evora as their coach.
1. Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim
2. Haven Denney & Brandon Frazier
3. Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage
Analysis – With Meryl Davis & Charlie White siting out this season, a new champion will be crowned. The best team right now is Madison Chock & Evan Bates, who dominated Grand Prix competition this season with wins at Skate America & Rostelecom Cup and a 2nd place finish at the Grand Prix final. Though not assured of the top spot, their chances of winning depends on one of these teams faltering. Olympians Maia & Alex Shibutani have two 2nd place Grand Prix finishes (Skate America & Cup of China) but struggled at the end of this season in the Grand Prix Final. Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue had a strong showing in Grand Prix competition, finishing 3rd in each of their events (Skate Canada & Trophee Bompard). Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton struggled this season in their 2nd and 3rd Grand Prix events as seniors (6th at Skate Canada, 7th at Rostelecom Cup). Finally, Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker did very well in their Senior Grand Prix debut, finishing 3rd at NHK Trophy and 6th at Rostelecom Cup.
Skaters to Watch – Keep an eye out on Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus. They finished 5th at Skate America last year and have plenty of experience internationally. Another is Alissandra Aronow & Collin Brubaker who last year finished 8th and won their sectional to make Nationals. Same goes for the teams Danielle & Alexander Gamelin and Anastasia Olson & Ian Lorello who also won in the Midwestern and Pacific Coast sectionals.
1. Madison Chock & Evan Bates
2. Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue
3. Maia & Alex Shibutani
As an added bonus, here are our selections for Juniors