Smooth’s Podium Picks – US Championships 2016


All eyes are on the Twin Cities, as skaters from 20 different categories participate in this year’s National championships.  Winners on the senior circuit get to go to Boston for this year’s World Championships.  Also on the line are assignments for Four Continents, Grand Prix, Junior Grand Prix, Junior Worlds and the Youth Olympics in Lilihammer, Finland in February.

Full results found here!

Here are our picks for this week!


Max Aaron looks to break free from his 2nd place doldrums. 



Analysis – The withdrawal of top skater Jason Brown has made this year’s competition very competitive.  More than likely, one skater this weekend will move on to Worlds, depending on Brown’s health status.  That makes this weekend even more important.  One of the favorites this weekend is Max Aaron.  He had success last fall, winning Skate America, his first Grand Prix gold.  But a 7th place finish at Trophee Bompard ruined his Grand Prix Final hopes.  He’ll try to improve his 4th place finish at last year’s Nationals. Adam Rippon is another of those skaters gunning for the podium.  Rippon finished 2nd at last year’s Nationals.  This season he finished 4th twice in Grand Prix competition (Skate Canada and Rostelecom Cup) and 2nd in non-GP events (Finlandia and Golden Spin of Zagreb).  Ross Miner had success this fall, finishing 3rd at Rostelecom Cup with career best numbers.  He’ll try to improve his 6th place finish from last year.  But the one skater that may have hold this weekend is Nathan Chen.  He’s undefeated in Junior Grand Prix competition, including a JGP Final win.  This will be his 2nd year on the senior circuit, where he finished a surprising 6th.   One skater who will not participate this weekend is Richard Dornbush, who pulled out due to a herniated disc.

Skaters to Watch – Other skaters to watch out for are Timothy Dolensky (7th at Skate Canada, 14th at last year’s Nationals) and Grant Hochstein (4th at Cup of China and 9th at last year’s Nationals). Sectional winners include Jimmy Ma (1st at Eastern; 18th at Nationals last year.), Vincent Zhou (1st at Midwestern and 4th at Junior Grand Prix Final) and Sean Rabbit (1st, Pacific Coast and 12th in Nationals last year).

Smooth’s Picks

  1. Nathan Chen
  2. Max Aaron
  3. Adam Rippon
Gracie Gold

Gracie Gold looks to dethrone Ashley Wagner this weekend.



Analysis – Nine of 10 skaters from last year’s Nationals will compete at this year’s event.  All have gained a great deal of experience in International events.  All eyes will be on defending champion Ashley Wagner, who parlayed a great Grand Prix season (1st, Skate Canada; 4th, NHK Trophy and 4th, Grand Prix Final).  Her biggest competitor will be Gracie Gold, who finished 2nd last year and put together a solid Grand Prix season, as well (2nd Skate America, 1st SP, Trophee Bompard and 5th, Grand Prix Final).  Polina Edmunds finished 4th last year, but didn’t quite have the Grand Prix season she hoped for (6th, Skate Canada, 4th, Rostelecom Cup).  Courtney Hicks won her first ever Grand Prix medal, finishing 2nd at NHK Trophy. She hopes to improve her standing from last year’s 8th place finish.  Karen Chen was a surprise 3rd place finisher at last year’s Nationals and was supposed to do well in senior competition this season.  But that didn’t happen, as she struggled in Grand Prix competition (5th, Skate America; 5th, Cup of China). Three spots at Worlds are up for grabs.

Skaters to Watch – Olympian Mirai Nagasu continues to press on in her skating career, never giving up hope despite a 10th place finish at last year’s Nationals.  She had a 5th finish at NHK Trophy this season.  Angela Wang (15th, Nationals; 8th SP, Trophee Bompard), Hannah Miller (9th, Nationals; 10th Cup of China, 11th Moscow) and Tyler Pierce (7th, Nationals) look to compete for a podium spot. Sectional champions include Franchesca Chiera (1st, Eastern), Bradie Tennell (1st, Midwesten) and Carly Gold (Gracie’s twin sister, 1st, Pacific Coast).

Smooth’s Picks

  1. Ashley Wagner
  2. Gracie Gold
  3. Courtney Hicks
Alexa Scimeca Chris Knierim

Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim look to make it two in a row.



Analysis – US pairs skating has been given a reprieve from certain disaster.  Much of that success can be contributed by the team of Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim.  Since becoming a pair in 2012, they’ve gradually improved their standing in the world, placing on the podium twice in Grand Prix competition (2nd, Skate America, 3rd, NHK Trophy) and moving to 3rd in the latest ISU standings. They’re the odd-on favorites to repeat as National champions.  Their closest competitors are Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea, who finished 3rd last year and had a good Grand Prix season (6th, Skate America, 4th Moscow).  Madeline Aaron & Max Settlage finished 4th last season and continue to improve their standing with solid Grand Prix performances (5th, Skate America; 4th Skate Canada).  Jessica Calalang & Zack Sidhu are another team to look out for.  They finished 5th last year and have two years of Grand Prix experience (7th at NHK Trophy).

Skaters to Watch – Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran finished 6th last year and had a strong Grand Prix season (4th, Skate Canada; 6th SP, Trophee Bompard). They could surprise the judges this weekend.  Sectional champions include Caitlin Fields & Ernie Utah Stevens (1st, Midwestern) and Jessica Pfund & Joshua Santillan (1st, Eastern) & Erika Choi Smith & AJ Reiss (1st, Pacific Coast)

Smooth’s Picks

  1. Alexa Scimeca & Chris Knierim
  2. Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea
  3. Marissa Castelli & Mervin Tran
Maia Shibutani Alex Shibutani

Maia and Alex Shibutani look to grab their first National championship.

Ice Dance


Analysis – One of the more competitive competitions this weekend, five returning Ice dance teams are capable of winning the top podium spot.  Defending champs Madison Chock & Evan Bates may have missed a step this Grand Prix season, finishing 2nd at Cup of China and losing in the Grand Prix Final.  Still, they are close favorites.  Their main competitors are Maia and Alex Shibutani, who were 2nd last year, but were able to win their first ever Grand Prix event at NHK Trophy. Madison Hubbell & Zachary Donohue were 3rd place holders last season and showed some promise with a 1st place short program finish at Trophee Bompard and a 3rd place finish at NHK Trophy to qualify for their first Grand Prix Final (6th overall).  Kaitlin Hawayek & Jean-Luc Baker were 4th place winners last season and had a strong Grand Prix season, finishing 4th at Skate America.

Skaters to Watch – Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus finished in 5th last season and struggled in Grand Prix competition (5th, Skate America; 6th NHK Trophy).  Sectional champions include Charlotte Maxwell & Ryan Devereaux (Eastern), Danielle Thomas & Daniel Eaton (Midwestern) and Karina Manta & Joseph Johnson (Pacific Coast).

Smooth’s Picks

  1. Maia and Alex Shibutani
  2. Madison Chock & Evan Bates
  3. Madison Hubbell & Zachary

Here are my for Junior Picks

Aleksei Krasnozhon

Men – Aleksei Krasnozhon: 200+ points at sectionals makes him the skater to beat.


Vivian Le

Ladies – Vivian Le: Two 3rd place finishes in Junior Grand Prix competitions gives her the edge. 


Lindsay Weinstein & Jacob Simon

Pairs – Lindsay Weinstein & Jacob Simon: Only one of two teams with JGP experience.


Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter

Ice Dance – Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter: The current World Junior Grand Prix Champions and this weekend favorites. 



About smoothjazzandmore

I'm a TV producer and an Internet radio broadcaster. I also write for my blogs (An Op-Ed Blog and a Football Blog) here at WordPress.
This entry was posted in Figure Skating, Figures skating, Ice Skating, Skating, Uncategorized, US Nationals, USFSA and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Smooth’s Podium Picks – US Championships 2016

  1. Jens Lyon says:

    Nathan Chen, eh? It could happen! 🙂

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