For the first time since 1985, Kansas City becomes the host of the US Figure Skating Championships. That year, Brian Boitano and Tiffany Chin claimed the ice. 400 of the top figure skaters, from juvenile to senior will make their way to capture glory. The brand new Sprint Center will take the main events, while the others will skate at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena in Independence, Missouri.
Analysis – 2016 champion Adam Rippon won’t be in Kansas City to defend his title due to injury. That leaves a host of skaters who look to grab the mantle this weekend. At the top of the list is Jason Brown. However, he’s been nursing an injury of his own after the Grand Prix season, where he was 2nd at Skate America and 7th at NHK Trophy. If he’s unable to be at 100 percent, look for Max Aaron to take full advantage. He’s tasted the high-life in 2013 with a US championship and was 2nd in 2016. Nathan Chen could be the breakthrough skater of the weekend. He had a 2nd place finish at NHK Trophy and a first ever appearance at the Grand Prix Final where he finished 2nd. Though he took a step back in Grand Prix this season (two 11th place finishes), Grant Hochstein is still very capable of finding his way to the podium this weekend. He was 4th at nationals last year.
Skaters to Watch – Ross Miner had a productive Grand Prix season finishing 12th at Skate Canada and 9th at Cuo of China. Former junior champion Vincent Zhou looks to improve is 8th place standing from last year. He’ll look to improve for senior international competition next year. The window may be closing for Timothy Dolensky and Sean Rabbitt, as they need to have impressive showing this weekend.
1. Nathan Chen
2. Max Aaron
3. Jason Brown
Analysis – All eyes will be on Ashley Wagner this weekend, as she goes for her 5th US Championship. She had an outstanding Grand Prix season, winning Skate America, but falling short of the final, placing 6th at Cup of China. He biggest competitor will be Gracie Gold. Despite her poor showing this season (5th at Skate America, 8th at Trophee de France), she’s still a major threat to take the crown, having won twice. Mirai Nagasu continues to surprise the critics on whether this is her last year of skating. She hasn’t won the crown since 2008. But with Polina Edmunds out of this year’s nationals due of injury, she has a great chance to make the podium this year, or even pulling off the upset. Courtney Hicks is the wild card this weekend. She finished 3rd at Rostelecom Cup this season, but hasn’t had much luck at nationals the last few years, with her best finish in 2013 (4th).
Skaters to Watch – Karen Chen lost her spark since her 3rd place finish in 2015. She was 7th at Cup of China and 6th at NHK Trophy. Mariah Bell took a major step forward in her senior development this season, finishing 2nd at Skate America. A top 5 would be enormous. Angela Wang has enough international experience to make the top 6, but will need a huge showing this weekend to break from the pack. Other skaters looking to break into the top 6 are Bradie Tennell, Caroline Zhang, Hannah Miller and Amber Glenn.
1. Ashley Wagner
2. Mirai Nagasu
3. Courtney Hicks
Analysis – A huge loss in the pairs competition, as Alexa and Chris Knierim withdrew from this weekend’s competition because of injury. That makes defending champions Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea the team to beat. However, their Grand Prix showing this season (6th at Skate America, 4th at NHK) could make them vulnerable to an upset like they did last season. That could come from Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, who finished 2nd at Skate America and 2nd at nationals last season. Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran are another team that could climb to the top. They finished 3rd last season and were 5th at Trophee de France in Grand Prix season. Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson will skate in seniors for the first time and could surprise the judges. They were 2nd in junior nationals last season and they have a 3rd place finish at JGP Czech State this season.
Skaters to Watch – Eight other teams vie for a spot for world teams. Jessica Pfund and Joshua Santillan finished 7th last season and have an 8th place showing at Cup of China. Erika Smith and AJ Reiss make a return to nationals after finishing 6th last season. Ashley Cain switches to pairs with partner Tim LeDuc, and Deanna Stellato-Dudek makes a return to the ice after 16 years with new partner, Nathan Bartholomay. Both teams qualified via Eastern sectionals.
1. Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier
2. Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea
3. Chelsea Liu and Brian Johnson
Ice Dance –
Analysis – American ice dance continues to gain in stature, as six teams are capable of winning the top podium spot. Three of the teams skating this weekend are in the top five in the ISU rankings. Defending champions Maia and Alex Shibutani continue to show their dominance with two 1st place finishes at Skate America and Cup of China, as well as a 3rd place showing in the Grand Prix final. Madison Chock and Evan Bates lost a bit of their step in recent competitions (6th at Grand Prix final), but are still on the Shibutani’s heels for the top spot this weekend. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue have really made great strides in their programs and the results were a 2nd straight appearance in the Grand Prix final, where they finished 5th. 2014 world junior ice dance champions Kaitlin Hawayek and Jean-Luc Baker could make it interesting this weekend, as they’ve also continued to improve in international competitions, finishing 6th at Skate Canada and 4th at NHK.
Skaters to Watch – Anastasia Cannuscio and Colin McManus have improved their standing at nationals the last three years. They look to break the podium from their 4th place finish last season. Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit have finished 3rd twice at junior nationals, and performed in Grand Prix competitions this season, finishing 7th at Skate America and 6th at Rostelecom Cup. Charlotte Maxwell and Ryan Devereaux best finish was 8th at last year’s nationals and have limited international experience.
1. Maia and Alex Shibutani
2. Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue
3. Madison Chock and Evan Bates
And here’s our selections for the Junior categories.