Not unlike the singles disciplines at the 2017 US Figure Skating Championships this week, the pairs event is lacking some of the big names. 2015 champs Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim are out, still coming back from surgery over the summer, as well as Jessica Calalang/Zack Sidhu and Caitlin Fields/Ernie Utah Stevens. But that's not to say that anything is at all predictable. So like the ladies' competition, the pairs are going to be a bit of a crapshoot. As always with the US pairs, it will be so much about who lands their side-by-side jumps.
2017 US Championships Predictions
Official hashtag: #USChamps17
GOLD Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier - Aside from one blip, Denney/Frazier have had a very solid season, coming back from taking a whole season off last year after surgery for Denney. The wrinkle in that storyline is that this blip happened at their most recent competition in December at Golden Spin, where they had all sorts of issues in the free skate and finished fourth behind Cain/LeDuc. So this week will be about whether or not this was a blip? If they skate to their abilities though, it can very much be their time to shine again.
SILVER Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran - Might this be the year? This is a pair that has a real shot at winning the whole thing here. Castelli/Tran have shown that they are one of the best all-around pairs the U.S. has to offer, and their international results, when they are clean, show that they have the goods to be competitive on the world stage. But they are chronically plagued by issues with their side-by-side jumps. They got off to a slow start this season because of Tran's concussion over the summer, but they've been ramping up. If there's an upset pick anywhere, it's these two.
BRONZE Tarah Kayne/Danny O'Shea - The reigning champs are no strangers to peaking for Nationals, but they come in this year not at 100% given Kayne having to deal with an knee injury on her landing leg. But they blew the roof off with two stunning performances last season. And while there were questions earlier in the season about how they will fare given the inconsistency that crept into their programs, they have been on an upward trajectory since. So much of their path back on the World team will be dependent on the effect of this injury, and their consistency with the side-by-sides and the throw lutz.
4. Ashley Cain/Tim LeDuc - One of the two eagerly-anticipated new pairs on the scene this season, Cain/LeDuc have had a very solid debut. And their chances this week have been bolstered by the upgrades they've shown throughout this season. Unlike the other pairs, Cain/LeDuc's strength lies in their side-by-sides, as both are strong singles skaters. And so their chances for the podium and the Worlds spot will rest on their new triple twist and their throws.
5. Erika Smith/AJ Reiss - We saw loads of potential last season in their debut at Nationals. Smith/Reiss have big tricks and are not at all afraid to show them off. Their sole data point this season was a fifth at Nebelhorn Trophy four months ago, so it's tough to tell where they are compared to everyone else. Dark horse potential.
6. Deanna Stellato/Nathan Batholomay - The other highly-anticipated new pair in the field, Stellato/Bartholomay combine two skaters with very different histories. The last time Stellato was at Nationals, Michelle Kwan was winning only her fourth of nine US titles. Bartholomay didn't even start competing at Nationals on the senior level until 11 years after that in 2011. Three years after that, Bartholomay got to the Olympics with former partner Felicia Zhang. We got a quick glimpse of Stellato/Bartholomay at Sectionals and at Golden Spin, where they were sixth, and we'll have another look this week.