There is talent oozing out of the ice dance competition this week. And even with the depth, it's pretty set, barring major disasters, which three teams will go to PyeongChang - it's really just a matter of what order they finish in. It'll be a fight for the gold - and a fight for holding the dominant position going into the Olympics.
U.S. Championships predictions
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GOLD Maia Shibutani/Alex Shibutani - With the top three teams all having similarly strong free dances, it really may come down to the short dance. The Shibutanis have the most complete short dance of the field here, and that's what's going to carry them to their third consecutive national title. They do come in after a few uncharacteristic twizzle errors at the Grand Prix Final, and they can't afford to repeat those here.
SILVER Madison Hubbell/Zachary Donohue - Hungry to get out of the bronze medal spot (they have been third at Nationals four times), Hubbell/Donohue want to show the world that they have the consistency to put it all together when it counts. Of the three top teams, they have been the most improved over the past Olympic cycle. With two clean programs here, they really do have a shot at making it very interesting for the title.
BRONZE Madison Chock/Evan Bates - The 2015 U.S. champs, as they have in the past couple of seasons, have built on their foundation throughout the season. And they skated their best free dance of the season at Grand Prix Final but are somewhat the underdogs coming into San Jose. It will be a close one - any of them can take the title here.
4. Kaitlin Hawayek/Jean-Luc Baker - Looking for redemption for last season's skate at Nationals, Hawayek/Baker have been steady and rising this season. Though as much of a crowd-pleaser as their short dance is, it has not gotten the kind of traction that they would've liked internationally. It's their breathtaking free dance that will ultimately help them get back to the top four here after two consecutive fifth places at Nationals.
5. Rachel Parsons/Michael Parsons - The battle for fifth (and frankly, the beginning of the next four years of American ice dance) will be very intriguing. The Parsons came into this season as the rising stars, fresh off a Junior World title and beaming with confidence. But they haven't had the kinds of senior results they had been looking for in their debut, especially on the Grand Prix. It'll all come down to whether or not they can rediscover the form that they had last season and earlier this season, when they had that solid start at Ondrej Nepela.
6. Lorraine McNamara/Quinn Carpenter - Of the two debuts, McNamara/Carpenter have had the stronger trajectory to their season, with a solid performance at Warsaw Cup in November to cap off their preparations for Nationals. After the off-kilter season they had last year, it's been great to see them rebound in their senior debut season with some strong skates.
7. Elliana Pogrebinsky/Alex Benoit - After having a great freshman season last year, Pogrebinsky/Benoit haven't followed it up as strongly as they would've liked, with two seventh-place finishes on their Grand Prix assignments. But don't count them out if they find the spark that they had last season this week.
8. Alexandra Aldridge/Daniel Eaton - Back together after a two-year hiatus, Aldridge/Eaton are a bit of an unknown quantity here. They were, after all, World Junior bronze medalists twice in their careers, and looked to have been one of the ones to watch in American ice dance.
9. Karina Manta/Joseph Johnson - Manta/Johnson have some fantastic moments in their programs, but they have gotten a bit in their own heads this season, making uncharacteristic mistakes at Nebelhorn and at Sectionals. They were eighth here last season.
10. Julia Biechler/Damian Dodge - Seventh here last year, Biechler/Dodge have had a couple of middling results on the Challenger Series this season.