We’ve seen a bit of a budding rivalry this season between Mariah Bell and Bradie Tennell, and it will continue here at the US Championships, where Tennell, last year’s champion, and Bell, bronze medalist two years ago, will face off for the 2019 title. But it won’t be as easy as a two-horse race here. There is a slew of new talent ready to swoop in to grab a medal (or … even the title?). It’s a glimpse of what’s potentially to come for the next four years of American women’s skating.
GEICO US Championships predictions
Official hashtag: #USChamps19
GOLD Mariah Bell - Bronze medalist two years ago, Bell’s season seems to be building toward something grand at the US Championships. She’s not had the kind of consistency in her career that she’s had this season so far, and her programs are the two best vehicles for her skating that she’s ever had. There’s a lot to be said about confidence for her - and this is the first season where she seems to truly believe she belongs with the best. Conviction is the biggest factor for her - her training has been strong. It’s time to make it happen.
SILVER Bradie Tennell - The defending champion has not had the season that she may have been looking for, but it’s been a long-term play for her. She’s made the decision to up her technical content and push the boundaries a bit for her comfort zone. And it’s paid off in parts, though it’s led to mistakes and jitters in competitions that she would have had less of otherwise. She’s dialed down that technical ambition a bit to get the percentages up, and that may be her key to winning her second title this year.
BRONZE Alysa Liu - Look back to the Russian Championships just a month ago, and you’ll remember that the three top finishers in the ladies’ event aren’t even age-eligible to compete at Europeans or senior Worlds. Well, one of those stories may happen again this week, only that if Liu makes it onto the podium this week, she won’t even be eligible for Junior Worlds until next season. But she has the most difficult technical content of anyone in this field, including triple axels in the short and the free. Might this competition for Liu be the start of something grand?
4. Ting Cui - The last time we saw her in competition, she posted one of the highest scores that any American woman has put up this season - and it was her senior international debut. This will be her US Nationals debut on the senior level, and she could really be the big surprise of the event. Watch for her strong carriage and refined lines, and her triple-triple combos.
5. Amber Glenn - Eighth the past two seasons at Nationals, Glenn has innate talent that has been tough for her to harness when she is under the lens of competition. If she figures it out in the short program, which is well within her reach, she really has the opportunity to make this a breakthrough event for her - and for her career.
6. Megan Wessenberg - There is so much to like about Wessenberg’s all-around skating - she’s got huge, powerful jumps and moves across the ice effortlessly. Her in-competition performance has been less tested, but the last time she was on the big stage - when she debuted at Skate America - she impressed a lot of people with her sixth-place finish.
7. Starr Andrews - Sixth in her senior debut last year, Andrews hasn’t had the kind of season that you would have expected from her given the potential she showed last season. But after a couple of disappointing Grand Prix events, she’s here this week looking more refreshed and readier than she has been since late last season.
8. Hanna Harrell - Fourth at juniors last year at the US Championships, Harrell is one of the debuts who could really make some noise this week, especially in the short program. She’s got a really solid foundation in her skating and consistent big triple-triples. Don’t be surprised if you see her in the final group in the free skate.
9. Courtney Hicks - Ninth at Nationals last year, Hicks hasn’t skated up to her potential at the US Championships since her fourth-place senior debut six years ago. She’s got booming jumps, and could potentially get up in that top group if she puts it together.
10. Emmy Ma - There’s a lot to like about Ma, one of the strongest interpreters of music in this entire competition. Her issue has been her technical content, and whether or not she can figure it out in her programs.