We’ve gotten used to it by now. American pairs have a knack for building toward and peaking at the US Championships. And we’ve got yet another showdown brewing as they fight for the top spot, and likely the one berth to the World Championships that the US has this season. This season, it’s a mix of pairs we’ve gotten accustomed to seeing and new partnerships that have tons of potential. How will this event shake out?
GEICO US Championships predictions
Official hashtag: #USChamps19
GOLD Tarah Kayne/Danny O’Shea - Once again, Kayne/O’Shea come into the US Championships as the dark horse favorites. Last year, it’s been all momentum from the beginning of the season - starting off less confident than expected given last season and then really coming on strong late in the fall. The 2016 US champs, with improved skating and solid programs, look to return to the top of the podium this week when some wrote them off two years ago.
SILVER Deanna Stellato/Nathan Bartholomay - This pair has had tremendous showings at the US Championships in their first two seasons together. Perhaps more than any other pair in this field, they seem to have a connection and an understanding of the audience that amplify and push them to new heights at Nationals. And though it’s been up and down for them so far, this season has still brought some of their strongest scores in international competition. Hitting those side-by-sides will be key.
BRONZE Alexa Scimeca Knierim/Chris Knierim - All else equal, if everyone skates cleanly, the Knierims are still the strongest all-around pair in the country. Their twist and throws are world class, and even things like death spirals are standout elements for them over the rest of the field. But winning their third national title this week will not come easy, especially coming off the coaching changes they’ve had this season. So much about this season for them is about trusting the process, and they probably need just a bit more time to settle into their new environment for them to regain their confidence. But if their side-by-sides click, watch out.
4. Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier - The winners here two years ago, Denney/Frazier have some of the best lifts in the business and certainly can challenge for the title again. Like many of their competitors here, the side-by-sides are important, but for them, it’s also about getting into the mindset that they do belong back at the top. Their performances over the past couple of seasons have lacked that laser-focused confidence.
5. Ashley Cain/Timothy LeDuc - The fact that they are competing here after the scary fall they took at Golden Spin last month, which resulted in a concussion for Cain, is pretty amazing. The unknowns of a concussive injury just made their potential progress toward Nationals that much more uncertain. It remains to be seen how much of the confidence that they showed earlier season has returned.
6. Jessica Calalang/Brian Johnson - What a great pairing this is. Calalang/Johnson, in their first season together, look like they could potentially become one of the best pairs in the country. They have tremendous pair basics and have already developed a great look as a pair in just a few months. I may have them sixth here, but I would not at all be surprised if they found themselves on the podium at the end of this week.
7. Audrey Lu/Misha Mitrofanov - The strongest solo jumpers in the event, the 2018 junior champs make their senior debut this week after getting some international experience under their belts. A strong senior debut for them could really set them up for a great future ahead.
8. Olivia Serafini/Mervin Tran - Another new pair to debut in Detroit this week is Serafin/Tran. Tran is no stranger to this competition, having skated here with Marissa Castelli the past few years. Serafini is new to pair skating, but has proven to be a fast learner.
9. Nica Digerness/Danny Neudecker - 11th last year at Nationals, Digerness/Neudecker have shown some great improvements in their skating so far this season.
10. Winter Deardorff/Max Settlage - In their second season together, Deardorff/Settlage are looking to improve on their 12th place finish from last year.