If there is a guaranteed safe bet at U.S. Nationals it is Davis and White claiming their 5th consecutive national title. They have been undefeated all season and hold the highest international scores across the board. Their Giselle Short Dance is true to the ballet complete with authentic steps. They even brought in So You Think You Can Dance contestant and ballet expert Alex Wong to work with them on their programs. Their Notre Dame Free Dance is not one of my favorite programs from them but it is still solid and they've been showing growth all season.
The Shibutanis have had a rough few months starting at Four Continents last season and they have battled illness and injuries that have kept them from performing at their best. They did not medal for the first time in their Grand Prix careers this season and have received some criticism for their short dance. If they can work out the kinks and show up to Omaha healthy, they shouldn't have any problems holding on to their national silver medals.
The rest of the podium is up for grabs with several established and new teams trying to earn a spot to Worlds.
Chock and Bates were disappointed with their 5th place finish last season at nationals. They have a striking height difference and a unique style that makes that hard to miss on the ice. They used to train in the shadow of the other top US teams but when Zoueva and Shpilband broke up, they went with Shpilband to Novi. This will be their first chance to show how that split has improved their technique on a national stage.
Hubbell and Donohue have had a solid sophomore season the Grand Prix. They're flamenco free dance is refined and well choreographed but they have been losing ground on Levels and not able to hold onto their placements. If they can get all their levels up, this could be a standout routine at nationals. They train at the Detroit Skating Club and the DSC junior skaters have shown great improvements already at nationals, so I expect this team to come out stronger than their early season appearances.
Kriengkrairut and Giuletti-Schmitt always have some of the most unique programs and lifts. This year, they have an Adele Free Dance and brought in acclaimed contemporary choreography Stacey Tookey to help with their programs. They made the podium for the first time last season and are ready to take the next step to make their first World team.
Also in the hunt are A. Cannuscio and McManus who placed 6th last season and finished 7th at their Grand Prix debut at Skate America. They were beat out at Eastern Sectionals by the new team of I. Cannuscio and Bramante. Another new team, Olson and Hubbell will also be looking to make their mark after finding success with previous partners. This is the first time the Hubbell siblings will compete at nationals together not as a team.
My podium predictions:
Bios of the competitors:
Aronow/Brubaker: She represents the Arctic Figure Skating Club and he represents the All Year Figure Skating Club. They won gold at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.
Cannuscio/Bramante: She is 22 and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club. He represents the Skating Club of Boston. They won gold at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.
Cannuscio/McManus: She is 20 and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club. He is 22 and represents the Skating Club of Boston. They finished 7th at Skate America. They finished 10th in Juniors in 2009, 7th in Juniors in 2010, are the 2011 Junior bronze medalists and finished 6th as Seniors last season. They won silver at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.
Chock/Bates: She is 20 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club. They finished 4th at Cup of China. He is 23 and represents the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club. They finished 5th last season. Internationally, they have the 10th best short program, 9th best free skate and 9th best total scores.
Davis/White: She is 26 and represents the Arctic Figure Skating Club. He is 25 and represents the Detroit Skating Club. They won gold at Skate America and gold at NHK Trophy to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where they won gold. They are the 2010 Olympic silver medalists, 2010 and 2012 World silver medalists, 2009 and 2012 Four Continents Champions, 2008 Four Continents silver medalists and 2006 World Junior bronze medalists. They are the 1998 Juvenile silver medalists, 1999 Intermediate Champions, finished 6th in Novice in 2000 and 2001, are the 2002 Novice silver medalists, finished 7th in Juniors in 2003, are the 2004 Junior silver medalists, 2006 Junior Champions, 2007 bronze medalists, 2008 silver medalists, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 Champions. Internationally, they have the best short dance, free dance and total scores.
Donaldson/Jacobs: They represent the Wichita Figure Skating Club. They won pewter at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.
Gamelin/Gamelin: They are 19 and represent the Skating Club of New York. They finished 9th in Juvenile in 2007, are the 2008 Juvenile bronze medalists, 2009 Intermediate Champions, finished 5th in Novice in 2010, 7th in Junior in 2011 and 12th in Juniors in 2012. They won pewter at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.
Hoptman/Filchenkov: She is 23 and he is 26 and they represent the IceWorks Skating Club. They placed 10th in 2011 and 11th in 2012. They won bronze at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.
Hubbell/Donohue: She is 21 and he is 22 and they represent the Detroit Skating Club. They placed 5th at Skate Canada and 4th at Trophee Eric Bompard. They are the reigning bronze medalists. Internationally, they have the 10th best free dance score.
Kriengkrairut/Giuletti-Schmitt: She is 24 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club. He is 27 and represents the Ann Arbor Figure Skating Club. They finished 4th at Skate America. They are the 2007 Junior bronze medalists, finished 9th as Seniors in 2008, 8th in 2009 and 2010, 5th in 2011 and are the reigning pewter medalists.
Nardozzi/Traxler: They represent the Stars Figure Skating Club of Dallas. They won silver at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.
Olson/Hubbell: She is 20 and represents the Detroit Skating Club.
Ponomaryova/Altukhov: She is an Individual Member and he represents the Escondido Figure Skating Club. They won bronze at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.
Shibutani/Shibutani: She is 18 and represents the Skating Club of New York. He is 21 and represents the Arctic Figure Skating Club. They finished 4th at Rostelecom Cup and won bronze at NHK Trophy. They are the 2011 World bronze medalists, 2011 Four Continents silver medalists and the 2009 World Junior silver medalists. They are the 2005 Juvenile silver medalists, 2006 Intermediate Champions, 2007 Novice Champions, 2008 Junior pewter medalists, 2009 Junior silver medalists, 2010 Junior Champions and 2011 and 2012 silver medalists. Internationally, they have the 9th best short dance, 7th best free dance and 8th best total scores.
Tran/Kaplun: He is 21 and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.