Donlan and Speroff are the highest ranked team returning to U.S. Nationals this season. They claimed the pewter medal at nationals this season and received acclaim for their Sleeping Beauty free skate. She has a balletic quality and a Russian pairs look to her skating that this team uses to their advantage but they have struggled with their side by side jumps. They have kept their free skate from last season but have struggled in their short program at their international events this season. They have not yet met the short program minimum for Worlds so if they are named to the team they will have to meet the minimum at Four Continents.
Castelli and Shnapir have never stood on a national podium and finished 5th the last two seasons. In the off season, they focused on their whole package and have traveled to Canada for their programs. They won a bronze medal at NHK Trophy this season and are entering nationals as the favorites. They have a throw triple axel and a throw quad salchow in their arsenal but will be going for clean programs here. The spotlight will be on them in a way they haven't experienced before but if they stay focused and hit their programs like they have all season, they should be able to not only land on the podium for the first time but claim the top spot.
Scimeca and Knierim are a brand new team that are experiencing quick success this season. They both competed at nationals last season with other partners and finished 10th and 7th respectively. After teaming up this summer, they found chemistry both on and off the ice and were able to win gold at Cup of Nice over reigning European Bronze Medalists Stolbova and Klimov. That win earned them a trip to NHK Trophy as a substitute where they finished 4th.
Zhang and Bartholomay had a great showing at nationals last season and despite skating a day before the top teams in the early groups they had a standout performance that was still being talked about the next day. She was injured at Sectionals so they skated through most of their elements but if she is healthy they have a good shot at challenging for the podium.
Also in the mix are veteran team Vise/Baldwin, new team Kayne/O'Shea and the new pairing of Davis/Ladwig. Reigning Junior Champions Denney and Frazier will also make their senior debut after competing as juniors internationally this fall.
My podium predictions:
Bios of the competitors:
Baga/Toth: She represents the Figure Skating Club of Bloomington and he represents the DuPage Figure Skating Club. They won bronze at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals. Nationally, they have the 3rd best short program, 4th best free skate and 4th best total scores.
Castelli/Shnapir: She is 22 and he is 25 and they represent the Skating Club of Boston. They placed 5th at Skate America and won bronze at NHK Trophy. They are the 2009 World Junior bronze medalists. They placed 9th in Novice in 2007, are the 2008 Novice bronze medalists, the 2009 Junior bronze medalists, placed 10th in Seniors in 2010, 5th in 2011 and 5th in 2012. Internationally, they have the 8th best short program, 10th best free skate and 9th best total scores.
Davis/Ladwig: He is 32 and represents the Red River Valley Figure Skating Club. They finished 7th at Skate Canada and 6th at NHK Trophy.
Denney/Frazier: She is 17 and he is 20. She represents the Broadmoor Skating Club and he represents the All Year Figure Skating Club. They placed 4th at JGP USA. They are the 2008 Intermediate Pairs bronze medalists and reigning Junior Champions.
Donlan/Speroff: She is 19 and he is 24 and they represent the Skating Club of Boston. They placed 6th at Skate America. They finished 8th in Juniors in 2010 and 8th as Seniors in 2011. They are the reigning pewter medalists.
Kayne/O'Shea: She represents the Southwest Florida Figure Skating Club and he represents the Skokie Valley Skating Club. They won gold at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals. Nationally, they have the 4th best short program, 2nd best free skate and 2nd best total scores.
Leng/LeDuc: She represents the DuPage Figure Skating Club. He is 22 and represents the Eastern Iowa Figure Skating Club. They won silver at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals. Nationally, they have the 2nd best short program, 3rd best free skate and 3rd best total scores.
Scimeca/Knierim: She is 21 and represents the DuPage Figure Skating Club. They placed 4th at NHK Trophy. He is 25 and represents the Broadmoor Skating Club. They won gold at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals. Nationally, they have the best short program, free skate and total scores.
Vise/Baldwin: She is 26 and represents the Broadmoor Skating Club. He is 35 and represents the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club. They finished 6th at Skate Canada and 6th at Rostelecom Cup. They placed 8th in 2011 and 9th in 2011.
Zhang/Bartholomay: She is 19 and represents the Skating Club of New York. He is 23. They finished 8th at nationals last season. They won silver at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals. Nationally, they have the 5th best short program, free skate and total scores.