U.S. Nationals Junior Pairs Preview

This field features the reigning novice gold and bronze medalists, three teams returning to the junior event and several new teams.  Six of the teams competed on the Junior Grand Prix this season and two qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final.

Simpson and Blackmer paired up earlier this season after Simpson’s previous partner retired.  They won gold at their JGP debut in Poland and became the first U.S. pairs team to do so since 2007.  They followed it up with a silver medal in Estonia and a bronze medal at the Final.  Their Titanic free skate is stunning and for being such a new team they have gelled very well together.  Their scores have been well above the U.S. field this season and some of the best internationally.

Calalang and Sidhu placed 4th at JGP Poland and won bronze at JGP Estonia to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final.  They had to withdraw from the Final due to injury.  If they are back to 100%, they have a great chance of winning a medal here.  They have a top 10 international score and improved throughout the JGP season.

Aaron and Settlage are the reigning novice champions and made their JGP debut this season, finishing 5th at JGP Poland.  They also set the highest score at sectionals.  They looked very solid as novices last season and set themselves apart from the field and kept pace with the other teams on the JGP who have previously competed as juniors.

Denney and Frazier competed together back in 2008 but split up and have competed with other partners before re-teaming this season.  They had a 7th and 8th place finish at their two JGP events but chose not to compete at Sectionals.  They are still a new team together, and missing the extra competition could leave them without valuable experience.

Mozer and O’Shea are also a new team and O’Shea competed last season with Denney.  They didn’t get an international assignment this season but impressed with the 2nd highest sectionals score.  They showed they can be competitive with the teams that have competed internationally this season even without the extra feedback the other teams have received.

Duarte and Grafton also competed internationally, finishing 6th and 9th at their JGP events.  They’ve also competed at nationals since 2005 and have a lot of experience under their belt.  They had the 3rd highest score at Sectionals.

Oltmanns and Santillan placed 7th and 11th in their two JGP events and had the 4th highest score at Sectionals.  Despite competing on the JGP and at nationals as juniors last season, they are still one of the youngest teams in this event.

My podium predictions:
Gold: Simpson/Blackmer
Silver: Calalang/Sidhu
Bronze: Aaron/Settlage
Pewter: Denney/Frazier

Bios of the competitors:
Cali Fujimoto/Nicholas Barsi-Rhyne: She is 20 and he is 20.  They represent the Peninsula Skating Club.  They finished 11th in Juvenile in 2004, 7th in Juvenile in 2005, are the 2006 Juvenile pewter medalists, finished 5th in Intermediate in 2007, 12th in Novice in 2008 and 7th in Novice in 2009.  They won pewter at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Audrey Goldberg/Joseph Dolkiewicz: She is 15 and he is 19.  They represent the Skating Club of Southern New Jersey.  They finished 10th in Juvenile Pairs in 2009, are the 2010 Intermediate Pairs silver medalists and are the reigning Novice bronze medalists.  They won bronze at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Kylie Duarte/Colin Grafton: She is 18 and he is 20.  She represents the Colonial Figure Skating Club and he represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  They placed 9th at JGP Latvia and 6th at JGP Austria.  They placed 15th in Juvenile in 2005, 5th in Juvenile in 2006, are the 2007 Juvenile Pairs silver medalists, the 2008 Intermediate Pairs Champions, finished 9th in Novice in 2009, are the 2010 Novice pewter medalists and finished 7th in Juniors in 2011.  They won silver at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Christine Mozer/Daniel O’Shea: They won gold at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Madeline Aaron/Max Settlage: She is 17 and he is 19.  She represents the Coyotes Skating Club of Arizona and he represents the Broadmoor Skating Club.  They placed 5th at JGP Poland.  They are the reigning Novice Pairs Champions.  They won gold at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Brianna de la Mora/Taylor Wilson: They are the 2010 Intermediate Pairs Champions and finished 6th in Novice in 2011.  They won bronze at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Olivia Oltmanns/Joshua Santillan: She is 14 and he is 19.  She represents the Kansas City Figure Skating Club and he represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  They placed 7th at JGP Latvia and 11th at JGP Austria.  They finished 6th in Novice in 2010 and 11th in Juniors in 2011.  They won silver at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

AnnaMarie Pearce/Craig Norris: They won silver at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Jessica Pfund/AJ Reiss: They won gold at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Jessica Noelle Calalang/Zack Sidhu: She is 16 and he is 20.  She represents the DuPage Figure Skating Club and he represents the Las Vegas Figure Skating Club.  They placed 4th at JGP Poland and won bronze at JGP Estonia to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final, but they withdrew due to injury.  They finished 8th in Juniors in 2011.  They received a bye to nationals by qualifying for the JGPF.  They have the 5th best short program, 9th best free skate and 6th best total score internationally.

Haven Denney/Brandon Frazier: She is 16 and he is 19.  She represents the Broadmoor Skating Club and he represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  They placed 8th at JGP Latvia and 7th at JGP Austria.  They are the 2008 Intermediate Pairs bronze medalists.  They received a bye to nationals due to a low number of competitors in their sectional.

Britney Simpson/Matthew Blackmer: She is 15 and he is 20.  She represents the Broadmoor Skating Club and he represents the Detroit Skating Club.  They won gold at JGP Poland and silver at JGP Estonia to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final where they won bronze.  They received a bye to nationals by qualifying for the JGPF.  They have the 5th best short program, 4th best free skate and 4th best total score internationally.