U.S. Nationals Novice Pairs Preview

This field includes the reigning Novice Pewter medalists (who also competed on the JGP) as well as the reigning Intermediate Champions and Silver medalists.  A greater number of these teams are age eligible for the Junior Grand Prix so podium placement is going to be very important in determining who might receive assignments next season.

Budd and Cheban topped the sectionals field, finishing 7 points ahead of the pack and claiming the top short program and free skate scores as well.  They hit a Level 4 Double Twist in both of their programs at sectionals as well as a double flip + double toe combo in their free skate.  Their real secret weapon is their throw triple salchow which they landed in both programs at sectionals.  They are the only team attempting a throw triple at the novice level and have a huge technical advantage.

Zaitsev and Utah Stevens won the pewter medal as novices last season which earned them a spot on the Junior Grand Prix, making them the only team in this field with international experience.  They’re returning to the novice level nationally looking to climb the ranks.  They’re attempting throw double loops and salchows in their free skate along with two double flips.

Middleton and Hennings are a young team who impressed with their 5th place showing at nationals last season.  She’ll be old enough to compete internationally next season, and they’ll need a podium finish if they want to receive a JGP assignment.  They have a throw double loop and double lutz planned in their free skate and have some of the most ambitious solo jumps planned, going for both the lutz and the flip.

Dai and Fishman will likely be squaring off against Gallagher and Horton for the last spot on the podium.  The teams claimed the top two spots at last year’s Intermediate Championships.  Gallagher and Horton have shown the most improvement this season, scoring 20 points higher at sectionals than at Challenge Skate in Salt Lake City.  The difference might be in the solo jumps as Dai and Fishman have a higher base value but more difficult elements also means more risk.

My podium predictions:
Gold: Budd/Cheban
Silver: Zaitsev/Utah Stevens
Bronze: Middleton/Hennings
Pewter: Dai/Fishman

Bios of the competitors:
Budd/Cheban: She is 16 and he is 20.  She represents the Detroit Skating Club and he represents the Washington Figure Skating Club.  They won gold at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the best short program, free skate and total scores from qualifying.

Dai/Fishman: They represent the Arctic Figure Skating Club.  They are the reigning Intermediate Silver Medalists, finished 8th as Intermediates in 2011 and 14th as Juveniles in 2010.  They won bronze at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 4th best short program, 5th best free skate and 4th best total scores from qualifying.    

Donahoe/Rappold: She is 18 and he is 24.  She represents the Skating Club of Central Ohio and he represents the Charleston Figure Skating Club.  They placed 10th as Novices last season.  They placed 5th at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  

Erickson/Fleming: The represent the Peninsula Skating Club.  They finished 10th as Intermediates last season.  They won the silver medal at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  

Gallagher/Horton: She is 14 and he is 19.  She represents the Sk8 Bay Figure Skating Club and he represents the Detroit Skating Club.  They are the reigning Intermediate Champions, finished 12th as Intermediates in 2011 and 7th as Juveniles in 2010.   They won pewter at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 7th best short program, 4th best free skate and 5th best total score from qualifying. 

Herr/Lueck: She represents the Silver Blades Figure Skating Club Incorporated of Greater Kansas City and he represents the Yarmouth Ice Club.  They won the silver medal at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 10th best short program score from qualifying.

Jennings/Dolkiewicz: She is 17 and he is 17.  She represents the Fort Wayne Ice Skating Club and he represents the Skating Club of Southern New Jersey.  They won the bronze medal at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Knoop/Chinault: She is 12 and he is 17.  They represent the Southwest Florida Figure Skating Club.  They finished 8th as Intermediates last season.  They won gold at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for Nationals.  They have the 8th best short program, 9th best free skate and 8th best total scores from qualifying.

Lee/Habeeb: She represents the Skating Club of Boston and he represents the Colonial Figure Skating Club.  They won the pewter medal at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.


Middleton/Hennings: She is 13 and he is 16.  They represent the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club.  They are the 2010 Juvenile Pairs Bronze Medalists, 2011 Intermediate Champions and finished 5th as Novices in 2012.  They won gold at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 2nd best short program, 3rd best free skate and 3rd best total scores from qualifying.

Takai/Johnson: They represent the Detroit Skating Club.  They finished 5th at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 5th best short program, 6th best free skate and 6th best total score from qualifying.  


Thomas/Botero: She represents the Skating Club of New York and he represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  They received a bye to qualify to nationals.

Zaitsev/Utah Stevens: She is 13 and he is 19.  They represent the Indiana/World Figure Skating Club.  They are the reigning Novice Pewter Medalists, 2010 Juvenile Champions and the 2011 Intermediate Pewter Medalists.  They finished 11th at JGP .  They won silver at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 3rd best short program, 2nd best free skate and 2nd best total scores from qualifying.