US Nationals: Junior Pairs Preview

Simpson and Blackmer are in their second season as a team and seem to be hitting a bit of a sophomore slump.  After qualifying for the Junior Grand Prix Final and medaling at that event last season, they failed to medal at either of their Junior Grand Prix assignments this season.  Still, they had the best international scores of any US junior pairs team this season.  They have a throw triple loop and salchow planned in their free skate but have only been executing a double twist.  They have a great look and elegance on the ice and that should help make up for any technical deficits.  They won the silver medal at nationals last season and are in a good position to claim the top spot on the podium.

Trying to catch them will be their training mates Aaron and Settlage who won a bronze medal on the Junior Grand Prix this season.  They have a Level 4 lift, spin and step sequence planned in their short and executed two Level 4 lifts and a Level 4 combination spin in their free skate at sectionals.  They have a throw triple loop and triple salchow as well along with a triple twist.  After winning the novice title in 2011, they finished just off the podium last season.

Calalang and Sidhu bounced back from a poor short program at sectionals to claim the Pacific Coast Sectionals title.  They received a Level 4 on their spin and lift in the short program and a Level 4 on their side by side spins in their free skate.  They have a triple twist and are planning a throw triple salchow and throw triple lutz in their free skate which gives them a huge technical advantage if they hit the elements cleanly.  They just missed out on the Junior Worlds team last season and will be looking for redemption this year.

Liu and Perini are making their junior debut after winning two medals as novices.  She is not old enough to compete internationally but they seem to be growing together well and adjusting to her growth spurts.  They received a Level 3 death spiral, Level 4 steps, Level 4 lift and Level 4 spin in their short program at sectionals.  They also had Level 4 spins, a Level 3 death spiral and a triple twist in their free skate.  These levels help them make up for the fact that they only have a throw triple salchow and throw double flip planned in their free skate.

Pfund and Reiss are still a relatively new team but have been gaining recognition both nationally and internationally.  They received a Level 4 on their lift in the short program at sectionals but only had a basic death spiral.

De la Mora and Wilson competed on the Junior Grand Prix this season for the first time but will not be able to compete internationally next season.  He will age out of juniors and she is too young to compete in seniors until 2014-2015.  This may give them an advantage as they will not be vying for international placements next season and can just worry about their performance at nationals.  They had a Level 4 step sequence in their short program at sectionals and Level 4 spins and a Level 4 lift in the free skate.  They also have a triple twist and a triple lutz in their arsenal, but they did not execute the lutz at sectionals.

Oltmanns and Santillan have the whole package but have trouble putting together two clean programs when the pressure is on.  They also struggle with their solo jumps.  If they can put everything together and skate cleanly they can medal.  They had a Level 4 step sequence in their short program and Level 4 spins and a Level 4 lift in the free skate at sectionals.  Their programs are smartly structured with 4 elements in the bonus section of the free skate but those extra points were lost at sectionals when they had two falls.

Historically, the top three age eligible junior pairs are sent to junior worlds, however this season Denney and Frazier will be competing nationally as seniors.  They didn’t have a stellar international season and the committee will have to determine how they rank with the other junior teams.  Placing in the top two should be a guaranteed trip to junior worlds.

My podium predictions:
Gold: SimpsonBlackmer
Silver: Aaron/Settlage
Bronze: Calalang/Sidhu
Pewter: Liu/Perini

Bios of the competitors:
Aaron/Settlage: She is 18 and he is 20.  She represents the Coyotes Skating Club of Arizona and he represents the Broadmoor Skating Club.  They won bronze at JGP USA and placed 7th at JGP Croatia.  They are 2011 Novice Pairs Champions and finished 6th in Junior Pairs in 2012.  They won gold at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 9th best free skate internationally.  The have the best short program, free skate and total scores nationally.

Belt/Johnson: They represent the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club.  They won pewter at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 9th best free skate and 9th best total scores nationally.  

Calalang/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 6th at JGP Austria and 8th at JGP Croatia.  They finished 8th in Juniors in 2011 and are the reigning Junior Pairs pewter medalists.  They won gold at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 6th best short program, 2nd best free skate and 2nd best total scores nationally.  

De la Mora/Wilson: She is 13 and he is 21.  They represent the Texas Gulf Coast Figure Skating Club.  They placed 11th at JGP Austria.  They are the 2010 Intermediate Pairs Champions, finished 6th in Novice in 2011 and 8th in Juniors in 2012.  They won silver at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 4th best short program, 4th best free skate and 4th best total scores nationally.

Doherty/Norris: She represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club and he represents the St. Moritz Ice Skating Club.  They placed 5th at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 8th best free skate and 11th best total scores nationally.


Fields/Pacini: She is 17 and he is 22.  She represents the Coyote Skating Club of Arizona and he represents the Fort Collins Figure Skating Club.  They are the 2011 Novice Pewter Medalists and 2012 Novice Silver Medalists.  They won pewter at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 5th best short program and 10th best total scores nationally.

Fujimoto/Barsi-Rhyne: She is 21 and he is 21.  She represents the Peninsula Skating Club and he represents the Skating Club of Lake Placid.  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, 7th in Novice in 2009 and 11th in Juniors in 2012.  They won bronze at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 9th best short program, 10th best free skate and 8th best total scores nationally.

Liu/Perini: She is 13 and he is 19.  She represents the St. Paul Figure Skating Club and he represents the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club.  They are the 2011 Novice Silver Medalists and reigning Novice Champions.  They won silver at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 3rd best short program, 3rd best free skate and 3rd best total score nationally. 

Oltmanns/Santillan: She is 15 and he is 20.  She represents the Yarmouth Ice Club and he represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  They placed 12th at JGP USA.  They finished 6th in Novice in 2010, 11th in Juniors in 2011 and 9th in Juniors in 2012.  They won gold at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  They have the 7th best short program, 5th best free skate and 6th best total score nationally.

Pfund/Reiss: She represents the Broadmoor Skating Club and he represents the Los Angeles Figure Skating Club.  They placed 5th at JGP USA and 7th at JGP Germany.  She is 15 and he is 20.  They finished 5th as Juniors in 2012.  They won bronze at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals. They have the 2nd best short program, 6th best free skate and 4th best total score nationally.

Shaughnessy/Morgan: She is 20 and he is 21.  They represent the Skating Club of Boston.  They finished 5th in Novice in 2011 and are the reigning Novice Pairs bronze medalists.  They won silver at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.   They have the 8th best short program, 7th best free skate and 7th best total score nationally.

Simpson/Blackmer: She is 16 and he is 21.  She represents the Broadmoor Skating Club and he represents the Detroit Skating Club.  They placed 5th at JGP Austria and 5th at JGP Germany.  They are the reigning Junior Pairs silver medalists.  They have the 10th best short program and 8th best free skate internationally.