US Nationals: Senior Ladies Preview

This is an extremely talented ladies field and with only two spots on the World team, every skater will need to bring their best.  Collectively, they have won seven Grand Prix medals and eight Junior Grand Prix medals.  There have also been two withdrawals from this event due to injury: Alissa Czisny and Vanessa Lam.

No U.S. lady has won two consecutive national titles since Michelle Kwan but Ashley Wagner looks poised to do just that.  She has been hitting her programs solidly this season and picked up two Grand Prix golds to earn herself a trip to the Grand Prix Final.  The reigning Four Continents Champion suffered a hard fall and a hip pointer injury in Sochi but has been back training and is ready to compete in Omaha.  The only question seems to be whether she will go for the triple + triple combination at nationals.  She’s going for the clean skate, but will need the technical content if she wants to contend for the gold medal at Worlds.  She suffered two falls in her free skate at the Final and still claimed the silver medal so I think she’s a pretty safe bet to repeat here.

Mirai Nagasu has been flying under the radar this season.  Her new coaching situation has given her more time in the rink and for herself instead of in the car.  She’s seem much more relaxed and happy skating this season and her new confidence paid off in a bronze medal at NHK Trophy.  Under-rotated jumps have cost her valuable points in the past but if she can clean them up she has a good shot at the World team.  She has a triple toe + triple toe planned in her short program and a double axel + triple toe planned in the free skate.  

Agnes Zawadzki wasn’t really considered a threat in San Jose last year until she won the short program.  Nerves got to her in the free skate, but she still claimed the bronze medal.  She’s had a good start to her season claiming gold at the International Figure Skating Classic and winning bronze at Rostelecom Cup.  She just missed out on a spot on the World team last season and after taking two trips to Junior Worlds is ready to make the jump.  She has a triple toe + triple toe in her short program and her free skate.

Gracie Gold has seen more hype surrounding her this season than any reigning Junior Ladies Champion in recent memory.  After winning silver at Junior Worlds last season, she received her senior debut at the World Team Trophy.  She had a subpar performance at Skate Canada in her Grand Prix debut and admitted after that the size of the event had her intimidated.  She was able to refocus and claim the silver at Rostelecom Cup.  She’ll be under the media spotlight in Omaha and will have to show the same mental strength if she wants to make it to the podium.  Since the Grand Prix, she’s been working with renowned Ice Dance coach Marina Zoueva on improving her program components and adding finishing touches to her programs.  Her biggest weakness seems to be the free skate, where jump errors later in the program have cost her placements.  She has a triple flip + triple toe planned for the short and a triple lutz + triple toe and double axel + triple toe planned in the free.

Harvard Freshman Christina Gao almost gave up skating until she made a trip to the Skating Club of Boston.  She has improved since last season and claimed her first Grand Prix medal, a silver at Skate America.  She backed it up with a 4th place finish at Trophee Eric Bompard.  As the first alternate, she was able to travel to Sochi and participate in the Grand Prix Final after Julia Lipnitskaia withdrew.  She finished 5th at nationals the last three seasons and is ready to take the next step and land on the podium.  She has a triple toe + triple toe planned in her short program.  

Samantha Cesario has missed the past two nationals due to injury and her goal all season was to stay healthy enough to compete.  After winning acclaim for her programs at summer competitions she won a bronze medal at JGP Austria.  She had to withdraw from her 2nd assignment due to injury but went on to win Eastern Sectionals.  She had the second highest scores from qualifying, behind Vanessa Lam who has since withdrawn.  

Hannah Miller was one of the only junior ladies not attempting a triple + triple this season but her clean programs and program components earned her two Junior Grand Prix silver medals and a silver medal at the Junior Grand Prix Final.  She’s shown that she has the full package to compete with the best and after winning medals at the novice and junior level, is ready to make her senior debut.

Angela Wang also won acclaim on the Junior Grand Prix this season, especially for her opening triple lutz + triple toe + double toe combination in her free skate.  She also qualified for the Junior Grand Prix Final where she finished 4th.  She has had mistakes in her short programs this season that have left her trying to make up ground in her free skate.  She’s looking for a spot on the Junior Worlds team and will need a clean short to earn her spot.  She has a triple lutz + triple toe planned for her short and a triple toe + double axel sequence in the free skate.    

Also in the mix are Courtney Hicks who won a medal on the Junior Grand Prix this season and Midwestern Sectionals Champion Ashley Cain who won the silver medal as a junior last season.

Not only are there two World team spots up for grabs, but several ladies are junior age eligible and will be aiming for one of the three spots on the Junior Worlds team.  

My podium predictions:
Gold: Ashley Wagner
Silver: Gracie Gold
Bronze: Mirai Nagasu
Pewter: Christina Gao    

Bios of the competitors:
Sophia Adams: She is 19 years old and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  She placed 17th in 2012.  She won the bronze at Southwest Pacific Regionals and bronze at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Kiri Baga: She is 17 years old and represents the Figure Skating Club of Bloomington.  She finished 8th in Intermediate in 2007, is the 2009 Novice Champion and 2010 Junior pewter medalist.  She placed 10th in 2012.  She won gold at Upper Great Lakes Regionals and bronze at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  Nationally, she has the 7th best short program, 8th best free skate and 8th best total scores.

Morgan Bell: She is 21 and represents the Rocky Mountain Figure Skating Club.  She finished 17th in 2011 and 18th in 2012.  She won silver at Southwestern Regionals and pewter at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  Nationally, she has the 10th best short program.

Becky Bereswill: She represents the Detroit Skating Club.  She finished 10th in 2008, 18th in 2009 and 13th in 2010.  She won gold at Eastern Great Lakes Regionals and silver at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  Nationally, she has the 9th best short program, 7th best free skate and 7th best total scores. 

Ashley Cain: She is 17 years old and represents the Stars Figure Skating Club of Texas.  She placed 5th at JGP France.  She is the 2010 Novice Ladies silver medalist, finished 6th in Junior Ladies in 2011 and is the reigning Junior Ladies silver medalist.  She won gold at Southwestern Regionals and gold at Midwestern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  Nationally, she has the 2nd best short program, 3rd best free skate and 4th best total scores.

Samantha Cesario: She is 19 years old and represents the Skating Club of New York.  She won bronze at JGP Austria.  She placed 8th in Juvenile in 2005, 6th in Juniors in 2009 and 14th in 2010.  She won gold at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  Internationally as a junior, she has the 9th best short program, 7th best free skate and 6th best total scores.  Nationally, she has the 4th best short program, 2nd best free skate and 2nd best total scores.

Haley Dunne: She is 19 years old and represents the University of Delaware Figure Skating Club.  She finished 13th in Juniors in 2010, 8th in Juniors in 2011 and 16th in Seniors in 2012.  She won gold at South Atlantic Regionals and bronze at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  Nationally, she has the 3rd best short program, 5th best free skate and 6th best total scores.

Joelle Forte: She is 26 and represents the Skating Club of New York.  She finished 9th in Novice in 2000, 12th in 2009, 9th in 2011 and 14th in 2012.  She won bronze at North Atlantic Regionals and pewter at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Christina Gao: She is 18 years old and represents the Northern Kentucky Skating Club.  She won silver at Skate America and finished 4th at Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where she finished 6th.  She placed 12th in Juvenile Girls in 2005, 12th in Novice in 2008, is the 2009 Junior bronze medalist and finished 5th in 2010, 2011 and 2012.  Internationally, she has the 10th best total score.

Gracie Gold: She is 17 years old and represents the Wagon Wheel Figure Skating Club.  She is the reigning World Junior silver medalist.  She finished 7th at Skate Canada and won silver at Rostelecom Cup.  She is the 2010 Novice Ladies pewter medalist and reigning Junior Ladies Champion.  Internationally, she has the 6th best short program and 9th best total score.

Courtney Hicks: She represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  She won silver at JGP USA and finished 4th at JGP Slovenia.  She won silver at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  Internationally as a junior, she has the 8th best free skate and total scores.  Nationally, she has the 5th best short program, 4th best free skate and 3rd best total scores.  

Amanda Hofmann:  She represents the Portland Ice Skating Club.  She won gold at Northwest Pacific Regionals and pewter at Pacific Coast Sectionals to qualify for nationals.

Leah Keiser: She is 15 years old and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  She won gold at JGP Turkey and finished 4th at JGP Germany to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final where finished 6th.  She is the 2008 Juvenile Girls Champion and 2010 Novice Champion.  She placed 12th in 2012.  Internationally as a junior, she has the 6th best short program, 6th best free skate and 7th best total scores.

Hannah Miller: She is 16 years old and represents the Lansing Skating Club.  She won silver at JGP Austria and silver at JGP Croatia to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final where she won silver.  She finished 8th in Juvenile Girls in 2009, 5th in Intermediate Ladies in 2010, is the 2011 Novice Ladies Champion and the reigning Junior Ladies bronze medalist.  Internationally as a junior, she has the 2nd best short program, 4th best free skate and 2nd best total scores.

Mirai Nagasu:  She is 19 years old and represents the Pasadena Figure Skating Club.  She finished 4th at Cup of China and won bronze at NHK Trophy.  She is the 2011 Four Continents bronze medalist, 2007 World Junior silver medalist and 2008 World Junior bronze medalist.  She is the 2007 Junior Ladies Champion, 2008 Champion, finished 5th in 2009, is the 2010 silver medalist and 2011 bronze medalist.  She finished 7th in 2012.  Internationally, she has the 7th best short program, 8th free skate and 7th best total scores.

Yasmin Siraj: She is 16 years old and represents the Skating Club of Boston.  She is the 2007 Juvenile silver medalist, finished 6th in Intermediate Ladies in 2008, 5th in Novice in 2009, is the 2010 Junior silver medalist, finished 8th in 2011 and 15th in 2012.  She won gold at New England Regionals and silver at Eastern Sectionals to qualify for nationals.  Nationally, she has the 6th best short program, 6th free skate and 5th best total scores.

Ashley Wagner:  She is 21 years old and represents the Skating Club of Wilmington.  She is the reigning Four Continents Champion.  She won gold at Skate America and gold at Trophee Eric Bompard to qualify for the Grand Prix Final where she won silver.  She is the 2007 and 2009 World Junior bronze medalist.  She finished 17th in Intermediate in 2003, 7th in Novice in 2005, is the 2006 Junior pewter medalist, 2007 Junior bronze medalist, 2008 bronze medalist, 2009 pewter medalist, 2010 bronze medalist and finished 6th in 2011.  She is the reigning Champion.  Internationally, she has the 2nd best short program, 2nd best free skate and 2nd best total scores.

Angela Wang: She is 16 years old and represents the Salt Lake Figure Skating Club.  She won bronze at JGP USA and gold at JGP Croatia to qualify for the Junior Grand Prix Final where she finished 4th.  She finished 9th in Intermediate in 2007, is the 2008 Intermediate Ladies pewter medalist, the 2009 Novice bronze medalist, finished 7th in Juniors in 2010 and 8th in Seniors in 2012.  Internationally as a junior, she has the 3rd best short program, 2nd best free skate and 4th best total scores.

Agnes Zawadzki: She is 18 years old and represents the Broadmoor Skating Club.  She won bronze at Rostelecom Cup and placed 5th at NHK Trophy.  She is the 2010 World Junior silver medalist and is the 2011 World Junior bronze medalist.  She is the 2007 Intermediate silver medalist, 2008 Novice pewter medalist, 2010 Junior Champion, 2011 pewter medalist and reigning bronze medalist.  Internationally, she has the 10th best short program score.

Caroline Zhang: She is 19 years old and represents the All Year Figure Skating Club.  She is the reigning Four Continents bronze medalist.  She placed 9th at Skate Canada and 10th at Rostelecom Cup.  She is the 2010 Four Continents bronze medalist, the 2007 Junior World Champion and the 2008 and 2009 Junior World silver medalist.  She is the 2003 Juvenile Girls pewter medalist, 2004 Intermediate Ladies bronze medalist, 2005 Novice pewter medalist, finished 8th in Juniors in 2006, is the 2007 Junior silver medalist, 2008 pewter medalist, 2009 bronze medalist, finished 11th in 2010 and 12th in 2011.  She is the reigning pewter medalist.