U.S. Junior National Championships – November 26-December 1, 2007 – Salt Lake City, UT
You can’t predict something that is completely unpredictable. Case in point: the juvenile and intermediate ice dancing events at the 2008 U.S. Junior National Championships, which take place this week in Salt Lake City, Utah. The heightened focus on achieving the highest possible levels, along with an increase in the number of teams, make it nearly impossible to wager a guess as to which teams will wear the medals on Saturday.
At the 2007 Lake Placid Ice Dancing Championships in August, it was apparent that the juvenile and intermediate dancers had taken the level of competition up a notch. The top teams were performing lifts and spins with an ease that you see from those at a higher level.
The emergence of U.S. ice dancers Tanith Belbin & Benjamin Agosto, who over the past several years have won multiple World Championship medals and the silver medal at the 2006 Olympics, may have created a “trickle-down” effect, increasing the interest in ice dance at the lower levels. Instead of having the least number of entries, ice dance is thriving with 24 teams scheduled to compete in the intermediate dance event and 34 teams scheduled for juvenile.
The event starts on Wednesday with the first part of the qualifying process. Within each level, teams will be split into two qualifying groups to perform their free dance. For juvenile, the top nine teams in each group will then advance. For intermediate, only the top six teams in each group advance.
On Friday, the 18 juvenile and 12 intermediate teams compete the compulsory dances. On Saturday the competition wraps up with the free dance.
Scores from qualifying are NOT carried over. Every team starts at zero for the final rounds.
With six of the top seven juvenile teams from last year’s nationals making the move to intermediate, the event appears wide open. Of the returning teams, siblings Danielle Gamelin & Alexander Gamelin and Jessica Demaria & Dean Miller placed the highest at this event in 2007, finishing 9th and 10th respectively. The Gamelins were one of a number of teams who chose to compete at Sectionals a few weeks ago, where they finished first. A sibling trend could be popular as Sage Kelner & Malcolm Kelner, who won the event at Midwestern Sectionals, finished fourth in Lake Placid in August in a tough field. Other teams to watch are Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter, Danvi Pham & Vu Pham, Meara Lorello & Grant Lorello and Tori Look & David Botero.
In what looks to be a hotly contested intermediate event, returning teams, including Taylor Elliott & Zachary Elliott and Kirsten Seagers & Nicholas Taylor, will face off against a tough crop of just-up-from-juvenile teams. The entire 2007 juvenile podium, including champions Joylyn Yang & Jean-Luc Baker, along with Elicia Reynolds & Stephen Reynolds, Laura Perry & Joshua Leggett, and Mackenzie Reid & Christian Erwin, will compete in Salt Lake City. Other teams to watch include Susan Enright & Michael Bramante.