by Daphne Backman | Photo by Robin Ritoss
Meryl Davis & Charlie White continued their dominance of the U.S. ice dancing realm winning their sixth consecutive U.S. championship title. Receiving all level 4s for their elements and straight 10s for program components for their Scheherazade, they finished 18.75 points ahead of silver medalists, Madison Chock & Evan Bates. With their win in Boston, Davis & White pass Elizabeth Punsalan & Jerrod Swallow, Naomi Lang & Peter Tchernyshev and Tanith Belbin & Ben Agosto, who each won five U.S. titles.
“It’s such an honor for us, not only because it’s something we’ve worked hard to accomplish, but I think we feel there’s such greatness in American ice dance in the building,” Davis said. “Liz Punsalan is coaching here. Tanith Belbin is doing commentary. Ben Agosto is here. With all of those American ice dancing greats being here, it really feels like a collective effort and we feel proud to be a part of it.”
The competitive level of the ice dance event has been steadily increasing over the past several years.
“This has been a long time coming for ice dance,” White said. “With the change in the judging system, the U.S. was able to capitalize on what the tech panel was looking for and what the judges were looking for. It came at a time when we had a lot of talent surfacing.”
The top seven did not deviate from their placements between the programs. Finishing second, Madison Chock & Evan Bates were able to match their placement from last season. Chock & Bates received level 4s on all of their elements except their diagonal step sequence which received level 3. “We skated a great free dance today,” Bates said. “It’s the best we’ve ever skated. This has been the best competition we’ve ever had together, and it’s just at the perfect time, rolling into Sochi. We’re going to build off of this.”
In a close battle for the bronze, siblings Maia & Alex Shibutani finished less than a point ahead of Madison Hubbell & Zach Donohue in the free dance and 2.17 overall to finish third. The Shibutani’s program to music by Michael Jackson received level 4s on all of their lifts, but level 3s on their twizzles and step sequences. Their TES score was slightly lower than Hubbell & Donohue’s, but their PCS gave them the edge in this phase of the competition. The crowd responded well to the familiar music and their energized performance.
“We were really trying to focus on every single second, be really in touch with each other’s body movements,” Maia said. “The crowd was amazing, but there were a lot of people so it’s easy to get over excited. Our goal was really to stay grounded and do our very best.”
“A program like this one begins and ends with such high energy,” Alex added. “We’ve never had a program like this where people are screaming when the first note hits. You know the music obviously carries some weight. People have very specific feelings and memories when it comes to Michael Jackson, his music, his dance.”
For the second consecutive year, Hubbell & Donohue, the 2012 U.S. bronze medalists, finished fourth. Their performance to “Nocturne Into Bohemian Rhapsody” by Lucia Micarelli was subtle and you could see the chemistry and connection between them. They received level 4s on all elements except their step sequences. Hubbell has been battling injury this season including a concussion and a torn labrum, which is still plaguing her.
“I’m so proud of my partner, she’s gone through a lot this year: concussions, torn body parts, bruises, cuts, scrapes,” Donohue said. “She really pulled through and I think we had the best skate of our lives so far. We are really thrilled with our program.”
“The crowd’s energy really helped us perform all the way through the four minutes,” Hubbell said. “I don’t think we could be any more proud of ourselves this year. It’s been very tough, everyone knows, it’s an old story, but for us it’s very emotional.”
The 2012 & 2013 U.S. junior champions, Alexandra Aldridge & Daniel Eaton finished fifth in the senior debut at Nationals. Skating to a medley of Bollywood music, they received level 4s on all of their elements except for their step sequences (level 3).
The 2012 U.S. pewter medalists, Lynn Kriengkrairut & Logan Giulietti-Schmitt (pictured, right), finished in sixth. their performance to music from Spartacus contained many nuances and highlight moves that showcased their smooth skating style. Lynn & Logan finished ahead of Aldridge & Eaton on TES marks, but their PCS scores were nearly two points lower.
Anastasia Cannuscio & Colin McManus finished seventh. McManus, a member of the Skating Club of Boston, enjoyed competing at home.
“It (the home town crowd) was an advantage I think,” McManus said. “It was just electrifying and helped us get through our program…Faces of my family and friends I grew up with and my training mates, it was fantastic, and it was a really amazing experience.”