by Melanie Hoyt | Photo by Daphne Backman

After a week off, the Junior Grand Prix Series will resume this weekend in Torun, Poland. The roster for JGP Copernicus Stars is comprised of 18 teams from 12 countries, including a team well on its way to a spot in the JGP Final. Poland often hosts a JGP event, but it is usually in Gdansk; Torun last hosted the JGP in 2009.

Leading the charge for the podium should be Americans Lorraine McNamara & Quinn Carpenter, who hold the highest score recorded on this year’s JGP circuit thus far. Their new ISU personal best score of 159.31 gave them a comfortable victory three weeks ago at JGP Colorado Springs. A gold or silver medal in Torun will send them to the JGP Final, and because their score from Colorado Springs is so high and would keep them on top in a tiebreaker, even a bronze would likely punch their ticket to Barcelona. McNamara & Carpenter won the bronze medal at the 2014 JGP Final, but just missed qualifying last year. They are no strangers to victory in Torun, having won the Mentor Nestle Cup there last season.

Christina Carreira & Anthony Ponomarenko, their Team USA teammates, have another shot at their first JGP podium. Earlier this season in Riga, Latvia, Carreira, 15, & Ponomarenko, 14, placed fourth with a score of 131.25, just over a point from the podium. Inconsistency has been a bit of an issue for this team, and if they can skate both programs without major mistakes, they have the scoring potential to medal in Torun. A spot in the Final is likely out of reach, since they would probably need to win, as well as have their teammates finish third or lower, but a medal would set up this young and talented team well for the rest of the season.

15JGPCS-7311Russia’s Sofia Polishchuk & Alexander Vakhnov won the bronze medal in Colorado Springs a few weeks ago. They set new ISU personal bests there, totaling 129.83, but they were about 30 points behind McNamara & Carpenter, making it unlikely that they will overtake them this week. Like Carreira & Ponomarenko, Polishchuk & Vakhnov are also quite young, at 14 and 16, and have many years of ISU junior eligibility remaining.

Anastasia Skoptcova & Kirill Aleshin will also represent Russia as they make their JGP debut in Torun. This will be their second international competition at the junior level; they were fourth at Volvo Open Cup in 2014. Last year, they finished ninth at the Russian Junior Championships, one place ahead of Polishchuk & Vakhnov. Skoptcova & Aleshin will take on “Iko Iko,” a Mardi Gras cover by Club des Belugas, in the free dance.

Canadians Melinda Meng & Andrew Meng finished less than a point behind Carreira & Ponomarenko in Latvia last month, setting new ISU personal bests in the process. Their free dance to Lucia Micarelli’s popular take on “Bohemian Rhapsody” suits them well, and they have improved quite a bit this year. They have the potential to step onto their first JGP podium this week.

Payten Howland & Simon-Pierre Malette-Paquette (pictured, right) will also represent Canada this week. They earned their second assignment after a sixth-place finish in Colorado Springs, where they earned 124.36 points in their international debut. Since they now represent different countries, this event marks the first time in major competition that Malette-Paquette will go head-to-head against Carreira, his former partner and current training mate.

The French team of Sarah Marine Rouffanche & Geoffrey Brissaud has a chance to break into the top six  at this event. They finished eighth in Colorado Springs with a new ISU personal best total score of 116.25.

Italians Sara Ghislandi & Giona Terzo Ortenzi also have a shot at matching their best-ever JGP finish of sixth place. This will be their international season debut. They train with Barbara Fusar-Poli and Stefano Caruso in Milan.

The ice dance competition begins with the short dance on Friday morning. The free dance will close the entire event on Saturday afternoon.