Novice Teams to Skate at U.S. National Championships

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by Anne Calder

At the 2024 U.S. National Championships in Columbus, Ohio, the five highest scoring novice teams from the Ice Dance Final held in Bloomington, Minnesota will take center ice for their Pattern and Free Dances.

Novice ice dance and pairs first competed at the annual Championship event in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1991. Prior to that date only Novice single skaters were invited to participate at Nationals.

Going forward, the U.S. National Championships were usually held at two venues.

In Minneapolis, the novice athletes skated their technical programs at Paradise Ice Garden and their free programs at the main arena which was the Target Center.

In 1999, juvenile and intermediate skaters began competing nationally at the newly created U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships. The Series ended in 2012.

The following year, the Century-Link Center in Omaha, Nebraska was large enough to expand the 2013 Championships to include all five groups. In addition to the arena, two sheets of ice were added in the convention center for practice and the juvenile and intermediate competitions.

At the 2014 U.S. National Championships in Boston, Massachusetts, two separate venues were used again. The juvenile, intermediate, novice (JINs) and junior short programs were held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center; the Junior Free and all Senior events were competed at the TD Garden.

In 2015, in Greensboro, North Carolina the JINs competed at the Convention Center while the Junior and Senior athletes were at the Coliseum. Both were located in the same building but separated by a walkway.

The next four U.S. National Championships (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) were almost two separate events. The connection was the Junior/Senior teams practiced on the same ice after the JINs competed. While most of the venues were a short distance apart, the Detroit Skating Club in 2019 was almost 30 miles from the Little Caesars Arena, which fortunately had practice ice for the Juniors and Seniors who could then avoid traveling.

Beginning with the 2019-2020 season, the National Qualifying Series (NQS) was adopted. The juvenile, intermediate and novice athletes would no longer compete at the U.S National Championships. Instead they had to qualify for the National High-Performance Development Team and a camp, which would be held annually for two to three days after the National Championships and within close proximity.

The following Novice teams will compete at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, from January 23 and 24.

  • Michelle Deych & Ryan Hu train at the Novi Ice Arena in Michigan. Their coaches include Igor Shpilband, Natalia Deller and Adrienne Lenda. The Ice Dance Final Novice bronze medalists partnered this season.
  • Clara Fugate & Warren Fugate are twins who train at the Michigan Ice Dance Academy (MIDA) with Greg Zuerlein, Tanith White and Charlie White.
  • Ja Yi Kirwan & Drake Tong train with Kristin Fraser-Lukanin and Igor Lukanin at the Montclair State Ice Arena in Little Falls, New Jersey. In their first season as partners, they are Ice Dance Final Novice pewter medalists. Drake also competed at the 2023 Solo Dance Championships.
  • Anaelle Kouevi & Yann Homawoo made their Novice debut in 2023. The cousins train with Elena Novak and Alexei Kiliakov at the ION Training Center in Leesburg, Virginia. The team won the silver medal at the Ice Dance Final.
  • Jasmine Robertson & Cooper Cornwell (pictured in banner) are coached by Igor Shpilband’s team at the Novi Ice Arena in Michigan. The duo won the Novice gold medal at the Ice Dance Final after skating together for only six months.

Michelle Deych & Ryan Hu

Clara Fugate & Warren Fugate

Ja Yi Kirwan & Drake Tong

Anaelle Kouevi & Yann Homawoo