by Jacquelyn Thayer

 

In 1996, the last time the U.S. Figure Skating Championships were held in San Jose, the novice ice dance roster included a few athletes who became household names (at least in the skating community). Winning all phases of competition were future World Junior champions Jamie Silverstein & Justin Pekarek. In eighth place was Ben Agosto (with then-partner Katie Hill) and in tenth was Kim Navarro (with then-partner Matthew Tinney). Perhaps the future stars of U.S. ice dancing will make their mark this coming week?

It’s been an impressive season for Holly Moore & Daniel Klaber, the only team returning from last year’s novice event. The first-place finish at Midwestern Sectional Championships that sealed their return trip to Nationals was just the latest in a still-undefeated season which has included stops at Lake Placid, Chesapeake Open, and Pikes Peak Classic. Their sophisticated free dance to “Le Jazz Hot” may be their strongest weapon, earning 55.91 at Sectionals, the highest in the country. While the team finished only eighth in last year’s novice field, the more experienced Moore & Klaber now look set to capture gold.

New team Whitney Miller & Kyle MacMillan took Easterns by a landslide, earning a total 98.75 – the highest novice total score in this year’s Sectionals – ahead of silver medalists Rebecca Lucas & Yan Kazansky’s 76.24. Miller and MacMillan share a history of national success at the intermediate level: with Rachel Parsons, MacMillan was 2010’s champion, while Miller and Grant Lorello – competing this year with Hannah Pfeiffer – won the silver in 2011. Miller & MacMillan have carried that victorious history into their new partnership, winning September’s Challenge Cup and finishing second behind Moore & Klaber in events including Lake Placid and Pikes Peak.

lewis-bye-12natsnovPacific Coasts champions Chloe Lewis & Logan Bye are making their national novice debut after a sixth-place finish at the intermediate level in 2011. At Sectionals, the couple improved upon their previous top free dance score by six points to achieve a new personal best of 48.43. Winning the free dance at the same event with a score of 51.76, Stacey Siddon & Jared Weiss could not overcome the deficit from the pattern dances and placed second overall. Although Siddon & Weiss competed at the novice level last season, they did not qualify for the 2011 U.S. Championships in Greensboro, N.C.

Hannah Rosinski & Jacob Jaffe, who partnered in February 2011, earned an impressive total of 94.16 at Midwesterns, close behind Moore & Klaber’s 95.46 and the third-highest across all three Sectionals. Also qualifying at Midwesterns were Madison George & Brad Kleffman and Sierra Chadwick & Alexander Martin. George & Kleffman finished third in their first event as a team. Fourth-place finishers Chadwick & Martin won bronze at the intermediate level at last season’s Nationals.

Meara Lorello & William Dean, last year’s national intermediate champions, earned a berth to this year’s event with bronze at Easterns. Rounding out that event’s list of qualifiers is new pairing Karen Tong & David Cruikshank, who made their team debut at Sectionals. In their second year as both partners and as novice-level competitors, Lauren Leonesio & Dustin Perini placed fourth at Pacific Coasts, finishing third in the free dance and only 1.15 points overall behind bronze medalists Pfeifer & Lorello.

The novice ice dancers take the ice for the first time on Saturday at 2:25 p.m. Pacific Time for their official practice session. The competition begins with pattern dances on Sunday, January 22, with the free dance the following morning.