1) Ashley Wagner
2) Alissa Czisny
3) Mirai Nagasu
4) Leah Keiser
I tweeted before the season started that this was going to be the year of Ashley Wagner, and I think I'm right. Though her Grand Prix results (3rd place & 4th place) weren't a huge improvement over last season, she arguably faced stiffer competition at her events this year and put together much stronger performances overall. She has always been a nice skater to watch, but she never had a competitive edge, and now I see her as a true fighter out there on the ice. Though international judges didn't give her the scores on the Grand Prix we though she deserved, US judges, in my opinion, tend to give the nod to the skater who goes clean. So, if she can stay on her feet and avoid mental mistakes like two-foots and under-rotations, I think she is the favorite going in.
Alissa Czisny took home two Grand Prix medals, Gold and Bronze just like last season, but she didn't win the Grand Prix Final like last season, she didn't even medal. She started off this season with such a good mindset, wanting to up her technical content to compete with the youngsters internationally, but that hasn't come to fruition. Last season she seemed like the strong favorite going into Nationals, but this year she's probably tied in the minds of many with the likes of Wagner and Nagasu. If she goes 100% clean, she is the surefire winner based on components and spin levels, but I don't know if she has it in her to skate mistake-free two Nationals in a row.
What can you say about Mirai Nagasu? Well she has the raw talent many skaters would kill for and the perfect natural body type if she could keep herself in shape. What I call into question is her work ethic and her passion for the sport. I get that she has a long commute to the rink and most of her mistakes in major competition are small, mental errors on spins and such, but at some point the excuses need to stop. She is so gifted and has the makings of a World champion, but at 18, she is too old to be making rookie mistakes.
Leah Keiser is a relatively unknown skater as she didn't even qualify for Nationals last season, but she took this year's qualifying events by storm. She scored a 172.22 at her sectionals, 12 points higher than Caroline Zhang, the next highest finisher in any sectional for senior ladies. To put that score into perspective, Alissa Czisny scored a 179.15 at Trophee Eric Bompard and Ashley Wagner scored a 165.65 at NHK Trophy this season. Could this 14-year-old upset the favorites and win a National title in Michelle Kwan fashion?
Sophia Adams-4th at 2011 Pacific Sectionals (128.49)
Alissa Czisny-BYE-1st at 2011 Skate America (177.48); 3rd at 2011 TEB (179.15)
Kiri Baga-3rd at 2011 Midwestern Sectionals (143.14)
Morgan Bell-4th at 2011 Midwestern Sectionals (135.00)
Samantha Cesario-2nd at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (145.87)
McKinzie Daniels-2nd at 2011 Midwestern Sectionals (152.34
Hayley Dunne-4th at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (143.05)
Rachael Flatt-BYE-10th at 2011 Skate Canada (128.22); 9th at 2011 Cup of Russia (147.63)
Joelle Forte-3rd at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (145.14)
Christina Gao-BYE-5th at 2011 Cup of China (152.48); 10th at 2011 Cup of Russia (117.77)
Nina Jiang-1st at 2011 Midwestern Sectionals (154.44)
Leah Keiser-1st at 2011 Pacific Sectionals (172.22)
Vanessa Lam-BYE-1st at 2011 JGP Austria (156.58); 5th at 2011 JGP Final (145.62)
Mirai Nagasu-BYE-5th at 2011 Skate Canada (151.72); 2nd at 2011 Cup of China (173.22)
Yasmin Siraj-1st at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (158.60)
Ashley Wagner-BYE-3rd at 2011 Skate Canada (165.48); 4th at 2011 NHK Trophy (165.65)
Angela Wang-3rd at 2011 Pacific Sectionals (155.32)
Agnes Zawadzki-BYE-8th at 2011 NHK Trophy (138.19); 7th at 2011 Cup of Russia (149.38)
Caroline Zhang-2nd at 2011 Pacific Sectionals (160.20)