1) Amanda Evora & Mark Ladwig
2) Caydee Denney & John Coughlin
3) Mary-Beth Marley & Rockne Brubaker
4) Tiffany Vise & Don Baldwin
Last year we had a sentimental favorite in Yankowskas & Coughlin and they won gold. This year we have another sentimental favorite in Evora & Ladwig, a team that has been so close to gold for so many years but can't ever quite get there. I don't want to suggest that if they win it will be by default, but they have so much more experience skating together than most of the teams in this event that it's not even funny. I say it all the time, but we can't truly appreciate the beauty of the pairs elements and the artistry if they don't land the jumps. I truly think they will win, but I want them to get their gold in high fashion with two clean programs.
Denney & Coughlin own the last two gold medals from the US Championships, albeit with different partners. They teamed up in the summer and have been quite successful together. They've avoided major mistakes in competition, but their connection, artistry, and polish need fine tuning. They are a solid bet for one of the top two spots and a spot on the world team. If they are clean and Evora & Ladwig make mistakes, they'll likely win. The judges seem to really like them so I don't see them going below second unless they fall apart.
I really took to Marley & Brubaker last year at Nationals. I have always been a Rockne fan and found Mary Beth very refreshing. They had a solid debut in 4th last year and they've been able to get some international exposure at 4 Continents and Skate America. They have a lot of work to do in terms of artistry and building Mary Beth's confidence, but they'll get there if they STAY TOGETHER. I cannot stress enough how much I want these teams to stay together. They have switched coaches from John Nicks to Meno & Sand which should work out well in my opinion. Mr Nicks is a fantastic pairs coach, but he is aging and he has singles students to worry about. Meno & Sand are arguably the most successful US Pair team ever so they know what they're talking about.
Fourth is a tough position to call because anyone could land there, but I'm going with Vise & Baldwin. They had a very respectable showing at Skate America and skated two clean programs. They don't have all the acrobatic tricks of the younger teams, but they have a maturity that only comes with years and years of experience. I'm not about to suggest that they are world class or that they will ever contend for any major international titles, but it would be nice to see them on the podium.
Cain/Reagan-BYE-6th at 2011 Cup of Russia (138.02)
Castelli/Shnapir-BYE-7th at 2011 NHK Trophy (149.02)
Chanel-Bautista/Harris-3rd at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (124.67)
Denney/Coughlin-BYE-4th at 2011 Skate America (175.40); 5th at 2011 NHK Trophy (163.75)
Donlan/Sperof-1st at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (152.73)
Evora/Ladwig-4th at 2011 Cup of China (170.63); 4th at 2011 TEB (169.58)
Marley/Brubaker-BYE-7th at 2011 Skate America (144.80)
Scimeca/Dimitrov-4th at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (110.80)
Vise/Baldwin-BYE-6th at 2011 Skate America (155.42)
Zhang/Bartholomay-2nd at 2011 Eastern Sectionals (131.08)