Nationals: A Love Story (Part 1)

Ah, Nationals, how I love thee…

(For clarification, I am referring to US Nationals. Not the upcoming Canadian Nationals, or the Japanese or Russian nationals that already happened. All ‘Murica, all the time. :p)

Seriously, Nationals is one of my favorite competitions of the whole season, probably second only to the Olympics. Okay, and Worlds. And any of the early-season summer competitions considerate enough to provide livestreams. (Three months feels like an eternity with no skating…)

Hehe. Anyway, back on topic, segueing into the actual post…*drumroll* I’m going to be doing a Nationals preview series! If this goes according to plan, it will be in four parts, one every three days (timed to coincide with the start of Nationals, obviously). So if I can make it work, this will be the posting schedule:

Today, January 4th: Junior Ladies Preview
Friday, January 7th: Junior Ice Dance Preview
Tuesday, January 12th: Senior Ice Dance Preview
Friday, January 15th: Senior Ladies Preview

Basically, I will be analyzing the top contenders in each of these categories with the help of SCIENCE! Or, a “skater-grading” system I came up with that uses an academic report-card format to analyze the prospective placements and technical mumbo-jumbo of the big names in each discipline. Neat, right? Wait, what? You just want me to get to the point?

Oh, all right…here it is: your very official unofficial analysis of the 2016 US Championships Junior Ladies Event! (FYI, these are ranked in order of predicted placement.)

Also, a handy sample of the “report cards” I will use for this series:

Age:
Accomplishments:
Club Represented:

GRADES

Jumps:                                            Spins:                                           Skating Skills/Footwork: Presentation/Interpretation: Consistency:                                Overall Strengths:                     Overall Weaknesses:

1. Vivian Le 
  
Age: 15
Accomplishments: two-time JGP medalist, 2015 US Junior bronze medalist, 2014 US Novice champion, 3rd alternate for the 2015 JGP Final
Club Represented: Dallas FSC

GRADES 
Jumps: A+. HUGE-like, some of the biggest I’ve ever seen-and beautiful to watch, but they lack control. Most of the mistakes Vivian makes are falls and stepouts because she can’t control the landings.
Spins: A-. They’re fast, centered, and have nice positions.
Skating Skills/Footwork: A-. She’s not exactly the most graceful skater, but she gets a lot of speed and power, which is a lot of what SS is.
Interpretation/Presentation: B-. She isn’t a particularly artistic skater (she’s young, so it should come with time), but her presentation is good enough that she’s pleasant to watch, if not entertaining. Even so, tech is her thing, and that’s okay for now.
Consistency: C. Because her jump landings lack control, she’s prone to big, noticeable mistakes like falls and stepouts, not subtler (albeit just as bad) ones like URs or edge calls. She doesn’t seem to be particularly mentally tough, either, which is not a great combination of qualities.
Overall strengths: jumps, spins, speed
Overall weaknesses: interpretation, control, mental strength/consistency

2. Emily Chan 
  
Age: 18
Club Represented: Dallas FSC
Accomplishments: 2015 US Novice champion

GRADES 
Jumps: B-. Not necessarily bad, but…um, this is kind of mean, and if Emily is reading this, I’m sorry and I love all the other things about your skating…but she almost never actually lands them. But when she does, they’re good, so…yay?
Spins: A+. This is one of the areas where Emily shines. They’re fast and centered, with excellent positions, and really everything you want them to be…she has this way of making lower-risk elements that you might ignore with other skaters the highlights of the program, especially spins.
Skating Skills/Footwork: A+. She has excellent SS and her StSqs are immensely enjoyable. According to this article http://www.usfigureskatingfanzone.com/uncategorized/fan-blog-halfway-junior-grand-prix-6-great-moments-might-missed/ her step sequence at JGP Bratislava scored more than the BV of a triple flip. That’s how good her footwork is.
Presentation/Interpretation: A+. Emily is by far the oldest skater in this preview, and this is where it shows. Her musicality and polish is far beyond the rest of the field, and even past some of the senior ladies. She is just beautiful to watch and if she could land things, I can’t even imagine how far she would go. She’s got absolutely everything else.
Consistency: Um, like, C-…like I said, she doesn’t really land things that much. Which is very sad, because she would be up there internationally (as a junior) if she could.
Overall strengths: spins, SS/Footwork, presentation, interpretation/musicality, polish/refinement
Overall weaknesses: consistency, jumps

3. Bradie Tennell

  
Age: 17
Club Represented: Wagon Wheel FSC
Accomplishments: 2015 US Junior champion, 2012 US Novice bronze medalist

GRADES 
Jumps: A. Big, with nice lift and flow.
Spins: A-. Nice, but nothing extraordinary.
Skating Skills/Footwork: B+, I guess? They seem fine.
Presentation/Interpretation: B+…it’s okay, but I don’t really feel things. To get good grades, you must make me FEEL THINGS! *Thumps gavel*
Consistency: B-. This is usually a pretty good area for Bradie, but after disappointing showings at her JGP assignment, I’m not sure anymore.
Overall Strengths: jumps, spins
Overall Weaknesses: presentation, I guess?

4. Paige Rydberg

  
Age: 16
Club Represented: Northern Ice FSC
Accomplishments: 2014 US Novice silver medalist

GRADES 
Jumps: A. She gets amazing ice coverage.
Spins: B. The positions are fine but they travel sooo muuuch…urghhhhh.
Skating Skills/Footwork: B. I guess they’re okay?
Presentation/Interpretation: B. I can tell there’s something there, but it’s very hard to describe and it only comes out in certain parts of her programs.
Consistency: C-. If she does well in one program, chances are she’s gonna fall apart in the other.
Overall Strengths: Jumps (ice coverage!!!!!)
Weaknesses: Consistency, spins (centering)

5. Brynne McIsaac 
 
 
Age: 16
Club Represented: Washington FSC
Accomplishments: 4th at a JGP event

GRADES 
Jumps: B. Okay in the air, but she kind of telegraphs, especially her 3Loop (the entry would make my coach cry). Also, ginormous toe hammer on the flip. Her 2A is great, though.
Spins: B. Fine, but kind of a “nothing to see here” thing.
Skating skills/Footwork: A. A lot of complexity in the footwork and great transitions, if a bit flaily.
Presentation/Interpretation: C. She kinda skates like a robot? Sorry…*hides*
Consistency: A-. If everyone else is falling apart, she’ll be okay. Usually.
Overall Strengths: Consistency, transitions, footwork
Overall Weaknesses: jumps (telegraphing, toe hammer), interpretation
 
And so it ends! Did I leave out someone you think has a shot at the top 5? Do you beg to differ with one of the grades, or did I read your mind? Feel free to leave a comment. I like them! 🙂 

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