With the withdrawal of five-time U.S. gold medalists Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto from the 2009 U.S Championships, being held this week in Cleveland, Ohio, a new champion will be crowned in that discipline. Meryl Davis and Charlie White laid down their claim for the crown as they took the early lead after the compulsory dance. Meanwhile, at the junior level, several newcomers to those ranks stepped into the spotlight and the junior ladies title was decided.
Davis and White took a three-point lead in the senior ice dance after the compulsories. They scored 39.93 points to Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates' 36.28 points. Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre ranked third with 35.22 points. Madison Hubbell and Keiffer Hubbell were fourth in that portion of the event with 32.52 points while Jane Summersett and Todd Gilles rounded out the top five with 32.48 points.
DeeDee Leng (DuPage FSC) came out of nowhere to win the junior ladies competition Wednesday. Leng, who was fourth at the Midwestern Sectional Championships, led after the short program at nationals and did not let up in the free skate. She outscored Ellie Kawamura (All Year FSC), 132.49-131.25, to take the title. Christina Gao (Northern Kentucky SC) took the bronze with 128.69 points.
Kristiene Gong (SC of New York) was the pewter medalist with 126.17 points and Kendall Wyckoff (Vermont SC) rounded out the top fice with 123.88 points.
In the junior men's competition, Ross Miner, 17, took the lead after the short program (he compiled 66.62 points). Skating to music from the TV series "Bonanza" and the Raging Cajuns' "Cotton-Eyed Joe," Miner (SC of Boston) put down a stellar program, which featured three triples and a solid double Axel (last year, Miner placed fourth in the novice division at nationals).
In second place after the short program was Keegan Messing (Anchorage FSC) with 59.80 points, while in third was reigning Junior Grand Prix Final silver medalist Armin Mahbanoozadeh (Washington FSC) with 59.29 points.
In junior pairs, Brynn Carman and Christopher Knierim (Broadmoor SC/Broadmoor SC) took the lead after the short program in which they accumulated 48.31 points. Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (SC of Boston/Colonia FSC) were second with 47.57 points and Tracy Tanovich and Michael Chau (Southwest Florida FSC/Southwest Florida FSC) in third with 46.84 points.
In junior ice dance a day earlier, Madison Chock and Greg Zeurlein (All Year FSC/Arctic FSC) were in first after the original dance with Maia Shibutani and Alex Shibutani (SC of New York/Arctic FSC) in second, and Piper Gilles and Zachary Donohue (Broadmoor SC/Broadmoor SC) in third.
THE NOVICE CHAMPIONS
At the novice level, Kiri Baga won the ladies title while Joshua Farris was golden in the novice men's competition. Cassie Andrews and Nicholas Anderson won the novice pairs title and Lauri Bonacorsi and Travis Mager danced to victory in their discipline.