Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin - I'm always completely impressed with this team every time I see them. They have dynamic lifts and a wonderful connection with the audience. Caitlin is one of those skaters whom you can't take your eyes off of when she's on the ice. Some inconsistency has plagued them off and on. If they hit their elements they'll have a shot at the podium and possibly a trip to Vancouver. Their most recent competition, 2009 HomeSense Skate Canada, they finished 7th.
Brooke Castile and Ben Okolski - The last time this team competed in Spokane they surprised everyone by winning the 2007 National crown. This team has beautiful classic pair lines and great attention to choreography but often struggles in the technical department. This is the first season since their 2007 Nationals win that they enter the event healthy. The last two years they entered Nationals coming off of injury. They reached the top before...can they do it again? They recently finished 6th at 2009 Cancer.Net Skate America.
Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig - One of the teams that seems stuck in that 4th-5th-6th range at U.S. Nationals. Beautiful artistry but again, some troubles often on the technical elements. When this team is on they can be spectacular. Their lifts are some of the most inventive and spectacular to watch. They just missed the podium last year and will need a big effort to make it this season and an even bigger effort to make the Olympic Team. They recently finished 7th at Samsung Anycall Cup of China and 5th at Cancer.Net Skate America.
Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett - This team made a splash last season coming seemingly from nowhere to take the silver medal at Nationals (and desperately close to winning). They followed it up with stunning performances at both the Four Continents Cup and the World Championships solidifying themselves as the hot new team to watch. At both their Grand Prix events this season they continued to demonstrate solid technical skills and also showed improved artistic sensibility. Their ability to skate clean under pressure makes them one of (if not the) the teams to beat. This team was 4th at NHK Trophy and 5th at HomseSense Skate Canada.
Rena Inoue and John Baldwin - The veterans of the field and the only team competing in Spokane with previous Olympic experience (7th in Torino). This team has a secret weapon in their back pocket...the throw triple axel. They successfully completed the element this season at Trophee Eric Bompard. What has held this team back is consistency on the side-by-side triple jumps, especially on John's part. The lack of consistency on that element has caused them to put side-by-side double axels in their short program which puts them at a point disadvantage. If they can find consistency on their side-by-side triple jumps they'll be in good shape. They finished 4th at Trophee Eric Bompard and won the bronze medal at NHK Trophy.
Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker - This team barely squeaked out a defense of their National Title last season and have had trouble getting back to gold standard form sense. At last season's World Championships they actually finished behind Denney and Barrett. Over the summer they made a coaching change and made the move from Colorado Springs to L.A. to train with John Nicks (also coaching Sasha Cohen). John has a knack with pairs skaters, turning out several champions in the past. They have a unique free skate (Slumdog Millionaire) that has left me a bit cold this season. If they can find a way to be more engaging with the audience and choreography with their music and improve upon the technical issues that have plagued them this season, they should have no problem making it to Vancouver. If the mistakes come...it could get dicey. This team won the bronze in their season opener at Rostelecom Cup but was just 4th at Skate America.
I make a point of not predicting Nationals but I'm curious to get your opinion on how you see things playing out. Comment below!