I think the pairs title is up for grabs in Greensboro this weekend....two world championships berths are on the line.
The Front Runners
Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett: This Florida team switched coaches this season to John Zimmerman, but to be honest, I don't see any vast improvement. They aren't the most artistic pair but their strength has always been how solid they are and their tendency for "lights out" skating. Unfortunately, those days may be gone. However, they are the seventh-ranked pair in the world right now, and they received the season's 9th highest score in the Grand Prix (thank you, Wikipedia!). They perform well at Nationals and the other American pairs are prone to error, so they may very well be able to defend their title and win their third trip to worlds.
Amanda Evora and Mark Ladwig: I really like to watch this team, particularly their lifts, which garner very high scores. But these reigning U.S. silver medalists started the season completely out of it at Cup of China, finishing fifth. It was nice to see they had woken up by Rostelecom Cup, where they captured the bronze medal. They have better presentation than Denney and Barrett but they make more mistakes. If they skate clean, they should be on the podium, possibly in the top spot. The sparks were there at Rostelecom Cup - hoping they're here in Greensboro as well!
Caitlin Yankowskas and John Coughlin: These two have been really making a name for themselves this season, with a bronze at Cup of China. I find them more watchable than Denney and Barrett in terms of presentation but not as consistent. They have an emotional free skate of Ave Maria, a tribute to John's mother who recently died. It's a nice program...is it enough to get them to the world championships for the first time?
The Dark Horses
Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir: This pairs just missed the podium at Skate Canada (after being in second place after the short program!), so they are definitely making strides toward challenging the front runners above. Their claim to fame right now is that they attempt the throw triple axel. They've been practicing it in Greensboro so it will be interesting to see if they land it. Another Avatar free skate...it's an ok program but not one of my favorites this season. I think that in the right circumstances, these two could medal here. But that would have to involve a lot of circumstances.
Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller: UPDATE: These two withdrew and I was super late in getting the memo. Miller was trying to get back from a recent injury...not in time.... Definitely not looking for this team to win or even medal, but it's pairs so I wouldn't count them out completely. Simpson and Miller are last season's junior silver medalists. They debuted on the senior Grand Prix circuit this season and weren't quite up to par with the front runners above, but it was good learning experience for them.
And don't forget that Rockne Brubaker will be here skating with his new(ish) partner, Mary Beth Marley. I haven't gotten to see these two together yet but Brubaker is a two-time national champ, so he brings lot of experience to the table.