Meryl Davis and Charlie White topped the only competition they have in the United States.
The Olympic silver medalists and 2011 world champions scored a career-high 79.02 points in the short dance Friday in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, topping the 76.17 they scored at the 2011 Grand Prix final as well as their 76.89 from last year's U.S. meet. The International Skating Union only recognizes scores from its events as official records.
With more than an eight-point lead over Madison Chock and Evan Bates (70.8), Davis and White are all but assured of winning a record-tying fifth U.S. dance title Saturday as long as they show up. Four other couples also have won five titles, most recently Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.
"There are a lot of reasons to stay motivated," Davis said. "We feel we're making huge strides in what we're putting out on the ice. What better place than your national championships to show that?"
The only couple close to Davis and White is Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, and their rivalry is the best thing going in dance these days. Virtue and Moir won the Olympic title as well as the world crowns in 2010 and 2012 while the Americans won worlds in 2011 and beat the Canadians last month in the Grand Prix final.
Oh, they train together in suburban Detroit, too.
Here in the States, though, no one comes close to Davis and White's exquisite performances. The short dance can be a mind-numbing event, with all of the skaters required to perform the same dances - this year it's the Yankee polka and the waltz - during their 2:50 routine. Watch one or two teams, and it all becomes a blur.
But Davis and White not only make it fresh, they make it entertaining.
The speed and ease with which they skated was breathtaking, as if their blades were talking to the ice. Their twizzles - traveling spins - were done in perfect unison. Doing one would be impressive enough - think rubbing your stomach while patting your head, and you get the idea - but they did five and then another four, never losing their stride, connection to the music or their connection to each other. And when they began their polka with a series of hops, you half-expected an oompah band to stroll out of the Zamboni garage.
They were so good, the audience was on its feet, the first standing ovation of the competition.
"We were really pleased," Davis said. "We've really been evolving our overall comfort on the ice, our speed and energy, and it really paid off in our performance today."