Egg Harbor Township's Anastasia Cannuscio and partner Colin McManus are in sixth place after the short dance portion of the ice dancing competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Omaha, Neb.

The duo finished with a total of 56.33 points. Olympic silver medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White are in first after a career-high total of 79.02 points.

No surprise, the monster score put Davis and White well in front. Evan Bates and Madison Chock are more than eight points back (70.80) while 2012 runners-up Maia and Alex Shibutani were third (69.63). The free dance is Saturday, and Davis and White are all but guaranteed a fifth straight title just by showing up.

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Cannuscio's sister Isabella and her partner Michael Bramante are also competing. They are in eighth place with 52.51 points.

“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.

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 minute, 50 second 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.”

Men's free skate: Jeremy Abbott’s clean but conservative free skate was more than enough to put him in the lead.

The three-time champion scored 84.10 points, three points ahead of Ross Miner. Joshua Farris, silver medalist at last year’s junior world championships was third. The free skate is Sunday.

Olympic champion Evan Lysacek had hoped to return at nationals, and it’s easy to see why he’s contemplating a comeback. Out of 20 men, only four got through their programs without a major error. And while Abbott was clean, he was hardly ambitious, not even attempting a quadruple jump.

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