Siraj won regionals by a large margin and was a solid 2nd at sectionals. She didn't have a weak season. She was injured most of last season and just started jumping triples a few weeks before Nationals which is likely why she didn't do well. But the season prior to that she was very strong, finishing 2nd at both her JGPs and qualifying for the JGPF, she put up some great scores on the JGP, and finished 8th at senior nationals as a 14 year old. Last season she was generally not skating so well due to the injuries, but both nationally and internationally, Siraj has always been well-received and scores well when she delivers.
I'm not sure I would have placed her 6th at Nationals, but I do think it's fair for her to be sent to JW. If USFS were to send Wang, they'd really also have to send Miller as well, as Miller beat Lam at the JGPF and their placements at Nationals differed by just one spot and one point, and that would mean either Cesario or Hicks would have to be left off the team which doesn't really seem fair given how well they skated at Nationals, they both beat Wang and Miller by a fair point margin. Plus then Yasmin would get nothing for placing 6th at Nationals which would seem a bit unfair because she did do very well and put up a great score. Hicks could have been given 4CCs instead, but then that would mean leaving Gao or Gold off the 4CC team, and Gao really deserves an after-nationals assignment after the season she had and the way she skated at Nationals, and I'm sure USFS wants to give Gracie more experience and exposure before Worlds to see how she stacks up at an event where the field is not a random selection, not to mention it should help ease some of the pressure on her.
So I really think Siraj was a strategic pick after they decided Hicks would be on the JW team, with 2 spots left, they could either give them to Wang and Miller on the basis of JGP success, or go with Siraj and Cesario on the basis of Nationals results. Also, picking Lam for JW on the basis of her strong JGP season last season after she finished behind Wang at Nationals didn't pan out so well, so maybe USFS is wary of that and is trying a new strategy this time around. Wang and Miller are both great skaters, but maybe missing out on JW will give them the push to, for Angela, overcome her SP demons, and for Hannah, work on consistently getting full rotation and more height on her jumps. If they want to do senior GP next season, they probably have the SB scores to get an assured assignment already, and given their successes on the JGP, they might even be able to get 2 assignments due to Worlds Standings and such. No need for doom and gloom for those two. Plus now that Siraj seems to be back to her usual self, I think she will do quite well at JW so long as she can keep the jump mistakes to a minimum.
After following Junior pairs this season and watching nationals, I can't help but feel that we are not sending the strongest pairs teams to junior worlds. Simpson and Blackmer are deserving and are where they should be as juniors. I'm not sure they are suited body wise for seniors, however they should clearly represent the US at Junior Worlds. I feel that Aaron and Settlage would better represent the US vs. Calalang and Sidhu. I know A/S had a bad long at nationals, however It will surprise if Calalang Zidhu finished above the midpoint at junior worlds. They don't have the tech skills and she looks shaky in the lifts, twists , throws and does not have a triple SBS.
Simpson/Blackmer are lovely skaters but there's so little size difference between them, I don't think they really have a future in Seniors (not like he's going to grow at this age). Sorry.
Yeah I'm sort of surprised they have had as much success as they've had. Brittany is 5'3" and for a pairs girl she has a pretty strong build, so it's a little odd she's skating with a guy who is 5'10" and not particularly broad or buff. Rockne is only an inch or two shorter than Matt, and more muscular, and mentioned how he was limited to very small girls as potential partners, I mean, Mary Beth was about 4'9" or 4'10".