It seems like there's a degree of frustration with the way the system defined by the adult proficiency levels is approaching a giant case of "can't get there from here". However, while several factors that contribute to that - time, physical advantages (including age), incumbency, etc, are hard to do something about one is not. I think it's worth considering if many of the couples who stall out do so because they were able to compete with what is basically a short term strategy, driven by show but not by technique. If you place out of pre-champ without having done the prep work on building really fundamentally correct habits (work that could have been done way back in syllabus) then making further progress may require going back to some fairly basic issues. Take for example movement - there's an ongoing debate between those who think you should move big first, and make it correct later, vs. those who think you should learn to move correctly and then use that to move more. You may be able to win pre-champ with the first strategy - but at some point you are going to come up against those who move correctly and far. Learning to move correctly first might delay your progress through pre-champ a little - but when you place out, you will be in better shape on the skills necessary for champ. Short of waiting for retirement, the only way to break into the champ final is to learn to do something better than those who are already there.