Jan 22, 2015 11:46 PM
Ashley Wagner wins short program at US Championships
The Associated Press
GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) Ashley Wagner knew she wouldn't lose any sleep this night.
A year after a miserable trip to the U.S. Championships, Wagner won the short program with 72.04 points Thursday. Her performance had her thinking beyond nationals and to contending for international medals.
Defending champ Gracie Gold was second, 5.02 back after doubling the second jump of her triple-triple combination. In 2014, Wagner was the one with all the pressure after winning the previous two U.S. titles, and she cracked, finishing a distant fourth to spend a night fearing she'd missed out on an Olympic berth.
Wagner made the team because of her previous successes and finished seventh in Sochi with some redemptive performances. She won bronze at the Grand Prix Final last month, and afterward, she vowed that she needed more difficulty in her programs to make the podium at the world championships.
Wagner tried a triple lutz-triple toe loop combination in competition for the first time Thursday. She two-footed the second landing but was heartened by the jump.
"I think that it is one of the steppingstones along the way to becoming one of the top ladies internationally," she said.
The top of the standings looked familiar. Polina Edmunds, who joined Wagner and Gold at the Sochi Games, was third, .98 points behind Gold. And in fourth, just .76 behind her, was Mirai Nagasu, the skater bumped from the Olympic team by Wagner.
Earlier, Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim won the pairs short program.
They scored 74.01 points, a record for the event, to lead Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier by 5.63.
Scimeca and Knierim, who are engaged to be married, were the runner-ups at their first U.S. Championships together in 2013. They were fourth a year ago with an Olympic berth at stake. But the three teams that finished ahead of them aren't competing this time.
Two-time defending U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir split in the spring. Castelli was in third place Thursday with new partner Mervin Tran. Shnapir, who skated next with DeeDee Leng, was eighth.
Nathan Bartholomay, who earned the Americans' other Olympic spot with Felicia Zhang last year, was fifth with Gretchen Donlan after the short program.