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Here's a look at the top six finishers after Thursday's short program.
1. Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir (73.13)
The defending U.S. pairs champs blew away the competition, putting together a nearly flawless routine that forced the judges to squint and squirm to find places to withhold points. Even the skaters seemed amazed at how high they scored, with both dropping their jaws as the results were announced. It was easy to see they've been working together for seven years.
2. Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay (66.50)
Last year's bronze-medal winners were atop the scoreboard until Castelli and Shnapir skated. Their routine was clean but didn't appear to take many risks, so their score was based as much on execution as aggressiveness.
3. DeeDee Leng and Timothy LeDuc (66.40)
The biggest surprise of the short program came from this pairing, which finished ninth in 2013 but skated with the confidence of seasoned champions. Their moves were crisp, with a combination of strength and fluidity that was wonderful to watch.
4. Caydee Denney and John Coughlin (65.40)
The 2012 U.S. champions made their return to nationals after missing last year's competition while Coughlin recovered from an injury. Though they looked good, there was some tentativeness seen by Denney, who reduced a triple toe-loop into a double and touched her hand to the ice on a triple flip.
5. Alexa Scimeca and Christ Knierim (64.68)
Last year's silver medalists overcame a big, simultaneous fall—it almost looked choreographed—on a side-by-side triple Salchow to score well enough to remain in contention for a medal and possibly an Olympic invitation.
6. Gretchen Donlan and Andrew Speroff (61.70)
The Boston skaters fed off the hometown crowd to post a personal best and a spirited performance. The pair had a few minor missteps, which cost them points, but not so much they can't surpass or at least match last year's fourth-place finish.