The U.S. Figure Skating Championships continued with three events Friday at the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota, but only one ended with a medal ceremony.
Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter captured their second straight gold in the junior dance program, Madison Chock and Evan Bates took a narrow lead in the championship pairs short program and Max Aaron finished first in the men’s championship short program to take a lead into Saturday's free-skate finale.
Here is a look at Friday’s results:
|Junior Dance||Competitors||Short Dance (Wednesday)||Free Dance (Friday)||Total Score|
|Gold||Lorraine McNamara, Quinn Carpenter||73.42||96.62||170.04|
|Silver||Rachel Parsons, Michael Parsons||70.29||95.17||165.46|
|Bronze||Elliana Pogrebinsky, Alex Benoit||65.98||89.96||155.94|
|Championship Pairs||Competitors||Short Dance (Friday)||Free Dance (Saturday)||Total Score|
|First||Madison Chock, Evan Bates||75.14||—||75.14|
|Second||Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani||74.67||—||74.67|
|Third||Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue||71.10||—||71.10|
|Championship Men||Competitors||Short Program (Friday)||Free Skate (Saturday)||Total Score|
The defending short dance champion Chock and Bates skated to their best performance of the season with their third different program, scoring 75.14 points to hold a narrow lead over Maia and Alex Shibutani, who finished second with 74.67 points, and Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue, who hold third at 71.10 points.
>The top three finishers were in the exact order after the short program last year.
Chock and Bates entered nationals on the heels of an second-place finish at the Grand Prix Final, which Bates admitted was underachieving by their standards, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com):
Coming back to the rink after the holidays, we really felt refreshed and rejuvenated. We knew we had pushed really hard to kind of survive through Grand Prixs, because we had never been in that kind of situation before with so much change.
Chock and Bates, the 2015 world silver medalists, are the new headliners in U.S. figure skating, while 2014 Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Charlie White ride their current hiatus, though they are not retired.
If Chock and Bates keep pace in the free skate and capture another national gold medal, they’ll clinch an automatic berth to the World Figure Skating Championships this March in Boston, where they can go for their first gold on the premier international stage.
The Shibutani siblings earned a Level 4 in all five elements, but they couldn’t surpass Chock and Bates. Last year, the Shibutanis trailed the eventual gold medalists by a narrow .11 points going into the free skate, but they finished 3.75 points shy from reaching the top of the podium.
The pair still were confident in their performance and expressed gratitude for the fan support:
Getting better and stronger all the time! Thanks for all of the cheers and support. #USChamps16— ShibSibs (@ShibSibs) January 22, 2016
In the men’s short, Max Aaron (91.83 points) and Adam Rippon (88.01) put on quite the finale to cap Friday’s event, finishing first and third, respectively, while Ross Miner (90.90) was second.
Aaron, the 2013 national champion, landed a quad salchow and triple toe, a triple axel and a triple lutz that gave him the edge.
His performance was so convincing that three-time national champion Ashley Wagner felt it should’ve drawn an even higher score:
Also, anyone else feel like Max is missing like five points? #USChamps16— Ashley Wagner (@AshWagner2010) January 23, 2016
Aaron watched on as Rippon finished with a look of surprised relief when he was announced in first place, per Saint Paul 2016:
Fellow Team USA figure skater Jeremy Abbott tweeted his kudos to Aaron just after the scores went final:
So happy for @MaxTAaron! Such a sweet guy. Happy to see him skate so well! :)— Jeremy Abbott (@jeremyabbottpcf) January 23, 2016
Rippon is gunning for his first national gold in comeback fashion after finishing with the highest free-skate score ever last year but coming away with silver due to his lower-point performance in the short program.
Miner received the first standing ovation of the evening, courtesy of journalist Jason Kashdan, after a rhythmic performance that aligned succinctly with his music:
In the junior program, McNamara and Carpenter outlasted their partners at Wheaton Ice Skating Academy in Maryland, Rachel Parsons and Michael Parsons, for the second consecutive year.
The latter pair took home silver once again, while Elliana Pogrebinsky and Alex Benoit claimed bronze for the second straight year, completing a results repeat from the 2015 event.
McNamara and Carpenter, fresh off last month’s win at the Junior Grand Prix Final in Barcelona, skated to Bizet’s "Carmen" and drew four Level 4 elements that yielded 96.62 points to elevate their championship tally to 170.04 points.
McNamara admitted afterward, he and Carpenter would’ve liked to skate cleaner, but the objective of this week’s event was to showcase their overall development.
"There were a few bobbles here and there, but our ultimate goal for this competition was to show our maturity in the performance aspect of our program, and I think we did a really good job of doing that,” McNamara said, courtesy of Lynn Rutherford of IceNetwork.
Next up for the duo is the World Junior Figure Skating Championships this March in Hungary, where they will look to build on their silver-medal outing from a year ago.
Carpenter admitted, while Friday’s performance was fulfilling, they used the national championships as a springboard of sorts to worlds, per Rutherford:
We definitely want to take the maturity and presentation and multiply it and go even further at junior worlds. This was a dry run to see how far we could go, and I think, based on this performance, we learned we can go even farther with it.
The Parsons siblings finished an impressive 20-plus points ahead of their performance a year prior, tallying a 165.46-point total. Their free dance consisted of four Level 4 elements that trailed Carpenter and McNamara by a mere 1.45 points.
After another convincing performance at this year’s nationals, the junior quartet of both Parsons, McNamara and Carpenter haven’t decided if they will advance to the senior ranks next year.
The national championships continue this weekend with the headline events set to commence, and medals to be awarded. Here is a look at the remaining schedule:
|Saturday, Jan. 23||Time (ET)|
|Championship Pairs Free Skate (Group 1), Championship Free Dance (Group 1)||10 a.m.|
|Championship Pairs Free Skate (Groups 2 & 3), Championship Free Dance (Groups 2 & 3)||2:30 p.m.|
|Championship Ladies Free Skate||7 p.m.|
|Sunday, Jan. 24||Time (ET)|
|Championship Men's Free Skate||2 p.m.|