The U.S. Figure Skating Championships continued on Thursday, with the short programs in the Championship Pairs and Championship Ladies competitions on the docket.
Alexa and Christopher Knierim sit in first place after the pairs competition by a solid margin, registering a score of 77.06. In the ladies competition, Bradie Tennell leads with a record-setting score of 78.96.
The Knierims are now in excellent position heading into Saturday's free skate after Thursday's dominant showing.
The pair scored big with a triple twist lift, a throw triple lutz and an axel lasso lift.
Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea (70.35) finished in second, with Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc (68.86), Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson (67.56) and Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov (65.06) rounding out the top five.
In the women's short program, Alysa Liu (75.40), Amber Glenn (73.16), Mariah Bell (73.22) and Karen Chen (70.41) rounded out the top five behind Tennell.
Tennell was awesome on Thursday, holding off an incredibly competitive field. Record-setting, even. According to NBC OlympicTalk, "Tennell, the 2018 U.S. champion, skated clean for the highest women's short score in nationals history."
She'll have her work cut out for her, however, with Liu and Glenn lurking.
The evening also included the return of Gracie Gold, who scored just a 54.51 and finished 13th but was one of the night's better stories. Gold had abandoned her pursuit of a place in the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in 2017 due to an eating disorder, depression and anxiety.
"I feel like in the sport of skating, comebacks don't happen that much because to go through the process and some of the ridicule that comes with it at first is hard," she told Karen Crouse of the New York Times in December. "You're essentially being criticized by the judges, by the fans, by your coach and by yourself. That can be a lot."
But Gold nonetheless qualified for the U.S. Championships and continues her comeback bid.
Friday's events continue at 4 p.m. ET and include the Championship Rhythm Dance (broadcast on NBCSN) and Championship Ladies Free Skate (on NBC).