Mariah Bell leads after short program at U.S. Nationals; Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc first amongst pairs

Mariah Bell at the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Bridgestone Arena on January 06, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

After the completion of the final junior competition, the senior events of the 2022 U.S. Figure Skating Championships began on Thursday in snowy Nashville, Tennessee – featuring a fascinating and fierce battle among the women, as well as a close competition for the gold in the pairs’ discipline.

A three-time medalist at the U.S. Nationals in the past, Mariah Bell claimed first position heading into tomorrow night’s free skate showdown. The 25-year-old figure skater began her short program performance with a triple flip-triple toe loop combination and later completed a double axel and a triple Lutz. Skating to River Flows in You by Yiruma, she received level four ratings for all of her spins and her step sequence. Bell led the competition with the top element score and earned a total short program score of 75.55 points – over four points more than her official personal best result.

2017 U.S. national champion Karen Chen is vying to make her second consecutive Olympic team, and that plan is looking imminent as she holds second place after the short program. Skating to Requiem for a Dream, the 22-year-old began her program with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination but lost a few points as the judges marked a q on the toe loop attempt for a quarter-under-rotation. She later completed a double axel, a triple loop, and received level four ratings on all of her other elements. Chen earned the top program component score amongst all of the competitors and is just one point behind Bell – with a total short program score of 74.55 points.

Two-time national champion Alysa Liu started her short program with a triple axel but under-rotated and fell on the attempt. Performing her routine to Gypsy Dance by Ludwig Minkus, the 16-year-old successfully landed a triple flip and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. Liu received a score of 71.42 points for the presentation and is in third place.

14-year-old Isabeau Levito is ineligible to take part at the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics but is widely considered as one of the favorites to battle for the top positions at this year’s national championship. The 2021 U.S. junior national champion presented her short program routine to The Swan by Joshua Bell. She began her performance with a double axel and a triple flip but then under-rotated the second jump in the difficult triple Lutz-triple loop combination. Nevertheless, Levito received level four ratings for all of her spins and her step sequence. She earned a score of 71.00 points in the short program and is currently fourth.

2020 U.S. junior national champion Lindsay Thorngren still competed on the International Skating Union (ISU) Junior Grand Prix series this season but is eligible to compete on the senior international level. Skating to Writing’s on the Wall, the 16-year-old began her short program performance with a triple flip and later landed a double axel and a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination. Thorngren received a score of 70.22 points for her performance. She is in fifth place.

After finishing two consecutive national championships outside of the top ten, former two-time national champion Gracie Gold final received her moment – she completed a clean short program routine and is currently in sixth position. The 26-year-old fan favorite for many years began her performance with a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, completed a double axel, and landed a triple loop. Gold received a score of 67.61 points – which is less than eight points behind first place.

Results after short program:

  1. Mariah Bell – 75.55
  2. Karen Chen – 74.55
  3. Alysa Liu – 71.42
  4. Isabeau Levito – 71.00
  5. Lindsay Thorngren – 70.22
  6. Gracie Gold – 67.61
  7. Gabriella Izzo – 67.51
  8. Kate Wang – 64.27
  9. Audrey Shin – 61.77
  10. Jill Heiner – 60.30
  11. Starr Andrews – 59.43
  12. Hanna Harrell – 56.99
  13. Rena Ikenishi – 55.32
  14. Amber Glenn – 54.80
  15. Sierra Venetta – 53.88
  16. Wren Warne-Jacobsen – 48.45

Judges’ Scores


Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy Leduc at the 2021 NHK Trophy in Tokyo, Japan on November 12, 2021. (Photo by Zhang Xiaoyu/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Following the withdrawal of reigning U.S. national champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier, it appears that only one of the participating pairs at the national championships will earn a spot to go to the 2022 Winter Olympics – as Knierim and Frazier will most likely be chosen for one of the two available spots by the selection committee.

2019 national champions Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc kicked off their bid for a spot on the U.S. Olympic roster by taking first place of the pairs’ competition after the short program. Skating to The White Crow by Ilan Eshkeri, the pair began their performance with a level three triple twist lift, side-by-side triple loops, and a successful triple flip throw. Bronze medalists at this season’s Skate Canada, the 26-year-old Cain-Gribble and 31-year-old LeDuc received a score of 79.39 points for their short program presentation.

Two-time U.S. national silver medalists Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson began their short program performance with side-by-side triple Salchows and then completed a level four triple twist lift and a triple Lutz throw. It would appear that Calalang and Johnson were in contention for the lead but their opening jumping element had a lower base value and no additional grade of execution, compared to the leaders. The two 26-year-olds earned a score of 77.48 points and are currently in second place.

19-year-old Audrey Lu and 24-year-old Misha Mitrofanov completed a clean performance and are in third position after the short program – though over ten points behind first place. The youngest of top three pairs completed a level four triple twist lift, side-by-side triple Salchows, and a triple Lutz throw. Lu and Mitrofanov received a score of 68.11 points.

Results after short program:

  1. Ashley Cain-Gribble & Timothy LeDuc – 79.39
  2. Jessica Calalang & Brian Johnson – 77.48
  3. Audrey Lu & Misha Mitrofanov – 68.11
  4. Emily Chan & Spencer Howe – 61.94
  5. Kate Finster & Matej Silecky – 54.68
  6. Kate McBeath & Nathan Bartholomay – 50.11
  7. Valentina Plazas & Maximiliano Fernandez – 49.80
  8. Sydney Cooke & Keyton Bearinger – 44.28

Judges’ Scores


JUNIOR NATIONAL CHAMPIONS

Junior Men

  1. Kai Kovar – 204.68
  2. Will Annis – 202.87
  3. Maxim Zharkov – 188.15
  4. Joseph Klein – 176.97
  5. Robert Yampolsky – 173.78
  6. Beck Strommer – 173.13
  7. Taira Shinohara – 172.64
  8. Jonathan Hildebrandt – 158.35
  9. Jacob Sanchez – 155.03
  10. Antonio Monaco – 154.07
  11. Goku Endo – 152.56
  12. Philip Baker – 151.14
  13. Michael Xie – 149.69
  14. Nhat-Viet Nguyen – 138.14
  15. Lake Liao – 131.58
  16. Allan Fisher – 125.50

Junior Women

  1. Clare Seo – 185.53
  2. Ava Ziegler – 175.50
  3. Josephine Lee – 172.08
  4. Katie Shen – 170.77
  5. Elyce Lin-Gracey – 166.96
  6. Mia Kalin – 155.58
  7. Adele Zheng – 153.76
  8. Elsa Cheng – 147.62
  9. Hannah Herrera – 147.32
  10. Abigail Ross – 138.34
  11. Sarah Everhardt – 136.79
  12. Gwen Bloesch – 128.09
  13. Sonia Baram – 123.96
  14. Katie Krafchik – 121.20
  15. Hannah Lofton – 118.74
  16. Rinako Oya – 117.55
  17. Hazel Collier – 116.13

Junior Pairs

  1. Sonia Baram & Daniel Tioumentsev – 171.36
  2. Isabelle Martins & Ryan Bedard – 144.71
  3. Catherine Rivers & Timmy Chapman – 130.75
  4. Megan Wessenberg & Blake Eisenach – 129.09
  5. Cayla Smith & Andy Deng – 126.11
  6. Cate Fleming & Chase Finster – 125.43
  7. Winter Deardorff & Jake Pagano – 117.31
  8. Brooke Barrett & Levon Davis – 106.36
  9. Mandy Romero & Kristofer Ogren – 105.53
  10. Sylvia Wong & Skylar Weirens – 104.28
  11. Lilianna Murray & Jordan Gillette – 100.18
    WD – Ellie Kam & Ian Meyh – 4th after SP (46.16)

Junior Ice Dance

  1. Leah Neset & Artem Markelov – 155.84
  2. Angela Ling & Caleb Wein – 153.58
  3. Elliana Peal & Ethan Peal – 140.67
  4. Vanessa Pham & Jonathan Rogers – 140.08
  5. Helena Carhart & Volodymyr Horovyi – 136.20
  6. Jenna Hauer & Benjamin Starr – 128.92
  7. Caroline Mullen & Brendan Mullen – 127.35
  8. Kristina Bland & Matthew Sperry – 123.63
  9. Romy Malcolm & Noah Lafornara – 108.18
  10. Madeleine Gans & Jim Wang – 100.92
  11. Madeline Freeman & Christian Bennett – 99.69
  12. Olivia Dietrich & Eduard Pylypenko – 95.93

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