On the first night of senior skating at the US Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden on Thursday, last year’s ladies runner-up made the biggest splash.
Gracie Gold sent a message that she is ready to be at the top of US skating, scoring an incredible 72.12 points in her short program, taking a commanding lead into the free skate on Saturday.
“I had a wonderful performance tonight and I got a really great score,” Gold said. “It is a new short program and there were a couple of unknowns going into this event, but I’m really glad I was really able to just trust my training.”
Polina Edmunds, last year’s US junior champion, ended the night on high note, scoring a 66.75 to jump into second place.
“I have been training this program like this all year, and I’ve competed at a lot of competitions this year internationally, so I know what happens and I know everything I need to do,” Edmunds said. “When I came out here tonight, I just knew how to get into the zone and just skate like I have been training. All of my competitions this year have really helped leading up to this and I’m really happy with how I skated.”
Mirai Nagasu, a 2010 Olympian, finished with a score of 65.44, assuming the early lead. She ended up third after Gold overtook her by almost eight points and Edmunds passed her by just over a point.
“I feel as people we all mature and change,” Nagasu said. “I’m hoping to take that experience and use it to my advantage because I’m not a rookie anymore. The Olympics are a part of me, and it was a great experience, but now, a lot of things have happened and I’ve only matured from my struggles, so going into the long program I just have to remain focused and not think about anything else.”
Two-time defending US champion Ashley Wagner had some trouble, scoring a 64.71 for fourth place. Christina Gao, who is originally from Cincinnati but competes for the Skating Club of Boston, scored a 60.91 and ended up in sixth place. Agnes Zawadzki, last year’s bronze medal winner, finished with a 54.18, as the judges were booed for the surprisingly low score. She is in 13th place. Brookline native Yasmin Siraj scored a 44.67 in her second appearance as a senior skater at the US Championships and is 21st.
Defending US champions Marissa Castelli, from Cranston, R.I., and Simon Shnapir, from Sudbury, blew away the crowd with their performance set to Carlos Santana’s “Black Magic Woman” and “Smooth” during the pairs short program on Thursday afternoon.
They scored 73.13 points, cruising into first place. They can clinch their second straight national championship with a strong performance on Saturday.
“Thank you, Boston. What a crowd,” Shnapir said. “From start to finish, such energy, such excitement, such support, we couldn’t have done it without our friends and family and all of our support and fans here in Boston, so thank you for that. We’re really thrilled with our short program. We’re looking forward to a strong free skate on Saturday.”
“It’s been a very stressful nationals so far because it’s in our hometown and we really wanted to represent Boston well,” Castelli said. “Having our family members and our friends supporting us has just been awesome and it really motivated us to skate our best.”
Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, who placed third at last year’s US championships, scored a 66.50 and finished second for the day, while DeeDee Leng and Timothy LeDuc were in third.
“We’ve been training so hard the past few weeks, and we have just been thinking that anything can happen,” Zhang said. “Anyone can skate their best that day, but anyone can also have a few mistakes, and we’re just focusing on ourselves and moving forward with our own careers.”
“It’s a good feeling to know that if you put down good programs, you’re going to get rewarded,” Bartholomay added. “We did change our short this season, and we feel that it has put us in a good place for, as far as our [program’s] body goes and how we flow through the program, and it really just put us in the right place mentally to be on the podium.”
Caydee Denney and John Coughlin, the 2012 US champions, missed the chance to defend their title in 2013 after Coughlin was injured and the pair was forced to withdraw. They came back with 65.40 points, good for fourth place after the first day.
Last year’s national silver medalist, Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, scored 64.68 points, placing fifth on the day. Local pair Gretchen Donlan, a native of Hingham, and Andrew Speroff scored a 61.70, good for sixth.
Duxbury’s Alex Shaughnessy and Jimmy Morgan of Windham, N.H., competing in their first US championships as senior skaters, led off the short program with a score of 48.45. They finished fourth in their group and 12th overall.