OMAHA, Neb.- It wasn’t a clean routine, but Ashley Wagner successfully defended her title in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Saturday night, becoming the first woman to do so since Michelle Kwan won eight uninterrupted between 1998 and 2005.
Short-program-winner Wagner, 21, in a striking yellow-and-orange dress and skating to “Samson and Delilah,” fell on consecutive jumps midway through her program to finish second in the free at 121.27 for a total of 188.84.
“I think that all things considered, I am pleased with what I accomplished,” Wagner said. “I think that this gives me the fire under my belly to keep pushing through. To join that type of a club with Michelle is an honor, and I am so pleased with myself to be able to accomplish that. This season I wanted to be able to say I was a repeat national champion. It only pushes me more to have the rest of the season to remain solid.”
Gracie Gold, at 17 the reigning national junior champion, recovered nicely from her ninth-place short program to win the long (132.49, 186.57 total) that began with a triple flip- triple toeloop and triple Lutz. She looks every bit ready to be a candidate to represent the U.S. in Sochi next February.
“This was my first U.S. Championships,” Gold said, “and it was horrifying at the beginning, but now it’s been amazing, and I am so proud of myself that I was able to come back after that very, very rough short program, and to put out that long program is so gratifying.”
Defending bronze medalist Agnes Zawadzki, 18, mirrored her placing of a year ago, but fell to seventh in the free after a second-place short program (179.63).
“They (Wagner and Gold) always push me to compete,” Zawadzki said. “I think this competition has built my confidence. The long didn’t go as great as I wanted it to, but I kept fighting.”
Courtney Hicks, the 17-year-old from All-Year FSC who was the junior champion two years ago, finished fourth at 177.92.
Both representing the Skating Club of Boston, which hosts next year’s event, Christina Gao was fifth (176.28) and Yasmin Siraj sixth (175.07).
Mirai Nagasu, second after the short program and with a chance to take the gold with the final performance of the night, had four under rotations and one downgrade on her way to a 109.36 score and 173.75 total. Her seventh-place finish equals her placing in San Jose last year. Now at 19, it has been five years since she won the title as a 14 year old in Minnesota.
Samantha Cesario, Angela Wang and Hannah Miller rounded out the top 10, with Caroline Zhang coming in 11th.
Wagner, born in Germany and a member of the Skating Club of Wilmington, Del., trains in Southern California with John Nicks. She won the bronze medal in Nationals in 2008 and 2010, before winning last year. She finished fourth in the World Championships in Nice, France, last March and was second in this autumn’s Grand Prix Final after winning Skate America and the Trophee Eric Bompard in Paris.