Gracie Gold admitted she wasn’t focused during her short program where she finished ninth in Omaha one year ago.
After eliminating social media and other distractions, she would go on to win the free skate and the silver medal, and now in the all-important Olympic year, the 18-year-old is the keeper of the lead after winning the short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Thursday in Boston with a 72.12 score.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise because I had the elements and just went out and did them,” Gold said. “I had a wonderful performance tonight. I think I worked really hard with Frank (Carroll).”
Polina Edmunds, the 15-year-old defending junior national champion, is in second place at 66.75 points.
“Tonight I just went out there and did the program I’ve been training, so I’m really happy,” Edmunds said.
Last month, Edmunds was second in the free skate at the junior Grand Prix Final after a fifth-place short program, but still placed fourth.
In third place after the short, Mirai Nagasu is sitting in the same position she was in Nebraska, where she had a counter performance of Gold in the long, dropping to 11th and seventh overall.
“Anything can happen,” Nagasu said. “I’d like to move on from my performance today where I feel I skated the best I could.”
Still only 20, Nagasu was only 14 when she won her lone U.S. title in 2008 and was 16 when she was one spot off the medal podium in fourth at the Vancouver Olympics.
“I take the experience and use it to my advantage,” Nagasu said. “The Olympics are a part of me, and I’ve only matured from my struggles.”
Two-time defending champion Ashley Wagner is in fourth place (64.71), with her hopes of making an Olympic team in jeopardy, Ashley Cain is fifth (61.45), and Christina Gao sixth (60.91). Three women will go to Sochi, but the committee will base its selections on a larger body of work rather than the singular event. Wagner medaled in three Grand Prix events this autumn, including a win in Paris.
During Saturday night’s free skate, Gold will skate in the 21st and final position, with Nagasu 20th and Edmunds 19th.