Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea skated to gold, winning their first national title at the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday. Alexa Scimeca/Christopher Knierim and Marissa Castelli/Mervin Tran maintained second and third place, respectively, while Madeline Aaron and Max Settlage rose from sixth to fourth overall.
In their long program to “The Music of the Night,” Kayne and O’Shea opened with a triple twist, followed by solid side by side triple Salchows and throw triple Salchow. The team also landed a good throw triple Lutz and earned a level four on all their lifts and spins to score 142.04. With a total score of 211.65, last year’s bronze medalists easily won the gold with nearly fifteen points to spare.
“It felt great!” said O’Shea, 24. “Tarah was almost in tears. It’s a great feeling–something special.”
“I couldn’t be happier with our performance today,” said 22-year-old Kayne. “From beginning to end, I felt very in the moment. Each element was easy and the program flowed very effortlessly. Our coach always says this program fits us like a well-worn glove, so we go out and did what felt comfortable.”
Scimeca and Knierim produced a solid quad twist and side by side triple Salchows, but struggled with the rest of the jumps and throws in their routine to music from the Elizabeth: The Golden Age soundtrack. Nevertheless, they showed good lifts and spins and earned 129.45 points for a second place finish in the long and overall (196.80).
“It was much improved from the [Grand Prix] Final, and that was one of our goals,” said Knierim, 28. “It’s still not up to where it needs to be or can be. Hopefully if we get put on Four Continents or Worlds [team], we’ll step up from this.”
“I was very calm today,” said Scimeca, 24. “I was probably in the best place I’ve been before in an event. I like that because I feel like I’m growing as an athlete to be able to get to that place.”
The defending champions felt that last year was harder than this year coming into nationals.
“This year we came in kind of at a little bit of a low since the [Grand Prix] Final, but getting the experience there was great and just wanting to improve from that,” said Knierim. “We had a shot at regaining another title, but we opened a door for other teams to take advantage in both the short and the long, and they just waltzed right through it. We’re happy and disappointed at the same time.”
Castelli and Tran, both 25, were solid in the first half of their program to a medley of Journey music. After a nice reverse lift and side by side triple Salchows, the team suffered a fall on their triple toes and throw triple Salchow, placing third in the long (114.92) and overall (179.04).
“It wasn’t exactly what we wanted today, but I definitely think we fought through the whole program,” said Castelli. “We had an uncharacteristic mistake on our throw, but you know what? We are technically still babies. This is our second year together, so we are still growing. We are competing against two teams that have been together for a while, so we are really happy with where we are and what we are able to put out there.”
“We have done cleaner skates before, but as far as getting the audience going with us and feeling the energy we want, just now we actually captured that spirit and had people really going with us,” Tran added. “It felt exhilarating halfway through that program.”
Castelli and Tran, who teamed up in June 2014, are still “putting things together slowly.”
“We are really excited about our connection and skating together,” said Castelli.
Tran likened it to a marriage, adding that they haven’t actually “sat down and planned” anything.
“We know traditionally it takes two to three good years for a team to start melding together,” he explained. “I feel like we started capturing that coming into nationals and training was really phenomenal. If we could show everyone how we trained coming into, this we’d be really happy to show them that.”
Aaron and Settlage maintained fourth place overall (157.81), while Jessica Calalang and Zack Sidhu rose from seventh to fifth place overall (106.24).
The three top teams were selected for the upcoming 2016 Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. The two spots for Worlds will go to Kayne/O’Shea and Scimeca/Knierim.