Knierims Twirl

Alexa Scimeca-Knierim and Chris Knierim captured the pairs title this afternoon at the 2018 U.S. Championships. With the win, the duo is all but guaranteed the lone pairs berth on the 2018 U.S. Olympic team that will be named Sunday morning.

Although there were some highs in their “Ghost program” — like the opening quad twist lift, there were also mistakes. With blunders on both jumping passes today, Scimeca-Knierim and Knierim failed to successfully complete a jumping pass in the free. But, with 135.50 points for that segment, and a total of 206.60 points, the duo finished won their second national title.

Claiming to be calm and relaxed in their approach to the competition this week, Scimeca-Knierim showed how stressful this event really is as she waited the longest two minutes of her life for the free skate marks to be announced.

“I have had more of a relaxed approach to this week and at prior competitions this year,” Scimeca-Knierim said. “But after the program finished, I was a little bummed that I didn’t have that feeling you have when you know that you have nailed your program — you just feel so alive inside and just want to celebrate. I knew that there were things that we had left on the table, and that was disappointing.

“When we waited for our marks, we were unsure about how the rest of our elements would be scored, and would it be enough to hold us up at the top since we lost so many points on the jumps. I was concerned about whether we would win or not in that moment. I came here really wanting to make the Olympic team obviously, but to say that I didn’t care if we were champions or not would be a lie. I wanted to win again, and in that moment I was a little doubtful. Looking back at the replay, some of (the other elements) were really well done and sometimes it’s hard to recognize that when you make mistakes.”

“It wasn’t our best skate,” Knierim added. “We do have a lot of strong elements which I think helped us stay up in the points. We still need to improve and get better for future competitions.”

Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea, the 2016 champions, had a solid performance this afternoon, showing flashes of what they were able to before Kayne suffered a season-ending injury last year. They finished the competition in second place.

Skating to music from “Swan Lake,” Kayne and O’Shea were called with an under rotation on the back half of a double Axel-double Axel combination and also fell on a throw triple Lutz attempt. However, they were rewarded with positive grades of execution on the rest of their elements, finishing the afternoon with 131.87 points and 200.80 overall.

“I would just like to say that I am excited that we were able to get back out there and skate a long program this year,” O’Shea said. “I am so proud of my partner and how far she has come — even in the last month. I’m excited to keep moving forward to see where we can go from here.”

“Most of our growth has happened in the last month,” Kayne added.

Deanna Stellato-Dudek and Nathan Bartholomay finished in third place. Their performance to music inspired by U2, and featured a throw quadruple Salchow attempt. The Florida-based team earned 129.81 points in the free, and a competition total of 197.65.

“It felt like a really gutsy performance today,” Bartholomay said. “We went for the throw quad which wasn’t there for us today, but we’re thrilled to be on the podium and be rewarded for what we do.”

In eighth after the short program, Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc moved up to fourth with 187.14 points. “Ashley and I have been through a lot of ups and downs and a lot of adversity,” LeDuc said. “I think that the best thing that we’ve done together this year is to learn how to tackle adversity together and grow as a team. Today was kind of a culmination of all of that work. We really relied on each other to take a step over our fear and anxiety, and we both said, ‘Don’t let fear win — today we fight.’”

Last year’s champions, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier slipped to fifth place with 186.32 points, while Marissa Castelli and Mervin Tran finished in sixth with 182.38 points.