By Johanna Bear

The ladies event at the 2015 U.S. Figure Skating Championships began with many questions concerning the health of defending champion Gracie Gold and how well other top competitors like Ashley Wagner and Courtney Hicks would translate their success at the Grand Prix level to the national stage, as well as how many of the skaters just moving up from the junior level would fare in their senior national debuts. After the conclusion of the short program in Greensboro, several of these questions have been answered. Gold came out looking strong despite having been sidelined with an injury that forced her to miss the Grand Prix Final and surged into second place with a score of 67.02.

Gold said, “It wasn’t the best short program that I’ve ever performed, but it was still a very strong performance. I’ve been training really hard in the weeks before this, despite some adversities that were put in my way. However, I was still able to skate well and finish second.”

Polina Edmunds was coming off of a disappointing Grand Prix season on the heel of making her first Olympic team and delivered a clean program that scored 66.04 to land her into third place.

Edmunds said, “I definitely think it’s the best (short program) so far this season. I’ve had a lot of months to train and so there are some things I’d like to brush up on. I hope to be able to do that later in the season. I’m really happy with my performance tonight.”

Mirai Nagasu came to Greensboro looking for redemption after being left off the 2014 Olympic team and turned in a lyrical short program with a score of 65.28 that put her in fourth place.

Courtney Hicks rounded out the top five, with her signature powerful jumps being matched in turn by expressive choreography, which scored her a 65.01.

It was Wagner, however, who put herself atop the leaderboard, her “Spartacus” short program totaling 72.04. The 2012 and 2013 National Champion looks to be in position to take home her third title.

Wagner said, “Tonight was awesome. I hate to sound like a California kid, but it was totally awesome. It’s really great to be standing in front of you guys and I don’t have to explain myself. That’s refreshing. Beyond that, to put out pretty much what I’ve been doing in practice as well as upping my technical difficulty that was huge for me. I think that it is one of the stepping stones along the way to becoming one of the top ladies internationally. I got my work cut out for me, that’s for sure, we have a really strong international field and the U.S. field, to even get out of it is pretty tough.”

FSO skaters Amber Glenn and Hannah Miller also turned in clean programs that scored 63.04 and 59.21 respectively, and put them in seventh and tenth place at the end of the short program.

Glenn said, “It felt great. Being a first-year senior, it felt totally different from last year. It was almost like an out-of-body experience. It was really cool. I’m getting to skate with all of the big-league skaters I’ve looked up to for years, which is incredible. I can’t believe I’m doing it.”

The free skate is Saturday evening.