By Johanna Bear
Heading into the senior ladies free skate at the 2016 U.S. Championships, the script seemed to already have been written, with the event being merely a formality before crowning the champion. Polina Edmunds went into the free skate with one of the largest leads in the history of the current scoring system. She was ahead of Gracie Gold and Tyler Pierce after blowing away the field with a clean short program to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” In the free skate, Edmunds skated a strong program to “Gone with the Wind” to earn a 207.51. She only had one mistake, which was an under-rotation in her triple Lutz-double toe loop combination.
Gold delivered a completely clean program to “Firebird” that gave her positive Grades of Execution on every element. She brought the crowd to their feet with her performance and showed uncharacteristic emotion after putting out the kind of program that she has been trying to skate all season long. Her total competition score of 210.46 just edged out Edmunds’ 207.51 after one of the most competitive and fascinating ladies free skates in recent memory.
Coming in third with a total score of 197.88 was three-time champion Ashley Wagner, who struggled in the short program and found herself in fourth place going into the free skate, however, that appears to be her preferred situation as she has again and again proven her ability to be the underdog and fight her way onto podiums. Her “Moulin Rouge” program was almost without mistakes, but a popped Lutz that was eerily reminiscent of Gold’s popped Lutz in her short program, prevented her from moving up higher in the standings.
After a short program that found her in fifth place, no one knew quite what to expect from Mirai Nagasu in the free skate as her boot broke during her short program. The boot was repairable and the whole ordeal was not a factor for Nagasu in the free skate. She performed her “Great Gatsby” program with energy and spunk and drew the crowd in from the very beginning. On this occasion, she didn’t receive any of the under-rotations that she has been fighting over the last few seasons, and amassed a total score of 188.84, which put her in fourth place for the competition.
Rounding out the top five with a score of 188.50 was Tyler Pierce, a surprising dark horse pick who struggled in the free skate but was able to make a name for herself with her highest-ever finish at Nationals. Pierce will represent the U.S. at the World Junior Championships. Closing out the top sixth was 2015 U.S. junior ladies champion Bradie Tennell. She will also represent the U.S. at the World Junior Championships.
With Tennell moving up to the senior ranks; it was Emily Chan who took the junior title in 2016. Chan amassed an incredible lead of almost ten points after the short program and didn’t look back from there during her free skate to Edvin Martin’s “Chopin”, ending up with a lead of almost fifteen points after the free skate for a total score of 180.83. Behind her was fourteen year-old Vivian Le, who was believed by many to be the favorite in the event, whose score of 166.36 secured the silver medal and a more than ten point lead over her closest competitor. Finishing out the top three in the junior competition was Megan Wessenberg who had a total score of 154.21 after an entertaining free skate to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Evita.”