Ice Network

Magnificent Ma holds advantage after ladies short

Personal-best score has 16-year-old atop field; Andrews sits second
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Performing her short to Camille Saint-Saëns' "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix," Boston's Emmy Ma achieved 60.31 points to place herself atop the standings heading into the free skate. -Jay Adeff

No one was happier to see Emmy Ma put it all together and win the junior ladies short program on Wednesday night at the 2017 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Kansas City than her coach, Mark Mitchell.

Ma, who turns 16 on Thursday, has struggled the past three seasons with her confidence. She failed to make it out of sectionals in each of those three campaigns (in the novice category), and has also battled injury.

"Today, everything came to fruition," said Mitchell, who coaches Ma with Peter Johansson at their school near Boston. "Her confidence is back, and she's grown up physically. It was great to see."

Ma, who opened the junior ladies slate, delivered a clean and impactful program to Camille Saint-Saëns' "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix." She landed a triple loop and a triple lutz-double loop combination, and executed two Level 4 spins.

Second at the Eastern Sectionals this year, Ma put up a personal-best score of 60.31 and leads her closest competitor by 2.48 points entering Friday's free skate.

"She skated like she practices every day," Mitchell said. "Our whole goal was to trust her body, trust her training -- and she did. I think she is strong in all of her elements, and it was good to see her get the GOEs (Grades of Execution) and good components. For me, Emmy skates far beyond her years, and this program really showcases her skating."

Starr Andrews earned a second-place finish with her entertaining routine to Henry Mancini's "Dream Chaser," and stands well in contention as she prepares for the free skate. The program is a carryover from last season, but it was revamped by coach and choreographer Derrick Delmore to highlight Andrews' maturity in the junior ranks.

Andrews -- who trains in Southern California at rinks in Lakewood, Riverside and Torrance -- landed an opening triple toe loop-triple toe loop combination and a triple loop, and executed three Level 4 spins. Her performance and score of 57.83 points was a marked improvement over her sixth-place finish last year in the novice ranks.

"She was a little disappointed after the season was over last year and wanted to make sure she was ready to challenge for the junior title this year," Delmore said. "She has a lot more self-discipline, has matured and is coming into her own. As coaches, we couldn't have asked for more tonight. She executed the program exactly like we wanted her to."

Kaitlyn Nguyen returned to her childhood home state and delivered a solid program to place third with 57.80 points. Nguyen was born near St. Louis but moved to Colorado when she was 6 years old. Within the last few months, she's moved to California, where she trains under coaches Ivan Dinev and Angela Nikodinov.

For her short program -- which was set to Vivaldi's The Four Seasons -- Nguyen delivered on an opening triple lutz-triple toe loop that generated 11.20 points. She also landed a triple loop and a double axel, and had two Level 4 spins.

"I was most satisfied that I performed a clean program, landed all of my jumps and had fun," she said.

Nikodinov called her pupil a very hard worker.

"She was prepared for this competition and did fantastic today," Nikodinov said.

Alexia Paganini sits fourth heading into the free skate with a score of 52.90.