Ice Network

Nguyen rallies from third to win junior ladies title

Andrews takes silver despite flawed free; Lin pulls up to earn bronze
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Kaitlyn Nguyen made all the right moves in her 'Chess' free skate, her performance of which propelled her to the gold medal. The Missourian, who sat in third place after the short program, gained 112.36 points in the segment and captured the title with a mark of 170.16. -Jay Adeff

This time last year, Kaitlyn Nguyen was watching the novice ladies event at the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Although she qualified for the competition by way of a silver medal at the Midwestern Sectionals, the 13-year-old had to withdraw because of a fever.

This year, not only did she compete at the U.S. championships but she was crowned junior ladies champion in Kansas City on Friday.

"I'm excited to just be competing this year," Nguyen said. "I didn't have any placement in mind when I got here -- I just wanted to skate and compete two clean programs. That's exactly what I did."

Heading into Friday's free skate in third place, Nguyen rallied with a flawless performance to music from Chess to win the title by more than 15 points. She opened her program with the highest-scoring element of the event: a triple lutz-half loop-triple salchow worth 11.40 points. Finishing the segment with 112.36 points and the week with 170.16, the Missouri native credited her coaches, Ivan Dinev and Angela Nikodinov, with whom she began working last spring, for the gold medal-winning performance.

"I'm really happy with my skates, and I couldn't have done this without my amazing coaches," Nguyen said. "I wasn't very far off the top after my short program and was able to do what I needed to do to win."

Despite a third-best free skate, Starr Andrews held on for silver -- her highest-ever U.S. championships finish.

"Last year I was sixth, so I'm really happy with the improvements I made," Andrews said. "It took lots of training and determination. I really worked on everything about my skating."

Andrews earned 97.31 points for her Black Swan free skate, which included two triples performed in the second half of the program. She did, however, pop her flip and reduce a planned triple loop to a double. The 15-year-old Californian finished with a final score of 155.14.

Ashley Lin pulled up from a fifth-best short program to take home the bronze, persevering past a hard fall on a double axel-triple toe combination in the second half of her "Sandstorm" free skate.

"It didn't really hurt at the time, but now that I'm done, I'm definitely feeling pretty sore," Lin said. "But it's like the U.S. Figure Skating commercial says: We're skaters, we get up. It wasn't that difficult to put it behind me and end up with a medal because I knew that I had to get up and keep going."

Lin landed six triple jumps in her performance on her way to posting the second-best free skate score in the event. She earned 100.96 points on the day, en route to a final score of 153.34.

Emmy Ma, the leader after the short program, finished in fourth place after a fall and a series of downgraded elements plagued her Phantom of the Opera free skate. She earned 89.57 in the segment and 149.88 overall.