BOSTON – Gracie Gold is just one more amazing performance away from becoming America's most aptly named figure skating champion.
A surprise runner-up at last year's U.S. Nationals, Gold raised her profile one more notch after dominating Thursday's short program at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
The 18-year-old from Chicago skated last in the third of four groups and raised the bar with a 72.12 to grab the lead. Her crowd-pleasing program featured the jumping prowess that allowed her to skyrocket from ninth to second in her free skate at last year's Nationals in Omaha.
Two-time defending U.S. champion Ashley Wagner isn't even Gold's closest competition for the title. Fifteen-year-old Polina Edmunds wowed everyone with a 66.75 to end up second. Mirai Nagasu, who finished fourth at the Vancouver Olympics, sits in third at 65.44.
While waiting for her score, Wagner seemed to acknowledge that she didn't do enough to surpass Gold, and her hunch was right. Skating to Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," Wagner registered a 64.71 that puts her in fourth going into Saturday's free skate.
Wagner, whose third-place finish at the 2010 Nationals wasn't enough for a trip to Vancouver, is in danger of missing the Olympics again. This time, three spots are available on the U.S. team.
Edmunds delivered the night's most surprising result. The high school sophomore from San Jose, Calif., had the crowd clapping as she bounced around the TD Garden ice.
Agnes Zawadzki figured to be the best bet to win the third Olympic team berth, having finished third at the last two U.S. Championships. But she was in tears after a mistake-filled program that drew a 54.18 to put her out of contention in 13th place.
Rachael Flatt was the reigning U.S. champion when she finished seventh at the Vancouver Games as a 17-year-old. She then split time between college and training and overcame injuries to take another shot at the Olympics. The 21-year-old Stanford junior managed a score of only 46.57.
The three spots on the U.S. Olympic team will be announced at noon ET on Sunday. No U.S. woman has medaled at the Olympics or world championships since 2006.
The men's competition begins Friday night with the short program. Olympic champion Evan Lysacek is injured and out for the Sochi Games, which means defending U.S. champion Max Aaron is America's best – and arguably only – chance at a medal in Sochi.