The novice ladies needed to be tough to maintain their positions after Sunday's short program, and they did just that, executing skates full of technique and grace. Tyler Pierce fought through her "Korobushka" free skate to narrowly edge club mate Amy Lin for the title at the 2013 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Chicago-based Bradie Tennell earned the bronze medal.
Pierce, who could barely find words to express her excitement following her win, was the 2012 U.S. intermediate bronze medalist. She credits her move to the top step of the podium to becoming more mentally strong in the last year.
"Last year, I realized what I needed to do after my skate: I needed to focus and keep more concentration. I have been trying to do that more this year," she noted. "I visualize my jumps a lot, and that helps me. I just don't get out of the zone."
After falling on the program-opening triple Lutz, Pierce refocused and went on to perform elements including a triple loop and a triple Salchow-double toe-double loop combination at the tail end of the skate.
For the afternoon, she totaled 83.30 points and earned 128.96 points overall, nearly a 20-point improvement over her score at the 2013 Pacific Coast Sectionals in November.
Lin also recorded a markedly higher score that her sectionals-winning total of 114.83 points. For the event, she recorded 126.57 points overall.
It was a day of firsts for Lin -- her first U.S medal and her first triple Lutz in competition. She opened her "Spirited Away" program with that element and received a positive grade of execution on it. The skate also included a triple Salchow and trio of Level 3 spins.
"This was my personal best," she said. "I skated smart and am getting to be more consistent."
Lin finds motivation from her gold-medal-winning training mate.
"Tyler and I are good friends, and we motivate each other," she explained. "We will sometimes have little competitions for spins and jumps. We are really one big team at Riverside."
Coach Tammy Gambill, who trains three of the top five finishers in the event in Southern California, also acknowledged the special friendships between her skaters.
"The two girls are great friends. They train hard together and feed off each other," Gambill said. "It was nice to see them come out here and fight through their programs."
Tennell has steadily improved her U.S. championships placements over the last three years, from finishing in the double digits the last two seasons to earning her spot on the podium in Omaha. Her total score here was 116.91 points.
Tennell fought to regain her composure after suffering a fall on her triple toe.
"After the fall, I had to move on; I couldn't get hung up on that. After that, it was kind of a blur," she said. "I was really happy to get that second toe because I have been having a lot of trouble with that."
As for her medal win, the finish was unexpected.
"I didn't expect it," she said. "I only have the first two triples, and there are kids who went after me with more of them. I was happy that I recovered after the fall and that I did the best that I could."
Rounding out the top four was Morgan Flood with a score of 112.60 points.