Surprise leaders after U.S. Championships pairs short program

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Tarah Kayne and Danny O’Shea topped the U.S. Figure Skating Championships pairs short program on Thursday, looking to dethrone the defending champions.

Kayne and O’Shea, the reigning U.S. bronze medalists, tallied 69.61 points to lead in St. Paul, Minn. They landed side-by-side triple Salchows.

Defending champions Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, who skated to Metallica, scored 67.35 points and trail after Knierim fell on their side-by-side triple Salchows. Scimeca and Knierim’s score is 6.66 points fewer than their 2015 Nationals short program total.

Sochi Olympic team event bronze medalist Marissa Castelli and her new partner, Mervin Tran, are in third place going into Saturday’s free skate (3 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra).

This competition is missing 2015 U.S. silver medalists Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier, due to Denney’s spring knee surgery.

Both 2014 U.S. Olympic pairs teams are no longer together.

The U.S. pairs champions will earn a berth into the World Championships in Boston in two months. A U.S. Figure Skating committee will choose a second pair to join them, likely the U.S. silver medalists.

Scimeca and Knierim finished seventh at the 2015 World Championships, the best placement by a U.S. pair at Worlds or the Olympics since 2011. This season, they qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, the first American pair to do so since 2007, and finished in seventh and last place.

The U.S. Championships continue with the women’s short program at 9 p.m. ET, streamed on Icenetwork.com for subscribers.

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