Knierim, Frazier win national title in debut season with record scores

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Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier made history in more ways than one on Saturday night.

They became the first team in nine years to win the pairs’ title at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in their debut season, and they blew the previous U.S. Championships score records out of the water in the process.

Their free skate score of 150.64 bested the previous record of 146.01, and their 228.10 total toppled the 216.15 set last year.

“Our goal today was to let the people at home watching feel something inspiring,” Knierim said on the NBCSN broadcast.

FIGURE SKATING NATIONALS: Full Results | TV Schedule

While this was their first nationals as a team, it was the ninth senior nationals for Knierim and eighth for Frazier. Both are decorated pairs’ skaters with their former partners – Knierim’s husband Chris and Frazier’s childhood partner Haven Denney. Knierim and Frazier teamed up in March after those on-ice partnerships ended.

“This just gives us confidence to keep going and build on it for next time,” Frazier said.

This is Knierim’s fourth U.S. title in all, making her the first pairs’ skater to win four national titles since Kyoko Ina, whose fifth and final crown came in 2002, and Frazier’s second.

Knierim is the first woman to win national titles with different partners since Caydee Denney (Haven’s sister), who won in 2010 with Jeremy Barrett and 2012 with John Coughlin. Frazier is the first man to win with different partners since Coughlin, who had also won in 2011 with Caitlin Yankowskas.

Despite the high scores, Knierim and Frazier were not pleased with their performance, saying they had to fight through it.

“There were several elements, like death spiral, that got real tight towards the end,” Frazier explained. “Our second lift didn’t have a good up, so that was a fight there; I wasn’t balanced well. Going into our choreo step, a lot of emotions going on at that point and it’s been a long week, so the body gets tired and we had to reach down deep and push through it. That’s why I was really proud of our fight in the program.”

Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson – training mates of Knierim and Frazier in Irvine, California – were runners-up for the second year in a row, with 133.99 points in the free skate score and a 205.29 total.

“That performance wasn’t exactly what we had been training for,” Calalang said. “There were quite a few mistake in the program, but we tried really hard to put it aside and continue the performance strong all the way through. We do know what we need to work on when we get back home, for the upcoming season.”

Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc, the 2019 champions, were third with a 200.52 total. After placing fourth at the 2020 U.S. Championships and 2020 Skate America – as well as in Thursday night’s short program – they had a redemptive free skate. It garnered the second-highest score of the night for 134.71 points.

“I know we had a few mistakes in the program, but for us it felt like a huge win,” Cain-Gribble said. We came off the ice feeling like Ashley and Timothy again, and it’s been a long time since we felt that way. … We chose not to stand in our way today and just let ourselves skate freely.”

In third after the short program, Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov dropped to fourth with a 197.97 total.

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