Nearly flawless Pierce claws into novice lead

Lin sits close behind in second; Tennell within three points in third

Tyler Pierce led the novice ladies pack with 45.66 points in her short program.
Tyler Pierce led the novice ladies pack with 45.66 points in her short program. (Jay Adeff)


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By Renee Felton, special to
(01/20/2013) - Strong skating Sunday in the novice ladies short program at the 2013 U.S. Championships set the stage for a great free skate showdown between the top four athletes, three of whom train together and were the top finishers at the 2013 Pacific Coast Sectional.

Tyler Pierce executed a nearly flawless Puss in Boots short program to total 45.66 points. She will need to be as strong Monday to maintain her lead over her strongest competitors.

The reigning U.S. intermediate bronze medalist, Pierce began her short program with a triple Lutz-double toe that netted a program-high 7.10 points. She continued in that fashion and performed a clean triple loop and double Axel. Her program components scores (PCS), at 19.53 points, were the highest of the competition.

"I feel amazing. I'm so happy that I was able to go out there and concentrate and do what I needed to do," Pierce explained. "It's been such an amazing experience already, and I'm so grateful to be here."

Pierce's teammate, Amy Lin -- they train together with coach Tammy Gambill -- is competing in her first U.S. championships at this level. En route to 44.86 points, she included a double Axel, triple Salchow and two Level 4 spins in her Kung Fu Panda 2 short program.

Lin noticed marked improvement since November's Pacific Coast Sectional, an event she won.

"I did a lot better than my regional and sectional performances and I'm proud of how I kept my focus through the entire program," Lin said. "I've been working on my attention to detail and I'm really proud of how that turned out today."

Rounding out the top three, Bradie Tennell recorded 43.22 points for her "Sozo" program. She opened with a triple toe-double toe combination and added a double Axel and triple Salchow. Tennell, who placed 10th at this event last year, works with coach Denise Myers in the Chicago area.

"I think [my performance] went really well today," Tennell said.

Hot on the tail of the top three is Elizabeth Nguyen, who, with 42.79 points, sits in fourth place. Despite suffering a fall on her triple Salchow, the balance of her program was clean, and her program components certainly helped her stay in close medal contention. Nguyen, who is also a Gambill student, set a PCS mark of 19.29 points, the second-highest of the afternoon.