SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Teenager Isabeau Levito scored 73.78 to take the lead after the women's short program Thursday night, closing out the first day of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Levito, the reigning junior world champion who took third place in her senior nationals debut last year, entered as the favorite to win her first U.S. title. The 15-year-old has drawn attention for her remarkable poise at the highest level of her sport after an impressive international senior debut in which she earned silver at both Grand Prix assignments and the Grand Prix Final last month.
"I honestly feel like it's just a lot of practice and consistency work at home," Levito said. "I feel like everything that shows on the ice is your practice at home and how well you can handle the nerves of the competition."
Levito holds a razor-thin lead over two-time national champion Bradie Tennell, who had a clean skate after missing the entire 2021-22 season with foot and ankle injuries. Though Tennell struggled with consistency in her Grand Prix assignments last fall, she recorded a season-best score of 73.76 in her return to San Jose, where she won her first title in 2018.
"I'm so grateful to be back," she said. "I spent so much of last year wishing for this, and now having it, being in the moment - it's a little surreal."
Starr Andrews is fewer than five points out of the lead. Five years after she wowed the SAP Center crowd with a free skate set to her cover of Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time" in her senior nationals debut, the 21-year-old - donning the same rhinestone bodysuit she wore for her 2018 short program - is in third place by a slim margin after the short program, edging Amber Glenn by a hundredth of a point.
"It was kind of full circle," Andrews said. "It was really amazing to be out there again. I felt really comfortable and confident ... so I didn't have any doubts in my mind, and just went out there and did my thing."
Glenn rounded out the top four with a score of 68.96. The 2021 U.S. silver medalist -- who withdrew from nationals following a positive COVID-19 test in 2022 -- delivered a captivating performance, but two-footed the landing on her final jumping pass, a triple loop, leaving points on the table.
It will be a quick turnaround to crown a national champion, as the women's event concludes with the free skate Friday night. Earlier in the day, the men's event kicks off with the short program.