Isabeau Levito on top after U.S. Figure Skating short program

Isabeau Levito started defense of her U.S. Figure Skating National Championship with a strong short program on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.

Levito, a 16-year-old Philadelphia native, received a score of 75.38. Texas native Amber Glenn, 24, is close behind at 74.98.

A fall near the end of her routine cut into Levito’s score, which was boosted by a triple Lutz-triple toe loop combination, according to NBCSports.com.

Levito told NBC Sports, “It was very seamless for me, flowed very well this program, and I’m really happy. In the program, I was telling myself, ‘Stop holding back. Stop thinking. Just do it.'”

Glenn, the 2021 national silver medalist, told NBC Sports of her result, “I was just so ecstatic. I’ve been working really hard in training, and it’s great to see it pay off.”

With the top two advancing to the World Figure Skating Championships, set for March 18-24 in Montreal, Levito and Glenn put themselves in strong positions to qualify.

Clare Seo holds third place at 67.41, with Lindsay Thorngren (65.33) and Josephine Lee (65.28) rounding out the top five.

The women’s competition finishes with the free skate Friday night.

Emily Chan and Spencer Howe captured first place with a score of 65.86 in the pairs short program, but they subsequently withdrew from the event. Howe was competing for the first time since undergoing right shoulder surgery in May, saying ahead of the Thursday round that he was 95 percent.

Afterward, the pair issued a statement that read, “Tonight was a big success for us, and a huge milestone to our comeback, but we feel we want to take this time to continue to get healthy and set ourselves up for success.”

Ellie Kam and Danny O’Shea, who took pairs bronze at last year’s U.S. Figure Skating Championships, now sit in first place at 64.57, just ahead of Katie McBeath and Daniil Parkman (64.21). Valentina Plazas and Maximiliano Fernandez are in third place at 63.18.

The pairs free skate is scheduled for Saturday night.

Earlier Thursday, 2022 Olympic silver medalist ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates easily topped the rhythm dance competition with a 92.17. Christina Carreira and Anthony Ponomarenko sit in second place at 83.19, and Caroline Green and Michael Parsons are in third at 80.91.

The ice dancing competition will conclude with the free dance on Saturday.

The men’s short program will be contested on Friday, with the free skate to end the event on Sunday.