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BOSTON (AP) - Gracie Gold took a big step toward an Olympic berth by winning the women's short program Thursday night at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Gold's career-best 72.12 points easily put her ahead of last year's junior champion, Polina Edwards, and 2010 Olympian Mirai Nagasu. Two-time defending U.S. champion Ashley Wagner was fourth.

Gold certainly made up for a weak short program at last year's nationals, when she was ninth. She then won the free skate to finish second behind Wagner.

Now, the 18-year-old Gold is in control.

Earlier, hometown favorites Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir ignored all the pressure of carrying the hopes of friends and family in the crowd to run away with the pairs short program.

The defending champs staked themselves to a huge lead of 6.63 points.

Women's and pairs free skates are Saturday.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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