Zhou, Cain-Gribble and LeDuc Lead the Way in Salt Lake City

Vincent Zhou and Ashley Cain-Gribble and Timothy LeDuc lead the men's and pairs fields after the first day of competition at the 2019 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex in Salt Lake City.

Reigning U.S. champions Cain-Gribble and LeDuc took the arena by storm, claiming the top spot in the pairs short program with a career-best 76.23 points.

"We are really happy with the score, but nothing changes," said LeDuc. "We know there are going to be kinks and things we need to work on as the season goes on. We want to go out and do a solid program and improve on what we did at Champs Camp while not putting too much pressure on ourselves early."

"We know how it feels to be under pressure and compete," said Cain-Gribble. "Last year going out there I felt so nervous because I didn't have the experience. I think having the experience of last season really came out today."

In their clean skate set to "A Storm is Coming" by Tommee Profitt, the 2018 U.S. International Classic champions earned all positive Grades of Execution, including side-by-side triple Salchows and a throw triple Lutz. The duo closed with a Level 4 combination spin and step sequence.

Tarah Kayne and Danny O'Shea
finished in fourth place after the short program, scoring 64.90 points. Their clean performance also had all positive GOE and featured a throw triple Salchow and Level 4 lift.

"I think that there is definitely room to grow from that program," said O'Shea. "We preformed it pretty well, but I think there were some Level issues that we were aware of even before the score came up. [It was a] good start to the season with lots of room to improve."

"We always enjoy skating at Salt Lake," said Kayne. "It is a very welcoming crowd and it's always nice to be around things that you are familiar with."

Just behind the 2019 U.S. pewter medalists, Audrey Lu and Misha Mitrofanov scored 63.87 points to secure fifth place. They opened their short program to "Skyfall" by Adele with a Level 4 triple twist and side-by-side triple Salchows. The 2018 U.S. International Classic silver medalists also skated a clean program.

"The competitions we did at Skate Detroit and Champs Camp definitely helped us prepare and keep working on the programs to add details here and there," said Mitrofanov. "Our programs still need a lot of work, but we are definitely happy with where the short program is today."

Also competing for Team USA, Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson finished in seventh place with 62.11 points. The team closed their Game of Thrones-themed program with a Level 4 lift.

Rounding out the top three after the short program are 2019 World silver medalists Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morosov of Russia in second place with 74.85 points and China's Cheng Peng and Yang Jin in third with 67.90 points.

Zhou kicked off the men's competition performing his short program to "I Will Wait" by Mumford & Sons. His performance opened with a quad Lutz-triple toe loop combination, followed by a quad Salchow. He was also awarded two Level 4 spins. With 89.03 points, the 2019 World bronze medalist secured first place.
"That is a really fun program to do," said Zhou. "It's high energy, it's a newer style for me and I thought I did well."
Looking towards the free skate on Friday, Zhou says he will continue to keep an open mind and focus on how he has the capability to skate well with his new programs this season.

Sitting in fourth place after the short program, 2019 World Junior champion Tomoki Hiwatashi scored 76.96 points. Skating to "Love Runs Out" by OneRepublic, Hiwatashi landed his opening quad toe loop and closed with a Level 4 step sequence and combination spin.

"I think it was good short program, since this is my first short of the season," said Hiwatashi. "I think I pulled it off. I think I could do better. I will just take it little by little."

In fifth place, Alex Krasnozhon finished just behind Hiwatashi with 76.92 points. His routine included a triple flip-triple loop combination, a Level 4 step sequence and Level 4 combination spin.

"I feel pretty good [about my short program]," said Krasnozhon. "It was a good performance and I still have many things to work on, but overall I'm proud and happy."

Jimmy Ma finished in sixth place with 67.34 points. The Texas-based skater received 9.44 points for his triple Axel and was awarded two Level 4 spins.

Japan's Keiji Tanaka and Sota Yamamoto claimed the second and third spots in the men's short program, scoring 88.76 and 82.88 points, respectively.

On Friday, the ice dance and ladies competitions will begin, and will be followed by the pairs and men's free skates. Watch the full event live and on demand with the Figure Skating Pass on NBC Sports Gold and find more information on Competition Central.