U.S. women take first, third

MILAN -- The podium at the World Junior Figure Skating Championships is turning into American territory.

Samantha Cesario and Courtney Hicks finished first and third in the short program Friday, while Alexandra Aldridge and Daniel Eaton won the bronze medal in ice dance. On Thursday, Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier won the pairs title after the U.S. men went 1-2-3 in the short program.

"It wasn't my complete best, but I wanted to come out and do a nice, clean program and I think that's what I did," Cesario said. "I'm happy with how it went, and it feels really good to be in first."

But there are plenty of people trying to crowd her space, with just 1.21 points separating the top five skaters. The women's free skate is Saturday, as is the men's.

Russia's Anna Pogorilaya and Hicks are 0.71 points behind Cesario after finishing with the same score of 53.98. The technical mark is the tiebreaker in the short program and, despite wobbles in her footwork and camel spin, Pogorilaya's was almost a point higher. Hicks had errors on her two of her three jumps, stepping out of the triple flip and getting downgraded on her triple lutz-triple toe loop combination.

"I was very happy with my performance even though it wasn't quite as well as I could skate," said Hicks, the 2011 U.S. junior champion. "I went out and I did what I wanted to do. My strategy is to go out (in the free skate) and skate my best and keep it confident and strong."

Reigning junior world champion Julia Lipnitskaia is fourth (53.86) after singling the second jump in what was supposed to be a triple lutz-triple toe combination. Fellow Russian Elena Radionova, the junior Grand Prix Final champion, is fifth (53.48).

In ice dance, Alexandra Stepanova and Ivan Bukin won the title to cap a perfect season. The Russians haven't lost any phase of any competition since they finished second at last year's junior worlds.

And this one wasn't close. The Russians scored 150.17 points, almost seven points better than silver medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France.

"It is a great feeling right now. We had a good performance and did everything we could do and we are very happy," Bukin said.

Papadakis sprained her ankle earlier Thursday when they were warming up off the ice, and they weren't sure she'd be able to skate. They needed a medical break during their performance, and received level threes -- one below the maximum -- for their step sequences and twizzles. That helped drop them below the Americans in the free skate, but the French had built a big enough lead after the short dance to stay in second place.

"The free dance obviously wasn't easy," Papadakis said. "... But I did it."

Aldridge and Eaton received level fours for three of their lifts, as well as their twizzles. But their circular step sequence got just a level two, and their final lift only a level one. Still, they were happy to win their second straight bronze medal at the junior worlds.

"It's been a wonderful season," Eaton said. "We performed our program to the best of our ability today and I don't think I can ask for a better experience."