Castelli, Shnapir place first in pairs short program

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir placed first in the pairs competition of Thursday's short program at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

Castelli and Shnapir earned a score of 62.27 in the short program, over nine points better than the second place duo of Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay, who finished with a score of 53.19.

The tandem of Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim totaled a score of 52.79, good for third place.

The free skate competition is scheduled for Saturday.

NHK trophy bronze medalists in 2012, Castelli and Shnapir are searching for their first pairs title and have positioned themselves well to do so with Thursday's victory.

Defending champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were unable to compete, as Coughlin is recovering from hip surgery.