By Nancy Armour
OMAHA — Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir of the Skating Club of Boston won the pairs title at the US Figure Skating Championships Saturday night, and Ashley Wagner became the first woman to repeat as champion since Michelle Kwan in 2005, managing to hold off up-and-comer Gracie Gold despite three major mistakes.
Castelli, of Cranston, R.I., and Shnapir, of Sudbury, Mass., won despite a mistake so unusual and awkward it was almost painful to watch.
Shnapir caught a toepick as he and Castelli were entering their side-by-side combination spin, and he stopped to keep himself from falling. But with no way to catch up, Shnapir could only stand there — and stand there and stand there and stand there some more — until Castelli finished.
‘‘That was a very long moment,’’ Castelli said. ‘‘I didn’t know if he was going to catch up or what.’’
Castelli and Shnapir finished with 180.61 points, almost 8 ahead of Alexa Scimeca and Christopher Knierim. Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay dropped from second after the short program to third.
Castelli and Shnapir are the first pair from the Skating Club of Boston to win the title since Maribel Owen and Dudley Richards in 1961.
Wagner was subdued as she waited for her marks after her free skate, surely thinking she'd blown her chance to repeat. When her score was announced and she saw she was still in first, a look of shock crossed her face.
Wagner finished with 188.84 points, about 2 ahead of Gold, who won the free skate — posting the second-highest score ever at the US meet. But the 17-year-old had too much ground to make up after a dismal performance Thursday night in the short program left her in ninth place, more than 13 points behind Wagner.
Agnes Zawadzki (179.63 points) finished third and Yasmin Siraj, a 16-year-old junior at Brookline High School, finished sixth with 175.07.
Wagner looked loose as she came out from the dressing rooms, clapping along with the crowd to Zawadzki’s ‘‘Rhapsody in Blue’’ music. Her opening triple flip-double toe loop-double toe combination was gorgeous, drawing oohs and aahs from the crowd. She also did a triple loop in and out of a spread eagle — incredibly difficult.
But she didn’t have her usual fire, almost as if she was skating not to lose rather than skating to win. And then came the falls.
She was off-balance in the air on the lutz, and couldn’t right herself in time to save it. With the triple loop only seconds later, she didn’t have time to regroup. She pulled herself together only to two-foot her last jump, the triple flip.
At 21, Wagner is a far more complete skater than Gold, and that’s what made the difference. Skating to ‘‘Samson and Delilah,’’ Wagner told a story while Gold just skated and jumped.
With blonde good looks and a made-for-the-Olympics name, Gold has all the makings of that ‘‘next big thing’’ the United States has been craving. That she can skate only fueled the hype, and some were ready to put her on the Sochi medals stand after she won the US junior title last year and finished second in the junior world championships.
But she’s been wildly inconsistent this year, winning the silver medal at Cup of Russia after falling apart at Skate Canada. After botching her short program Thursday, she needed a dazzling performance just to have a chance at one of the spots on the world championships team. She came through, posting a 132.49 that was the second-highest score for a free skate at nationals. Sasha Cohen scored 134.03 in 2006.
‘‘I stopped focusing on what was around me — the crowd, the screaming, the other skaters, the pressure, the expectations. I let it all go,’’ Gold said. ‘‘I just pictured myself at my rink in Chicago and even the practices here — how I would skate if I was practicing. Just the feel of the knees, the feel of the ice, one thing at a time.
In the ice dance competition, Olympic silver medalists and 2011 world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White won their fifth straight crown. That matches a record held by four other couples, including Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto.