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Duluth's Baga wins national figure skating title

Duluth native Kiri Baga competes at the Maplewood Fall Classic in September in Maplewood, Minn. [Submitted photo / Jeff Contreras / Depth of Field Photography]

Duluth native Kiri Baga quickly moved beyond an opening technical mistake Tuesday afternoon to claim the Novice Ladies title in her debut at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

Baga, 13, an eighth-grader living in Prior Lake, Minn., and training with the Bloomington (Minn.) Figure Skating Club, won Monday's short program event and was second in Tuesday's free skate to place first overall among 12 competitors. She had a point total of 120.16, while Mary Beth Marley of DuPage, Ill., was second overall with 116.53 and Angela Wang of Salt Lake City was third with 114.55.

Baga said she had a technical mistake on her opening move, a double axel, but then put together a triple toe-double toe combination, triple Salchow, triple-Salchow-double toe and a triple toe-double toe-double loop on the way to victory. She also showed good flexibility on her spins, according to commentary on Ice Network.

"I felt very well prepared that I could do my best," Baga said from Cleveland. "I didn't expect perfection, because I'm not a machine, but I'm proud of the way I finished. I pulled it together and focused and finished well.

"I was pretty calm in my biggest competition and after it was over, I could hardly believe that I had won."

Baga began skating at the Congdon Park rink at age 4 and skated with the Duluth Figure Skating Club until age 10. She and her mother, Brenda, have lived in the Twin Cities area the past three years. She is believed to be the first Duluthian to win a U.S. Novice Ladies championship.

She's the second Minnesotan in four years to finish as Novice champion, following Rhiana Brammeier of the St. Paul Figure Skating Club in 2006 in St. Louis.

Baga advanced to the U.S. Championships by winning the Midwestern Sectional in November in Sugar Land, Texas, where she earned the best score among U.S. qualifiers.

Duluthian Molly Oberstar, 20, competes in the Senior Ladies division on Thursday and Saturday. It will be her second appearance in the division after placing 15th last year.