KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Haven Denney and Brandon Frazier spent last year watching the U.S. figure skating championships on television from their dorm room at the Olympic training center.
They cheered the other teams. They were happy with how everyone else performed.
They wanted to be back themselves.
After missing the entire season following Denney's knee surgery, the pair indeed made it back to the national stage. They weathered a few bobbles through their free skate Saturday, skating to the music of ''Somewhere in Time,'' to overtake Marissa Castelli and Mervin Train and win the national title.
''My partner and I worked so hard to be back to this point and it means a lot to us,'' said Denney, who teamed with Frazier to win the silver medal at nationals two years ago.
The final pair on the ice, Denney and Frazier finished with a score of 188.32 to finish atop a tightly grouped set of three. Castelli and Tran came from fourth after the short program with a solid performance to a medley from Journey to finish with 186.28 points, while Ashley Cain and Tim LeDuc - the leaders after the short program - finished with 184.41 points.
''Things felt like we had to fight for them,'' Denney said. ''Sometimes we do elements that are like so easy. Of course you like want that perfect performance where it feels like that in nationals. Even though it didn't feel like that, I'm so like, I'm very happy that we fought through it.''
The competition was thrown wide open when the top two pairs teams from last year's championships, Tarah Kayne and Daniel O'Shea and Alexa Scimeca and Chris Knierim, were forced to withdraw.
Kayne and O'Shea were the clear favorites at Sprint Center before Kayne fell on a throw triple lutz during the short program. She was taken to the nearby University of Kansas Hospital and diagnosed with a concussion, and the chief medical director determined she would be unable to compete.
Scimeca and Knierim withdrew before the championships with injuries.
Denney and Frazier, second after the short program, overcame a shaky landing on a throw triple salchow and a couple of other missteps with a performance that was just good enough.
When it was over, Denney stood in the middle of the ice and pointed at her partner, and he pointed right back at her. They slowly skated together for a pair of high-fives, still unaware that they had put together a program that would produce a third different champion in three years.
That came moments later, when their score was officially announced.
''Haven and I, we're perfectionists. You should see us training,'' Frazier said. ''Today was all about going out and doing what we can. We had to fight. The result is always a bonus for us. We're excited to be out here again. We're back. This whole season has been a comeback season.''
Castelli and Tran can point to two mistakes that may have cost them the gold medal: a two-footed landing on a throw triple flip and a fall by Tran on a side-by-side triple toe late in the program.
Perhaps most impressive was that Cain and LeDuc have been together for only about seven months. Skating to romantic music by Celine Dion and Andrew Bocelli, the longtime pairs skaters looked as if they had been together for years with their elegant performance.
They drew an early roar with a side-by-side triple loop, but a fall by Cain on a throw triple flip proved costly. They nevertheless appeared relieved - and pleased - with a performance that still landed them a surprising place on the podium.
''That was a hard performance. We felt very tired during it. We were pretty exhausted by the end. I don't think we could have given it even more,'' Cain said. ''We're in the final group and on the podium. We can't ask for much more at this point.''
AP Sports Writer Dan Gelston contributed to this report.