SPOKANE, WASH. — This is Kimmie Meissner's week to read the morning announcements at Fallston High in suburban Baltimore.
It will be the end of the school week before she takes the microphone, what with filming a TV commercial Tuesday in New York and staying there to do the "Today" show on Wednesday.
Although she isn't exactly sure what she will be saying because a teacher writes the announcements, Meissner, a senior, already has some idea of what it will sound like.
"Kimmie Meissner's back in the building today after winning nationals, so make sure that if you see her, you tell her congratulations ... and, by the way, this is Kimmie."
The congratulations should be tempered, however, by the way the reigning world champion won her first national figure skating title Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 10,393 at Spokane Arena.
Meissner, 17, won despite finishing third to Alissa Czisny and Emily Hughes in a free skate when she recovered well from an early mistake but once again lacked the spark that had made her world champion last year. In none of her three competitions since the world championships has she skated error-free short and long programs.
"Skating your best is really important, and if you win, it's even better, because you feel like you really deserved it," Meissner said. "Now that I've won, that's good, too."
Meissner, first in the short program, finished with an unimposing total of 181.68 points. Hughes had 180.86 and Czisny had 177.74. All three made the United States team for the world championships in Tokyo in March.
Bebe Liang of Granada Hills and Katy Taylor, second and fourth, respectively, in the short program, each fell twice in the free skate. Liang wound up fourth and Taylor eighth.
Under the scoring system in place at the national meet from 1991 through 2004, no woman had become champion without winning the free skate -- let alone finishing third. Under that system, the short and long program standings here would have made Czisny the champion, followed by Hughes and Meissner.
The points Czisny lost on her only free-skate mistake, a messy triple flip jump that was downgraded to a poorly executed double, cost her the title. And Hughes, who turned 18 on Friday, missed becoming champion by only the point lost because she fell on the same jump late in her free skate.
Meissner understands she will have a daunting task to retain her world title against a talented group of Japanese skaters and the Grand Prix champion, Kim Yu-Na of South Korea.
"I don't think I'm going to be the favorite there," Meissner said.
She won the national title on the strength of an impressive short program, which had been her undoing in two Grand Prix events this season. The notable part of Meissner's free skate was her ability to keep it together after botching her opening jump, a triple lutz. She needed to put her hand on the ice to keep from falling but was forced to omit the second part of a planned triple-triple combination.
Czisny, a 19-year-old junior at Bowling Green, had been the revelation of the 2006 season with a first and a second in two Grand Prix events, but she faltered after that, finishing seventh at last year's national championships. She slogged to ninth at the Cup of Russia, her final competition before the national meet.
Evan Lysacek overwhelmed three-time champion Johnny Weir and everybody else, essentially winning the men's title with his first jump, a quad-triple combination.
Lysacek finished with 248.88 points, winning by nearly 30 points.
Weir, who skated after Lysacek, fell on one jump, popped another and tumbled to third place with 213.20 points, six behind Ryan Bradley.
\o7Philip Hersh covers the Olympics for The Times and Chicago Tribune. The Associated Press contributed to this report\f7.