Cesario bumped Agnes Zawadzki, who won this competition last year, off the medals podium. The ladies event produced the weekend's only surprises, as world champions Meryl Davis and Charlie White ruled Saturday's ice dancing.
The season-opening U.S. Classic is designed as preparation for the Grand Prix schedule, followed by other meaningful competition including the Olympic team selections via the U.S. Championships. So this outcome may not hold much value by early 2014, but the results certainly left other contestants regrouping - and learning from Hicks' approach.
Asked about her rivals in the quest for one of the three U.S. ladies berths in the Olympics, Hicks said, "It's more about, I have to compete with myself to skate well."
Seated next to Hicks during the news conference, Gracie Gold responded, "Words of wisdom. Quote that."
Gold could have blamed issues with her skates during Thursday's practice session or her process of switching coaches for her surprising slip to second place. Instead, she cited nerves related to the start of "such a big season" for her struggles in the middle of the program.
"I made myself nervous," she said. "The pressure never comes from anyone else."
Gold completed her major jumps during the program and finished well, but could not overcome other troubles.
As the silver medalist in the 2013 U.S. Championships, Gold will join the winner, Ashley Wagner, and Zawadzki at the Media Summit in Park City. That lineup serves as a potential roster for Sochi, based on previous achievements, although anything could happen between now and February.
Cesario felt better about herself after the long program, even though she cited some mistakes. Zawadzki spoke of a need to develop different strategy, going forward. Her first step, she said, is to "just kind of get my head on straight, I would say."
That's not an issue for Hicks, who was seemingly not overwhelmed by her own performance. She would not play along with any angle about having something to prove in this competition, saying, "I just went out and enjoyed skating."
As for winning, she acknowledged the gold medal "just boosts my confidence."
R Courtney Hicks, 17, upsets Gracie Gold after a dominant performance in the long program at the U.S. International Figure Skating Classic at the Salt Lake City Sports Complex.