Come to think of it, I'm not sure what broad point we're discussing. I see a few options:
1) To become one of the top U.S. women, does one need to have made a mark in one's Nationals debut? No, however we're measuring "made a mark."
2) Does making a mark in Junior Ladies predict anything about a skater's Senior Ladies' career? Yes, it's a fairly good predictor of qualifying for Nationals as a Senior Lady the following year, but it's a lousy predictor of long-term international success as a Senior Lady. I refer you to Megan Hyatt, Sandy Rucker, Erica Archambault, Louann Donovan, Joan Cristobal, Sara Wheat, Andrea Gardiner, Jennifer Karl, Michelle Cho, and Caroline Song in the post-figures era alone.
3) Is Gold going to achieve success as a top international competitor at the Senior level? I honestly believe this cannot be predicted, based on history. I think Gold has many factors working in her favor that may not have been working in the favor of other Junior Ladies' champions (adult body, excellent jump timing). However, the other Junior Ladies' champ who had those same factors - and who Gold's skating reminds me of - is Sydne Vogel. Vogel had a successful career following her Junior Ladies' title in 1995 (over Lipinski), but she certainly didn't achieve the kind of success that was predicted for her in 1995. FWIW, Vogel's competition results in 1995-1996 and 1996-1997 were very strong (including the 1997 Junior World title in the fall of 1996 and a bronze medal at 1996 Skate America, her SGP debut). I don't know what Vogel would have accomplished if her career hadn't been derailed by injury. I certainly hope that Gold doesn't suffer injury - there has been a fairly strong link in the past 15 years between female skaters practicing triple-triples/3As and incurring serious injury - but after what I've seen and experienced in this sport, my main hopes for Gold are that she loves as much of this experience as possible, for however long she enjoys it, and that she eventually walks away without regret and with wonderful friends, memories, and experiences; and that she can walk in 20 years without pain. Lest you underestimate the latter, I'm on my way to dinner with a skating friend, at which we'll discuss her latest knee surgery, my next surgery, and compare the efficacy of various anti-inflammatories and pain relievers. Unfortunately, I'm not kidding.