Ice Network

Aaron jumps out ahead of Carriere in men's short

Farris gives quad a try in international debut; Hochstein takes fourth
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Max Aaron established a 4.01-point lead as he attempts to defend his U.S. International Classic title in Salt Lake City. -Jay Adeff

He shimmied, he samba-ed, he shook. And although he didn't quite manage a perfect landing on his signature quadruple Salchow, Max Aaron was pleased with his night's work in the men's short program at the 2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic.

"I'm here to figure out how to compete with these new programs, what I need to do to skate them clean," the 21-year-old U.S. champion said. "I've been known as a jumper, and then there's the performance part. I have to learn how to balance the two, to really sell it and not give away my jumps."

Wednesday, Aaron did a near perfect practice run-through of his lively Latin short program, choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo. While he could not duplicate the excitement in competition, he accomplished quite a bit.

Although he put a hand down on the quad Salchow, he still managed to tack on a triple toe. His triple Axel and triple Lutz were spot on. He stumbled a bit at the start of his samba and mambo-inspired step sequence, but still managed a lot of hip undulations and sprightly turns. All told, he earned 81.49 points, a more-than-respectable early season tally.

"I was a little lighter, a little looser in practice," Aaron said. "The Sal was a little wonky. Luckily, I've been doing it for three years and I know what to do [to land it] when it's off.

"It's one of my first scores over 80, which is great to hear. We wanted to get a score of at least 80 early on in the season, because [later on] men are going to be trying two quads in the short and everything will be higher. ... We want to keep building."

The Colorado Springs-based skater is working to add a quad toe to his short, but for now, his coach, Tom Zakrajsek, is satisfied.

"Lots of work to do, but I'm definitely pleased," he said. "He was off his center, for sure, on the footwork. That's just part of him letting go and performing more. He can do it in training, and then when you have to turn around and do it in competition, it takes experience.

"I see him getting more aggressive. In the kiss and cry, I told him, 'A year ago, if you had landed forward on the quad, you would have done a double toe.' Now he just has that confidence to follow through and do the plan."

Stephen Carriere's sharp triple Axel and expressive steps reminded many of how he won the 2007 world junior title and placed 10th in world in 2008.

The 24-year-old skater's smooth, well-paced program to Scheherazade, which also featured a jump-over camel, triple loop, and triple Lutz-triple toe combination from a difficult entrance, earned 77.48 points and put him firmly in second place.

"It was an overall clean program, definitely, jump-wise," Carriere said. "I was very excited about the Lutz-toe, so I got stuck in that excitement for a bit, so some of the turns in my footwork weren't as good as they were at previous events. I'm actually so happy with my performance, which is a really great thing."

Carriere, who trains at Skating Club of Boston under Suna Murray, plans a quad toe in his free skate to Don Quixote, choreographed by David Wilson. He is not yet ready to try one in his short.

"I'm just not confident with it in the short," he said. "It's been pretty good and I have it in my long program here, and that's primarily the focus. Some people are doing three and four in a program, but I have to do what I can do. I do absolutely say all power to whoever can do three in a program; that's a super athlete."

Joshua Farris skated a sophisticated short to a piano version of Astor Piazzola's "Libertango," which he choreographed with his coach, Damon Allen. The world junior champion rotated but turned out of the landing of a quad toe loop, and then hit a strong triple Axel.

He lost a bit of ground by doing a triple Lutz-double toe, instead of a triple-triple, and also stumbled at the start of his step sequence. He sits third with 71.85 points.

"For about two weeks going into this, my quad was terrible. It was the worst it's ever been. I was debating whether to just take it out and I didn't. My coaches were like, 'No, just put it out there.' So, I tried it. I didn't quite stick it but I'm happy with it."

The 18-year-old Farris, endearingly honest and sometimes awkward in the mixed zone, apologized for his trip on the steps.

"This happens, even in training," he said. "The music is so intense, and I get so intense, sometimes I get over [excited]. I'm ashamed I didn't skate it perfect, but you know ... the fact I did not fall and stood on my feet, I'm happy with it."

His coach was considerably more enthusiastic.

"It's a great step in the right direction," said Allen, who together with Christy Krall trains Farris at Colorado Springs' World Arena. "We've got five weeks until Skate Canada. It was his first time out there with the quad [in the short]. I told him he has to go for it.

"Christy and I are very proud of him. It's a good first performance for a senior debut. ... He's a great competitor, he knows how to rise to the occasion, and he did so tonight."

Grant Hochstein opened his short with a fine attempt at a quad toe, putting a hand down before landing a double toe. He fell on his next jump, a triple Axel, but recovered with a strong flying sit spin and triple Lutz. He sits fourth with 63.29 points.

"It was strangely trippy for me," the 23-year-old said. "During my [change foot camel] spin, I grabbed my blade with one finger and it slipped off, and then I [stumbled] on my footwork. It's funny because at the beginning of my program I felt really strong. The quad felt really good. I just kind of crumbled."

Israel's Oleksii Bychenko hit a strong triple Axel to place fifth with 62.19 points.

Christopher Caluza of Philippines capitalized on strong spins to take sixth place.