Ice Network

Unsteady Aaron still hits personal best in triumph

Carriere brings home silver; Farris gets caught in music but bags bronze
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Max Aaron was awarded 7.94 more total points than he did at last year's U.S. International Classic, where he was also victorious. -Jay Adeff

Max Aaron learned a valuable lesson at the 2013 U.S. International Figure Skating Classic in Salt Lake City: It's far easier to do three quads in practice than it is in competition.

The U.S. champion won his second title here in as many years, but it wasn't with the free skate he wanted. He misfired on his three biggest guns -- an opening quad toe and, to a lesser extent, two quad Salchows -- and failed to generate the excitement he craved with his Carmen free skate.

"I learned a lot about myself, learned a lot about the [quad] toe, learned how to compete with three quads," a subdued Aaron said. "The program performance-wise wasn't up to par, to be honest."

Aaron still did a lot, landing two triple Axels and four other triples, including a triple Lutz-triple Salchow sequence. While his two quad Salchows had imperfect landings, they notched significant points. All told, the free skate earned 157.72 points, and he ended with a personal-best total of 239.21.

"Max came here well trained; I think he showed that, to get 157 for the program with errors in the quad boxes," Aaron's coach, Tom Zakrajsek, said. "It shows how well trained he is, because the second half of the program was very strong.

"This week was about Max learning about himself, and it's difficult to do multiple quads in a program. Max was ready to do a little better today, and I'm glad he's learning it here so he can be better prepared for Skate America and NHK."

Stephen Carriere's stylish Don Quixote free, choreographed by David Wilson, opened with a solid attempt at a quad toe, which he rotated and appeared to land before falling. The Boston-based skater landed six triples, including a triple Axel, and his only major flaws were a fall on a second triple Axel and a sloppy landing on a triple Lutz-triple toe. He took silver with 225.54 points total.

"I really don't think I was thinking too much on the checkout, and it just got away from me," Carriere said. "Unfortunately, when it needed to be there, it wasn't.

"It's a matter of keep doing it, putting it out there and going for it. Playing it safe is more of a regret."

Josh Farris claimed the bronze medal with a stirring performance to music from Schindler's List, which he choreographed with one of his coaches, Damon Allen. He placed third in the free with 134.71 points and ended with 206.56 points overall.

The world junior champion felt every beat of the music, but seemed so intent on delivering the choreography, he lost focus with his jumps. He didn't try his quad toe, reducing it to a triple, and fell on his first triple Axel.

He also had trouble with triple Axel and triple flip combinations, managing just triple-singles, and doubled two other intended triples.

"Can I blame it on Friday the 13th?" said the 18-year-old, who trains in Colorado Springs, Colo., under Allen and Christy Krall. "I've been, not slacking off, but definitely not training the best I possibly can. I definitely think it caught up to me, and I won't make that mistake again."

Farris also admitted that the intensity of emotion in Schindler's List may have overwhelmed his technical elements.

"It is a brand new program," he said. "Because I connect with it so well, especially the beginning, it is intense, and I want to bring it out in my skating. I think I do focus on the choreography a bit too much."

Grant Hochstein fell on his two quad toe attempts, although he rotated both. He landed four clean triples in his Rachmaninoff program, which was marked by superb musicality.

"There were some little silly, shaky things, but I thought that today, I definitely didn't hold back," Hochstein said. "I think what I did was the smart thing to do and I'm really proud of myself for going for the second quad, especially after missing the first one."