Ice Network

Aaron opens with 10-point lead despite flawed short

Miner slides into third; Razzano takes fifth; Moeller in seventh
  • Ice Network on Facebook
  • Ice Network on Twitter
His 'Footloose' short program didn't go quite as well as he had hoped, but American Max Aaron still came away with a score of 78.96 points and a 10-point lead going into the free skate. -Jay Adeff

It wasn't near his technical best, but Max Aaron opened his quest for a third consecutive U.S. International Figure Skating Classic title with a short program to Footloose that put him 10 points ahead of the field.

"It's not the way you want to be in first, but you've got to take it," Aaron said. "Of course, when you play with Yuzuru [Hanyu] and Javi [Fernández], you can't make those kinds of mistakes. Even if this is a smaller event, I want to pretend those men are here, to help prepare for my Grand Prix events and worlds and nationals."

Aaron's mistakes -- putting his hands down on a quad Salchow, a flying camel spin that didn't fly quite high enough -- are forgivable for this point in the season, but the perfectionist skater called it a "rough showing." Still, it earned him 78.96 points, including some solid program components scores.

His biggest disappointment was a fall at the end of a step sequence that got a little too fast and loose.

"In practice, Tom (Zakrajsek) and I are trying to make the footwork movements bigger, trying to go for the Level 4 (Grade of Execution)," said Aaron, who gained a Level 3 for the step sequence. "Obviously, it was a little too big and kind of threw me off balance."

Zakrajsek, who coaches Aaron at Colorado Springs' World Arena, is encouraged by his skater's energetic delivery of Mark Pillay's choreography.

"I think Max has been given a really fine program, and it's at a good level for this point in the season," Zakrajsek said. "He was certainly not happy with it. He knows he can do it better, but I think he's got a good template to work from. The component scores are some of the best he's ever gotten internationally."

Second place was a free-for-all, with all the men falling on jumps and/or missing combinations. Just 4.35 points separate the six skaters behind Aaron.

Daisuke Murakami of Japan was the best of the rest, opening his short with an under-rotated quad Salchow and triple Lutz-double toe combination before taking a hard fall on his triple Axel. He earned 68.56 points.

Murakami's effort was admirable, considering a terrible crash he took in the six-minute warm-up.

"I took my starting pose and my coach, Frank Carroll, told me, 'It's just like any other practice. Don't think about the warm-up,'" he said. "I did exactly what he told me to do. I was happy that I landed my quad Salchow, but after that, I wanted too much for everything to be perfect. That led to just a double-in combination and that triple Axel was just unfortunate; I didn't have enough speed."

Ross Miner skated a smooth and stylish program to music from The Way We Were, highlighted by an enchanting opening step sequence. But the Boston native popped an intended quad Salchow into a double, gaining no points for the element, and ran out of room trying to complete the second half of his triple Lutz-triple toe combination. He sits third with 67.06 points.

"I've been training a lot better than that at home," Miner said. "I was obviously really happy with the Axel. I haven't done one that well in competition in a while, so I was happy to do that.

"I just had a little trouble with the quad today. I didn't commit to it, which is not what I've been working on. Then on the Lutz, I got a good take-off, [but] I just waited to see if I was going to get a good landing instead of expecting it and making it happen."

Ronald Lam of Hong Kong is fourth with 66.67 points.

Doug Razzano, sixth in the U.S. last season, sits fifth with 66.15 points after falling on his downgraded quad toe. He did hit the only clean triple-triple of the evening, a triple toe-triple toe.

"Other than the quad toe, I would say it's an improvement over Skate Detroit earlier this season," the Arizona-based skater said. "I thought my spins were great and my steps were good. The other two jumps were done: They weren't flawless, but it was an improvement over Detroit, and that I'm OK with."

Jordan Moeller rounded out the quartet of U.S. men in seventh place. The Kori Ade student, competing in his first senior international, landed a solid triple Axel but fell on an intended triple flip.

"I don't want to say [a senior event] is intimidating, but it's a whole different setting," Moeller said. "I was only on the junior circuit for one year, and taking the jump up to senior is awesome. I'm so excited to be here. This being the first event, I have a few jitters, but I'm really excited."