Ice Network

Aaron wins third straight International Classic title

Miner takes silver medal; Razzano finishes fourth; Moeller seventh
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Max Aaron landed two quads and seven triples in his 'Gladiator' free skate en route to posting a score of 161.26 in the segment. The 2013 U.S. champion walked away with the gold medal, the third year in a row he has done so at this event. -Jay Adeff

Max Aaron won his third consecutive U.S. International Classic with a return to his roots: portraying a sensitive tough guy in a free skate choreographed by Pasquale Camerlengo.

During a section of Aaron's Gladiator, the betrayed general Maximus intones, "Give power back to the people of Rome," and the 22-year-old took the words to heart, finding his performance comfort zone with a program that was both hard-charging and dramatic, and sensitive and yearning.

"(This title) means a lot to me. In a sense, it means more this year," Aaron said. "I was in the position to defend my U.S. title (in January) and I wasn't able to do that. I'm learning how to defend a title here. I'm learning what it takes."

Aaron won his first Salt Lake City title portraying a tough-guy member of the Sharks street gang in West Side Story. Two quadruple Salchows at the top of his program -- the first done with his hand brushing the ice -- contributed more than 22 points and helped him win his third.

A fine flying camel combination spin set off a slower, more lyrical section, highlighted by triple Axels (Aaron turned out of the second.) Although a fall heading in to a final step sequence was unfortunate, the finish was dramatic: the Gladiator died, but was not defeated.

Aaron won the free with 161.26 points -- a solid early-season total -- and took the title with 240.22 points.

"This was about pushing the components out and showing transitions, that was my main goal," Aaron said. "I took another fall on something silly, but that's okay. I'm trying to make things bigger, and sometimes that takes me off my balance. I'm learning where those limits are and that's what it's going to take."

Boston's Ross Miner grabbed the silver medal with a stylish, sophisticated program choreographed by Lori Nichol to Andrea Bocelli's "Romanza."

Miner stood up on a downgraded quad Salchow, an improvement over his short, in which he popped the jump into a double. He hit both his triple Axels and delivered Nichol's flowing, lyrical movements well, but the program suffered when he popped a triple Lutz combination into a single and stumbled out of a triple flip. He ended with 209.78 points.

"I'm really proud that I got all three Axels [including a double Axel] done," Miner said. "I haven't done that in competition in a long time.

"I had a few stupid mistakes, but in general, I think this competition is much more indicative of how I've been skating at home -- not the stupid mistakes, but the good stuff," he continued. "It's just getting better and better and I'm really excited to keep moving forward."

Japan's Daisuke Murakami ended hopes of a U.S. sweep with a program that started with a bang -- a solid quad Salchow -- but ran into trouble in its middle and ending sections, including an imperfect triple Axel, an under-rotated triple Lutz and an intended triple flip, which popped into a single. His bronze medal total was 204.67.

Murakami, who trains under Frank Carroll in Southern California, admitted he needed to build stamina for his Grand Prix event, the NHK Trophy.

"It's definitely not something I do in practice, especially the second half," he said. "I just have to go home and train really hard. This was my first competition, and now I know what to work on -- that second half, for sure."

Douglas Razzano delivered dramatic choreography and solid transitions in his free to Rachmaninoff's "Piano Concerto No. 2," which he choreographed with his coach, Doug Ladret. Five-time U.S. ice dance champion Ben Agosto helped Razzano develop an interesting step sequence in the middle of the program.

The skater landed a fine triple Axel and four other triples, but fell on a quadruple toe loop and doubled an intended triple Lutz. He placed fourth with 199.57 points.

"Today I just wanted to go out there and try to forget everything else -- forget where I am and what I'm doing, just put myself back in my rink and skate like I practice," said Razzano, who trains in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"Today wasn't perfect, and obviously I wanted to be perfect, but some things were better than my last competition (Skate Detroit,) and my score was about the same. Given the altitude and the schedule -- it's 10 p.m. and I'm usually in bed by 10 p.m. -- I think today went well. I'm OK with it."

Jordan Moeller, who placed ninth at the 2014 World Junior Figure Skating Championships, finished seventh in his first international competition with a technically flawed, but choreographically interesting free to "In the Hall of the Mountain King," created by Rohene Ward.

The 19-year-old student of Kori Ade, who trains in Monument, Colorado, landed a triple loop, a shaky triple Axel and two solid combinations, but fell hard on a flying sit spin, as well as a downgraded triple Lutz. He placed seventh.

"This is a totally different kind of program for me, so it was fun," Moeller said. "Obviously, it was a little shaky in some parts, especially toward the end, but I felt like I had a recovery and I bounced back from the mishaps nicely. I'm happy with my score for this point in the season."

Ade thinks Moeller -- who trains in her Monument, Colorado group alongside U.S. silver medalist Jason Brown -- achieved his goals for this event.

"We need to establish Jordan as a senior man who is here to stay and belongs on the senior circuit," she said. "It's the infancy of his senior career, but the big goal is to show maturity.

"Many people came up to me and said, 'I didn't know you had another skater who was so good.' Like many juniors, he has been a bit under the radar, and he is emerging now in a good place with a triple Axel and skating skills that don't look junior."