Torgashev takes commanding lead in junior men'sShum overcomes contact with boards to place second; Borromeo in third
The judges did. They awarded Andrew 75.61 points, more than 10 points over the field, and some 15 points higher than his score at Eastern Sectionals in late November.
"It was his best short this season, for sure," said Artem, a former Soviet pairs competitor who trains his skaters in Coral Springs, Florida. "It was a surprise. We didn't expect such a big score, even though he did everything clean and solid and good quality. But I didn't expect it to be that high."
His mom, who is also his choreographer, didn't raise an eyebrow.
"He just did what he can do," Ilona Melnichenko said. "It wasn't a surprise for me. That is how he practices."
Torgashev -- at age 13, the youngest skater in the event -- was in full command throughout his short to Gary Moore's "Parisienne Walkways," choreographed by Melnichenko and Scott Brown.
His jumps, including a triple flip-triple toe loop combination and triple Lutz, were smoothly landed; his spins were liquid and fast. The highlight was an expressive, Level 4 step sequence punctuated by twizzles, kicks and leaps that gained +2 and +3 Grades of Execution (GOEs) across the judging panel.
"I kind of do it every day in practice like it was nothing special," Andrew said. "It's what I've been practicing for the last four weeks."
The teen, who finished fourth in the U.S. novice men's field last season, did admit to a few butterflies when he took his starting position.
"I felt a bit shaky, but then I started skating and it all just went back to muscle memory, and I just let that take over," he said.
Again, mother knows best.
"He was well prepared," Melnichenko said. "I knew he would do it. I wasn't worried at all."
Andrew's competitors will have to bring their "A" games for the junior men's free skate Friday morning. The skater thinks it's by far his better event.
"I actually like the free more," Andrew said. "I kind of set my head to go for the full four minutes and I just keep on going non-stop. The short program, for me, it's a bit harder. It requires that little bit of extra focus, and that's what got me through today."
Kevin Shum, the California skater who sits second with 64.99 points, also held his focus, especially when his free leg hit the boards on the landing of the triple flip-triple toe combination in his short to a Piazzolla tango.
"I wasn't expecting it, because this rink is a little bit longer than the one I'm used to," the 17-year-old said. "When I landed it I thought I was fine, but when I heard that boom, I knew I hit some real estate. I just moved on and tried to focus on my next element."
His next jump, a triple Lutz, had good flow, as did his double Axel. But what set his program apart was acting out the romance and angst of the tango, which he did with gusto.
"He's really developed that over the last year," Shum's coach, Justin Dillon, said. "Skaters develop at their own times, and this past season, he has the ability to create a character and emote. He's truly come into his own with that."
"I really like this music and it helps put me in the right mindset when I perform this program, in the sense I perform the number, instead of just skate through the elements," Shum said. "I tried to show the whole range of emotions."
Paolo Borromeo sits third after a lively short to a selection by Nuttin' But Stringz that was crisp and clean, save for one tiny bobble.
"I had a little trip on a crossover before my second (solo) jump (a triple Lutz), which kind of tripped me up a little bit, but the rest was pretty good," said the 16-year-old Borromeo, who is trained in Artesia, California, by a group including Rafael Arutunian and Derrick Delmore.
The speedy skater shone in his steps and spins, gaining three Level 4's from the technical panel and some high GOEs. He brings 63.71 points into the free skate.
"I just tried to have a little bit more fun with the program," Borromeo said. "It was less classical and more a mix of modern music. It was a violin hip-hop type thing."
Southern California's Spencer Howe hit a triple toe-triple toe combination in his short to Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" and is fourth with 61.44 points.