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Farris sits atop novice men after short program

Brown is more than seven points back; Evans is in third

Joshua Farris finished well ahead of his peers in the novice men's short program.
Joshua Farris finished well ahead of his peers in the novice men's short program. (Paul Harvath)

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By Becca Staed, special to icenetwork.com
(01/19/2009) - Joshua Farris studied quotes of basketball greats on the walls of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland before taking the ice for his short program Monday evening at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships. One in particular stuck in his mind: legendary coach UCLA men's basketball coach John Wooden said, "Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there."

"That made me feel like, 'OK, I can do this,'" said the 14-year-old Farris.

Farris, the 2008 intermediate men's champion, landed a triple Lutz-double toe and flawless double Axel, as well as displaying two Level 4 spins, during his 51.81-point short program, which put him in first place with more than a seven point lead.

In addition to his astute technical skills, Farris' showmanship shined on the ice. He earned the highest program component score (23.57) in his field.

"I work with [choreographer] Tom Dickson a lot," Farris said. "He helps me gain the courage to be more outgoing on the ice. That helped. Sometimes I take a session to take my jumps out of my program and work on choreography."

Jason Brown, also 14, sits in second place with 44.24 points.

If things go Brown's way, he could follow in the footsteps of last year's novice men's champion and his clubmate, Daniel O'Shea.

"He's got some big shoes to fill, since Danny was last year's novice champion," teased coach Kori Ade, who's been with Brown since he was five years old.

The young showman landed a triple toe, double Axel and a triple Salchow-double toe combination, and he displayed one Level 4 combination spin in his short program, set to Pink Floyd's "Money."

"I focus more on choreography because it takes away the pressure of my jumps," said Brown. "I focus on showing and performing."

"He is one of the most compassionate kids I know," Ade said. "He wants everyone to do well and is a true fan of everyone he competes with. He's a powerful energy in the rink and a great influence on other kids."

In third place, at the opposite end of the age spectrum is 17-year-old Steven Evans, with a score of 42.18.

"It took me a while to progress," said Evans, who started skating at age 11. "When I was 14, U.S. Championships was not in my perspective. I watched [the 2003 U.S. Championships] in Dallas, but I never imagined I would be in it someday.

"As I got older and matured more, I started to realize I wanted to do this. I said, 'I don't care if I am 17. I am going to go and give it my all.'"

Evans opened with a solid double Axel and landed a clean triple flip but lost focus on his triple Lutz-double toe, which earned him a -0.57 Grade of Execution.

"I got a little excited on the landing of the triple Lutz and forgot to focus on the double toe. So, for a second there, I thought I was going to mess up on a double toe loop," said Evans with a laugh. "But I pulled out my left leg and saved it."

Evans is coached by 1992 Olympic pairs champion Natalia Mishkutionok.

Edward Tea, 15, is in fourth place with 42.01 points.