Another day, another title for Aaron family
Aaron comes up big in junior men's free skate
|Max Aaron is admittedly a fan of Jersey Shore because it takes him back to his youth. (Paul Harvath)|
But the celebration was a reserved one for the 18-year-old Aaron, who finished fourth at December's Junior Grand Prix Final. Aaron, skating his fifth competition of the season -- more than any other competitor -- felt the pressure to win this event.
"He came in as the favorite and expected to skate that way," coach Tom Zakrajsek said. "I think he trained better than he skated, but I'm proud of him and feel this season has prepared him to make the move to championship men next season."
Aaron, the 2010 U.S. junior bronze medalist, echoed that sentiment following the free skate to Vivaldi's "Winter and Summer" that featured six triple jumps (three in combination) and a trio of Level 4 spins.
"[The skate] didn't go as well as I trained it every day, but I feel like we are getting closer and closer to two clean performances," Aaron said. "This competition is very important because it sets up next year, so this is pretty important for me."
He received a 1.00 deduction for falling on his second triple Axel, but still outscored the silver medalist by over six points for a total free skate of 125.72 points. He finished with 188.67 points.
The Skating Club of Wilmington's Zahradnicek earned a second-place finish in the free skate to clinch his first medal since moving to the junior level in 2009. He totaled 182.85 points for the competition.
Coming off the ice, the Suwanee, Ga., native was certainly exhausted as the first word uttered about the "Toccata and Fugue" free skate was "tiring."
He followed that quickly with "good." Which may have been an understatement for a program that saw positive grades of execution (GOE) on each of its 12 elements.
"This was the most technically precise performance I've done," he explained. "I held all my spins. I did a good triple-triple [combination] in the second half of my program, so I was pretty happy with that."
Specifically, Zahradnicek was referencing the triple toe-triple toe combination that earned 11.04 of his 119.04 points for the skate.
Coach Priscilla Hill considered the competition the best of his season, which also included the Junior Grand Prix in Austria, the Eastern Sectional and the South Atlantic Regional.
"He is highly improved from last year," Hill said. "He is definitely a stronger all-around skater."
The 19-year-old felt especially comfortable on the Greensboro Coliseum ice as he spent nine of his childhood years down the road in Charlotte before relocating to the Atlanta area.
"Greensboro is great," he said. "I'm actually a native, because I was born in Charlotte. I have a cousin who lives here but most of my family is now in Atlanta or Canada."
The new hometown boy, Aiken, who relocated to Charlotte 10 months ago from Kennesaw, Ga., to train under former Olympian Paul Wylie, was ecstatic after his clean Once Upon a Time in Mexico free skate.
"I felt good. It was a personal best for me again," he said. "Each time, regionals, sectionals and nationals, I improved. I thought my performance was good and the crowd was great."
So great, in fact, that public address announcer Ann O'Keefe thanked the sweepers for clearing the mass quantities of stuff animals and gifts that rained down on the ice following Aiken's skate that earned 118.16 points.
Though he represents the Atlanta Figure Skating Club, it appears he has embraced the state of North Carolina and its people as they have embraced him.
"I love Charlotte. It's my new home for sure."
Evans, skating for the Dallas Figure Skating Club, nabbed the pewter medal after failing to qualify for the U.S. Championships a year ago. The 2009 U.S. novice silver medalist tallied 173.08 points, including 111.42 for his free skate.