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Messing misses Axel but feet still sing, sing, sing

Miner finds groove in movement, if not in quad; Mroz stumbles on quad loop

The big hair boys, Keegan Messing (right) and coach Ralph Burghart.
The big hair boys, Keegan Messing (right) and coach Ralph Burghart. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/21/2012) - Keegan Messing's flashing feet and exuberant choreography set the standard for Liberty's senior men's short Friday night, with the Alaskan outpacing the field by more than 10 points.

Messing barely paused to breathe during his "Sing, Sing, Sing" program, charging through espresso-fueled steps and speedy spins with engaging aggression, often moving his arms as quickly as his feet. The program climaxed with a soaring Russian split into his final jump, a huge triple flip that gained a +3 Grade of Execution from one judge.

Although he fell out of his opening triple Axel, Messing gained the highest technical and program components scores of the event, tallying 72.70 points.

"I want this program to grab an audience and not let it go," Messing, 20, said. "All of the jumps could have been better. The program is still new; my main focus, no matter what happened, was always the performance. I want it to be upbeat and fun."

Messing's coach, Ralph Burghart, thinks his skater's score will climb as the summer goes on.

"We left a lot on the table," he said. "There were about nine points we decided we didn't want tonight -- the spins (Level 3), the Axel -- but the program is fun, entertaining. For right now, that's OK. We want the audience to stand up and dance."

The skater did not include a quadruple toe loop, an element Burghart plans to add soon.

"He's still in the middle of his training, and we were conservative here," the coach said. "Maybe he will do it at Glacier Falls (Aug. 2-5)."

Other men took the opposite route and included quads in their programs, gaining experience if not soft landings.

Skating to Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini," Ross Miner tried a quad toe in competition for the first time, falling on an under-rotated attempt. While he also fell on his triple Axel, he impressed with a dramatic Level 4 step sequence and transition moves that showed off a new, fluid style of movement.

His 61.93 points put him second.

"I love working with Catarina [Lindgren] on this program; it's exciting and fun," Miner said. "She put in a lot of energy and time figuring me out, studying the way I move. The moves are different for me, but they feel natural."

The U.S. bronze medalist's music faded in and out in spots, including right before his triple Axel attempt.

"It was distracting," Miner said. "I could barely hear it."

As for the quad, it's a matter of try and try again.

"It's not discouraging at all; it's the first time I've put a quad toe out there," he said. "I can compartmentalize and move past a fall and on to the next element with no break in focus."

Brandon Mroz, the first skater to land a quad Lutz in competition, made another stab at history, opening his short to "Mack the Knife" by trying a quad loop. Although he fell on an under-rotated attempt, he gained 5.4 points on the element, which has a base value of 8.4.

Mroz also fell on a triple Axel and finished third with 61.63 points.