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Farris routs men for novice championship

Evans claims second place, nearly 30 points back

Joshua Farris is tops in Cleveland.
Joshua Farris is tops in Cleveland. (Michelle Harvath)

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By Becca Staed, special to icenetwork.com
(01/20/2009) - While many were glued to the TV as President-elect Barack Obama prepared to take the oath of office, 14-year-old Joshua Farris was preparing for the biggest moment to date in his young skating career -- his free skate at the 2009 AT&T U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

"[Choreographer] Tom Dickson and I said to him that he was more important than the President-elect," said coach Tom Zakrajsek, who was watching until it was time for Farris to warm up. "We had to move with him, so, we didn't get to see [the oath of office]."

A small price to pay for the 2008 U.S. novice title, which Farris secured after earning 109.24 points for his "Mars" free skate, en route to a 161.05 competition mark and a remarkable 30-point lead.

"It's nice to know I've won a national title and not just a junior national title," Farris said. "To me, it's a lot bigger deal."

Farris landed seven triples, four in combination, with the only noticeable err -- a hand down on his triple Lutz midway through his program, which he called a "stupid" mistake. He also displayed two Level 4 spins to continue his three-year winning streak, which include being the 2008 intermediate champion and 2006 juvenile titlist.

"How he won was very impressive for a novice, with the score and doing a triple-triple," said Zakrajsek. "Part of me sometimes wrestled with the fact that I was expecting and demanding a lot of him in training because there are certain days he couldn't do the program like he did today, but obviously he could do the program like that."

Farris has his sights set on the junior level for next year and has already landed five triple Axels on his training turf in Colorado Springs, Colo.

"I am really going to try to get that triple Axel because that is what I need to be competitive at the junior level," he said. "It's going to be a good experience next year."

Silver-medalist Steven Evans' excitement nearly got the best of him during his free skate to "Morning Passages," but he pulled his thoughts together quickly to collect a 91.42 free skate score and 133.60 overall.

Evans came off the ice shaking his head after leaving out a planned triple-triple combination.

"I over-rotated the first jump, a triple flip, because I got so excited that I did it so well in practice," Evans explained. "When it was a quarter over-rotated, I thought it would be better just to leave it alone and do a triple-double in the second half.

"My thoughts are all over the place sometimes. I get really excited about preparing for an element. I have to work on getting my composure back and focusing on what I have to do next."

The 17-year-old landed five clean triple jumps, two in combination and one with a spread eagle entry, on the way to the podium -- redemption after a multi-year slump, during which he just missed qualifying for the 2008 U.S. Championships after placing fifth at sectionals, 11th as an intermediate in 2007 and 12th in juvenile boys in 2006.

"I am honored just to be here and compete against this class of wonderful skaters," Evans said. "To be a medalist is a great honor. I definitely realize what I am up against now and how professional everything is, and I know I am going to have to work that much harder."

In third place, with 132.84 points, is Jason Brown, who could not help but express excitement for replicating the results of the 2009 Midwestern Sectionals, where Farris, Evans and himself also topped the podium in the same order.

"At sectionals, it was us three," Brown said with a grin. "It's nice because they are all just as excited as I am, and it's fun to be around them."

Actually, everything about U.S. Championships thrills Brown -- the bigger arena, seeing himself on the JumboTron and his name in lights around the rink.

"It's breathtaking," the 14-year-old said.

In his free skated to the Russian cinema Love and Fire, Brown landed three triple jumps, two in combination, and seven clean double jumps.

"We switched this program after sectionals because I don't have the harder jumps that everyone has; so we flipped it to make it harder," he said.

Whether Brown will move up to the junior level with his podium-mates next year is "undecided," according to coach Kori Ade.

Fourth place went to Jay Yostanto, whose 82.81 free skate score gave him a total of 124.16.