Aaron goes digital, masters SLC grid in men's short
Miner, Mahbanoozadeh sit second, third; Dolensky hits first triple Axel
|Max Aaron, who wanted to do a unique short program, stands alone in first place. (Jay Adeff)|
"We went with something completely different, something none of his skaters had done before, Tron: Legacy," Aaron said. "I watched the movie a million times. I want to be the guy in the movie and pull off the moves."
The big-jumping Aaron succeeded, hitting a quadruple Salchow-double toe, as well as a triple Lutz and triple Axel to earn 74.69 points and take a 5.60-point lead over U.S. bronze medalist Ross Miner.
"We're really focusing on getting the short clean, so I'm up in contention in the long program," Aaron said. "We're working on staying in the present and getting the work done."
Aaron competed at several events this summer, showing the short at the Broadmoor Open, Liberty Summer Competition and Glacier Falls Classic. His coach, Tom Zakrajsek, thinks that work was key to his success Thursday.
"The summer competitions are all about getting out the kinks, and I think Max's experience with the quad showed today," Zakrajsek said. "I was proud that he skated last here, withstood the wait and hit the combination. He's really getting comfortable with it in the program."
In addition to the jumps, Aaron achieved Level 3 for two of his spins, including a change foot sit spin and closing combination spin.
"I think the spins took a big step toward improvement and maxing out the levels," Zakrajsek said. "I can tell from the technical score we came close to some of what we're working toward today."
"This season, I'm trying to get the whole package," Aaron said. "We changed the spins after every event, figuring out what works best and fits the new rules, and at this point we're getting them pretty well set."
Miner gained the event's highest program components score (35.99) for a dramatic and energetic, but controlled, performance to "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," choreographed by Catarina Lindgren.
The Boston-based skater fell on an under-rotated quad Salchow before hitting a strong triple Axel, and executed only a single triple Lutz, with no second jump.
"I had a nasty, nasty fall in the warm-up, so I was a little apprehensive on the quad Salchow, but I got it up and around," he said. "It's still early in the season, so it's good to get it out there again.
"I wasn't planning on doing a Lutz-toe if I didn't do the Sal-toe. We're going to move things around when I get back [to Boston]. I think we might just change it from a Sal-toe to a Lutz-toe, and make it a [single] quad Salchow. We'll see what happens."
Armin Mahbanoozadeh, fourth at the 2012 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, opened his "Kashmir" short with a solid quad toe, but fell on his triple Axel before recovering with a triple Lutz-triple toe combination. He earned 68.95 points.
"I'm happy with the toe, although I probably didn't get as many points as I could have, since it wasn't in combo and wasn't out of steps," Mahbanoozadeh said. "Every time I land it in an event I get more confident with it, so I'm keeping my eyes forward and I'm excited for the free skate in two days."
Shiu Ting Ronald Lam of Hong Kong, who trains in British Columbia, Canada, under Bruno DelMaestro, had a solid program, including a triple Axel and triple flip-triple toe combination, to place fourth with 67.13 points.
Tim Dolensky celebrated his first senior international by hitting a triple Axel in competition for the first time in his jazzy short to "Beyond the Sea." The U.S. junior silver medalist fell on his 'Tano triple Lutz, but still earned 63.68 points for fifth place.
"I was real excited with my first Axel in competition," said Dolensky, who trains in Atlanta under Debbie Prachar. "I tried to leave it behind and focus into the rest of the program, but it was hard. I popped the triple toe in the triple loop combo (to a double) and fell on the Lutz.
"My goal was to throw [the Axel] out there and see how it went, and I wanted my components to be better, to make it look like I'm a senior now."