Verner opened with a quad toe-triple toe combination worth 14.8 points, followed by a triple Axel and triple Lutz. He gained the highest program component score of the day and the second-highest technical tally.
"I was pleased with my jumps," he said. "I didn't like that I got a Level 1 on my combination spin and Level 1 on my sit spin, so I will have to review what happened and work on it for my free skate.
"Also, I hope my choreographer Lori Nichol didn't watch today, because I can do a lot better with the steps and the emotion. It's my first big competition after a long break and I was a little nervous."