Like their female counterparts, the Junior Men struggled to skate their best performances in the free skate today. Most of the skaters made major mistakes, but the leader after the short program, Ross Miner (SC of Boston) was able to hold on to his lead to win the gold medal in his attempt.
“I had a really scary warm up,” admitted Miner, “and I didn’t want to go back out on the ice for my program. But once the music started, it was almost comforting, and got me focused.”
Last year, Miner won the silver medal on the novice level, but he made the big leap to the junior level in impressive fashion. Miner’s skating was less than perfect in the free skate, placing him second in this phase of the competition, but his lead from the short program was large enough to keep him on top.
“At my rink,” the 17-year-old explained, “if we make more than two mistakes, we have to do our program over again. So I told myself that my coach would make me do it again. I just made myself land everything else from that point on.”
Miner, who turns 18 tomorrow, struggled with his opening triple Axel and triple flip jumps in his routine to a Gershwin Medley. After his nerves settled down, the gold medalist landed five clean triples and also earned level four on each of his spins. He received 117.18 points for his free skate, and earned a competition total of 183.80 points.
Winning the silver medal on his 16th birthday was the quirky Alaskan Keegan Messing (Anchorage FSC), who lit up the audience with his off-center “Gremlins” routine.
“Last year before I left for Nationals, I had a surprise birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s that actually turned out to be really fun,” Messing said. “But I have no idea what I am going to do to celebrate my birthday this year. Winning a silver medal was fun, though.”
Messing, known for his high-flying triple Axels, attempted two in his freeskate, but fell on the first. On his second attempt, Messing tacked on a double toe loop on the end, earning him 8.90 points.
“I only thought about performing my program and having a good time out there,” said the Pacific Coast Sectional junior champion. “I was a little disappointed when I fell on my first triple Axel, but I pulled through on the second one, and made that a combination.”
The silver medalist, who plays with a yo-yo before he competes to calm his nerves, landed six triple jumps in all, and finished with the third highest marks in the free skate. His total of 117.14 points game him a competition total of 176.94 points, more than enough to overtake bronze medalist Alexander Johnson (Braemar-City of Lakes FSC).
After a disappointing seventh place finish in the short program, Johnson came back with a vengeance in the free skate, placing first in that segment with 119.40 points.
“To be honest, I was really frustrated with my short program,” confessed the 18-year-old. “I’ve been skating clean short programs all season long, and to fall on a triple flip and pop my triple Lutz into a double was really disappointing.”
“I used that frustration for my long,” Johnson added, “and I took that out on the ice with me as motivation. To be first in the long program means a lot to me, and I am really proud of myself for that.”
The Minnesotan landed six triple jumps and earned a level four on all of his spins while skating to Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Camille Saint-Saëns and Meditation from Thais by Massenet. In total, Johnson earned 171.08 points, and easily out-distanced pewter medalist Grant Hochstein (St. Clair Shores FSC).
Moving up from ninth place after the short, Hochstein (18) made his first podium in three tries on the junior level, and earned a total of 162.15 points.
Finishing in fifth place was Austin Kanallakan (Broadmoor SC) with 160.30 points, while Armin Mahbanoozadeh (Washington FSC) dropped from third place after to the short sixth overall with 159.12 points.