by Martha Kimball
Photos copyright 2009 by George S. Rossano
Last year’s Intermediate champion wore black with a bit of red trim to interpret "Leyenda" by Albeniz with an artistic maturity impressive for his age.
The Colorado youngster, who turned 14 a week before Nationals, explained his presence on the ice by saying, "I work with Tom Dickson a lot. He definitely helps me to gain the courage to be more outgoing, especially on the ice. Sometimes I take a session to just really work on it – take my jumps out of my program, just do the choreography."
Farris came out of the blocks with his favorite element, a nice triple Lutz, this one in combination. He had a little trouble with the triple flip that followed, but sailed confidently on to high GoE scores, particularly for the double Axel.
His scores were 28.24 for Executed Elements and 23.57 for factored Program Component scores (with a high of 5.54 for interpretation), the resultant 51.81 making him the only competitor to break 50.
Said coach Tom Zakrajsek, "We wanted him to push his Short Program score as close as it could be to a Junior score, even being a Novice, so we were shooting for over 50. He’s achieved that before, so it was nice to see that again, especially here, because I think that if you get a score over 50 here, with the level of judging and the calling at the highest level, it really means you got over fifty."
Farris cited Brian Boitano, whose lessons he is clearly studying, as his favorite skater. "He skates really confident, and he finishes everything with nice posture and pizzazz."
Jason Brown, 14, second at Midwesterns, came a distant second with scores of 22.57, 21.67 and 44.24. The highly personable young man from Illinois performed in a purple shirt and a long ponytail to "Money" from Pink Floyd. He exuded attitude and dancey confidence.
The Skokie Valley SC representative opened with a big triple toe loop. Her lost a little credit for both of his spins but gained some back with good circular footwork and a strong double Axel.
Brown earned marks of 22.57 and 21.67 (high fours to low five) for a total of 44.24.
Where did he get the winning attitude? "From the program. I’m focused on the choreography. It takes away a little of the pressure on my jumps. I focus more on showing it to the audience and performing, and so then when the jumps happen, it’s not like I have a bunch of time to think about it."
Contrary to frequent custom, Brown had his jumps well scattered in the program, with a sit spin and footwork in between the opening triple and the double Axel followed by triple Salchow combination.
"I start with the toe and then I have time to relax before I have to do my other jumps," Brown said. His highest component score, perhaps as a result, was the 5.14 he received for performance.
Steven Evans, 17, third at Midwesterns, stood third after the Short Program with scores of 22.38, 19.80 and 42.18.
The musical Texan wore a white shirt with red trim to interpret "Spanish Caravan" by The Doors. He opened with a double Axel, then swung a little wide out of his triple Lutz – double toe loop combination.
The charming, well-spoken teen copped to the error. "The triple Lutz, I got a little excited. I landed it and then I forgot to focus on the double toe. For a second there, I thought I was going to mess up on a double toe loop, but I pulled out my left leg and saved it."
That drew a smattering of negative GoEs, and a few others attached themselves to the sit spin. Otherwise it was clear sailing, with component scores solidly in the mid-fours, the highest for interpretation.
"I love to listen to music. I like dancing. I love to watch the Senior Dance event especially. It seems like something that’s kind of natural to me, but I have a wonderful choreographer, Olga [Ganicheva]. She brings out the best in the musical side."
Evans was fifth last year in Novice Men. He has been focusing since then on making his triples more consistent and on the ever-present teen problem, "adjusting to a new body."
Edward Tea, 15, third at Pacific Coasts, landed in fourth place by just .17 with scores of 22.53, 19.48 and 42.01.
The Oregonian skated in a techno-look black and gold costume to the sometimes dissonant score of HBO’s "Rome." His triple Salchow combination, neat double Lutz and double Axel all drew positive GoEs, with the only three negative GoEs for spins.
Christopher Fernandes, 17, Eastern champion, rounded out the top five with scores of 23.50, 18.17 and 41.67.
The New Hampshire native who represents the Colonial FSC performed in black to Morricone’s The Mission. His opening triple loop combination rotated into extra turns before the double toe loop. The next element, triple Lutz, was clean, as was the triple Axel in the jump-heavy opening. The remainder of the program seemed a little slow and flat in places, with some deductions for the combination spin.
Component scores ranged from a low of 3.75 for transitions to 4.43 for skating skills.
The Pacific Coast was left under-represented in the top group with Jay Yostanto, second at those Sectionals, in sixth place and Joshua Santillan, Pacific Coast champion, in ninth after an unconvincing Terminator program.
It is noteworthy that all three come from the Midwestern section. They finished in the top three at the 2008 Midwesterns, though numbers two and three switched places.
After he racked up 51.81 for his Short Program, it was a good bet that Midwestern champion Joshua Farris would hold his lead. Competing second in the second and final group of six, Farris led off with three triples: loop, Lutz in a triple-triple combination with a toe loop, and flip in a double-toe combination. What’s more, it looked easy.
Those three big openers were delivered to a booming, dramatic section of "Mars" from The Planets. Then the accompaniment grew quiet and lyrical as Farris performed a flying camel to sit spin, followed by a triple Lutz with free foot down that resulted in the only serious deductions of the day, a row of -2 Grade of Execution scores.
"Yeah, that was a little stupid," Farris admitted cheerfully. "I just said, ‘Well, that was weird; I shouldn’t have done that,’ and refocused."
The double Axel (entered from a spread-eagle) was a beauty, though, and the program rolled on to a roaring conclusion with a combination spin, straight-line steps, triple flip, a triple Salchow-double toe loop-double loop combination, and finally a flying sit spin.
All jumps from the double Axel on accrued extra points for their late position in the program. Farris seemed to still have plenty of energy at the end.
"It’s a good thing I train at high altitude" said the Broadmoor (Colorado Springs) student. "That helps a lot. I do that section probably the most out of all of them, so I was ready."
Farris did a good job of interpreting the classic Holst score.
"I wanted to skate to that a long time ago, and I finally got this chance, so I took it."
Farris left the ice with both hands to his cheeks in a gesture of delight and amazement. When the scores came up, he had an enormous 60.56 for Executed Elements, 48.68 for Program Components (particularly high for skating skills, performance and interpretation), 109.24 for the segment, and 161.05 overall. That would ultimately be 27.45 points beyond the nearest competitor.
Steven Evans of the Dallas FSC walked off the ice shaking his head in bewildered amusement at coach Natalia Mishkutionok, his only coach since childhood—imagine beginning under an Olympic gold medalist--after completing a content-laden program marred by some fairly minor mistakes and a major one, a fall on the late-program triple Salchow.
Overall, Evans’s artistic interpretation of "Morning Passages," an orchestral piece that was dramatic yet delicate, was impressive.
Mishkutionok reminisced about their first meeting. "I remember him practicing on a public session by himself. The music is playing and he’s doing all of these arm [movements]. I talked to his mom. ‘Does he have a coach? Is that a program?’ No, he’s just doing it. That was just him."
Evans opened, similar to Farris but with slightly less difficulty, with triple loop, triple Lutz-double toe and triple flip, entering the flip tentatively, landing poorly, and omitting a planned double toe.
The head-shaking? "It was the Salchow--and the fact that I didn’t get to do my triple-triple combination. I over-rotated the first jump, the triple flip. I got so excited because I did it so well in the warm-up. When it was a quarter over-rotated, I thought it would be better just to leave it alone and do the triple-double in the second half."
Re the flip and the potential triple-triple threat, Evans said, "I was hoping to upgrade the GoE and get some plusses because I normally do the combo very well. The jump wasn’t that bad, but when I landed, I just didn’t have the strength to keep it from slipping under, because I had a small inside lean. But I think overall I did pretty well for my first Nationals."
After the mid-point, Evans delivered triple Lutz, triple flip-double toe, and spread-eagle into triple Salchow, the latter resulting in a fall and mostly -3 GoEs. His scores were 49.86, 42.56, and 91.42 for the segment, 133.60 overall.
Jason Brown, Skokie Valley SC, rounded out the top three. With scores of 43.11, 45.49, 88.60 for the segment and 132.84 overall, he missed out on silver by less than a point.
He had rearranged his elements since his last outing.
"After Sectionals, because I don’t have all of the harder jumps that everyone has, we flipped it to make it harder."
After some dancey, entertaining footwork, Brown launched into a triple toe loop and twin double Axels in sequence, followed by a combination spin, double Lutz with deductions and a flawed triple loop. Everything from there on in was in positive territory: double flip, combination spin, straight-line steps, triple Salchow-double toe with extra credit, flying sit spin, and a big finish with a triple toe-double toe-double loop combination.
Even if he hadn’t jumped, Brown would have been entertaining. His interpretation of the Moscow Symphony’s rendition of selections from Russian cinema--first lyrical, then funky and old-time-movie--promised a bright future for this young artist who soaked in the atmosphere at his first "Big Nationals."
"This feels really good. The arena is just amazing. That thing up there, the JumboTron, is really cool. You see your name around (the arena perimeter). It’s just breathtaking.
Jay Yostanto of the All Year FSC rose from seventh in the Short Program to fourth for the Free Skate and overall. Highlights of his performance to a melodic cut from the Rocky soundtrack, then a big finish to the classic Rocky theme, included a nice opening double Axel and a triple toe-double toe near the end.
Yostanto put a foot down on his triple Lutz and a hand down on the triple flip of a planned combination, then leaned in the air and fell out of his planned triple Lutz combination. His scores were 42.56, 41.25 (mostly in the high fours), 82.81 and 124.16.
Austin Wagner, SC of Wilmington, seventh in the Short Program, pulled up to fifth with a West Side Story program that opened with jump difficulties but ended strong with extra credit for double Axel, triple loop, and a double-double-double combination of Lutz, loop and loop.
Jason Thomas, fellow Midwestern competitor of the top three medalists, representing the Wagon Wheel FSC, moved up from eighth in the Short Program to sixth overall with a program to Pirates of the Caribbean that opened well with a triple loop. Thomas then missed his triple Lutz and a subsequent triple Lutz combination.
Edward Tea, Portland ISC, fourth in the Short Program, placed tenth in the Free Skate and dropped to ninth overall. It took a long time for his marks for the Prince of Arabia program to appear.
Christopher Fernandes, Colonial FSC, fifth in the Short Program, took eighth in the Free Skate for a sometimes rambling Far and Away program to end seventh overall.
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