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Jeremy Abbott Steals the Spotlight at U.S Nationals

Someone forgot to tell Jeremy Abbott that Cleveland, Ohio was the site of the Evan Lysacek-Johnny Weir show.

Abbott, 23, put down a stellar short program to take the lead in the men’s competition yesterday at the 2009 U.S Championships. Abbott scored a record 86.40 points, the highest total ever awarded for a short program at the U.S. Championships. He also topped his personal best by 8.14 points.

Meanwhile, two junior titles were decided. Ross Miner, who turned 18 today, claimed the junior men’s title while Michael Chau and Tracy Tanovich won the junior pairs crown.

THE SENIOR MEN

“I feel like the national championships are always a little bit about Evan and Johnny,” Abbott said. “My goal was to do the best that I could and maybe break through that.”

Abbott came into the U.S. Championships riding a high after winning the title at the Grand Prix Final in Korea. “I felt nervous going out there. Coming in here as the Grand Prix champion, I felt I put a lot of pressure on myself to be perfect,” he said.

Skating to Albinoni's "Adagio," Abbott’s artistic presentation was superb as he connected with the audience with his expressive routine as he danced across the ice.

He also was solid technically with a huge triple Axel and a triple flip-triple toe loop combination and his spins were tight and quick. Abbott received a standing ovation for his stellar program.

For the last few years, much of the pre-event hype surrounding the U.S. Championships focused on Lysacek and Weir.

Lysacek did his part to keep that trend going when he performed his routine first last night. Skating to Ravel's “Bolero,” Lysacek — the two-time and reigning champion — scored 83.59 points (which eventually ranked him second behind Abbott).

Lysacek (who has won two World bronze medals) scored higher levels for his spins and step sequences than Abbott. His opening triple Axel (not as high as Abbott's) earned fewer points than the Grand Prix Final champion received for the same element. Overall, Lysacek's program component marks were a bit lower than Abbott's were.

Parker Pennington, 24, ranked a surprising third place as he scored 76.17 points for his short program. Brandon Mroz was fourth with 74.88 points. Ryan Bradley was fifth (74.05) and Curran Oi (72.76) sixth.

Bradley, the 2007 U.S. silver medalist, landed a strong quad-triple combination and a triple Axel but doubled an intended triple Lutz. His earned 74.05 points for his short program.

Weir, a three-time U.S. champion (2004-06), made a costly error in his short program and was left buried in seventh place with 70.76 points. The reigning World bronze medalist popped a triple Axel into a single. "The mistake I made on the triple Axel is a mistake I haven't made in quite some time," he said. "This is the first time I haven't done a clean short at nationals since 2001."

Last year’s bronze medalist, Stephen Carriere sat in eighth place (69.36 points) after the short program and rising star Adam Rippon (last year’s junior national, junior World and Junior Grand Prix Final champion) was in 12th with 62.22 points.

THE JUNIORS

Miner won the junior men’s title with a solid free skate to a Gershwin medley. He scored 117.18 points for the routine and finished the competition with a 183.80 competition mark.

Minor had a few bobbles to start the program (he put a hand down on his triple Axel and two-footed the landing on a triple flip) but went on to land six more triples and five doubles, including a double Axel in combination. He earned a level four all of his spins.

Keegan Messing turned 17 yesterday and took home a silver medal as his present. Messing landed seven triple jumps (including a the triple Axel) and four doubles to score 117.14 points for this long program. He compiled an overall competition mark of 176.94.

In seventh after the short program, Alexander Johnson roared back to claim the bronze. He earned 119.40 points for his free program and 171.08 for the competition. Grant Hochstei placed fourth with an overall score of 162.15.

Austin Kanallakan rounded out the top five. Armin Mahbanoozadeh, in third after the short program, slipped to sixth overall.

Chau and Tanovich rallied from third in the short program to take the pairs title. The couple received a standing ovation for their lovely “Swan Lake” free program. They landed (albeit a bit unsteadily) two throw triples. She put her hands on the ice on the landing of their throw triple Salchow and had to fight to stay vertical on the landing of their throw triple loop. managed.

Short program leaders Brynn Carman and Chris Knierim finished in second, 0.58 points behind Chau and Tanovich.

Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir took the bronze and Britney Simpson and Nathan Miller were the pewter medalists.


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