Looking over the mens field for this year’s event, of course it is missing Jason Brown, Joshua Farris and Richard Dornbush, but don't be fooled- there is still no shortage of interesting storylines to watch. In a field as wide open as this, exciting surprises are sure to happen. Here's a look at our competitors:
Max Aaron Season Average: 244.68 Season Best 258.95 (Skate America) Max’s competitive advantage comes in the form of quadruple jumps. Of this field, he is perhaps the most powerful jumper and can easily accumulate enough technical points to beat the competition. Many are praising the improved artistry in his programs this year, but I still feel the overall quality of his performances still needs work. He won over the crowd and the judges at Skate America and he could very easily do that again with a clean skate here.
Adam Rippon Season Average: 237.59 Season Best: 248.63 (Rostelecom Cup) What Adam may lack at times in jumping prowess, he makes up for in intricate footwork and the best spins of the competition. Adam’s programs have scored well this season (two 4ths in the Grand Prix) and he’s an audience favorite. He has only one quad in his repertoire,the quad lutz, which he has struggled with. Here, jump landings are key for his bid for the title- he has to stay as close as he possibly can in the technical mark to allow his PCS to carry him to gold.
Nathan Chen Season Average: 232.72 Season Best: 236.76 (JGP Colorado) Nathan competed this season on the junior circuit and is coming to St. Paul with the Junior Grand Prix Final championship title. He has three quads in his free skate to amp up his technical score, but lacks the PCS that some of his more experienced competitors will get. Perhaps the most important thing he has going for him is his consistency under pressure- he’s been great this season in competition and it sets him up well for a shot at the podium.
Ross Miner Season Average: 224.65 Season Best: 248.92 (Rostelecom Cup) Ross comes to this event on a high note after an up and down early season. He won the short program at the US Classic and finished third overall but placed seventh at Skate America before winning bronze at Rostelecom Cup. Ross has competed this season with one quad in his free skate, which is technically less difficult than some of the other men but can land him in good standing when others make mistakes on higher risk elements.
Grant Hochstein Season Average: 217.75 Season Best: 235.63 (NHK Trophy) With two fourth place finishes on the Grand Prix this season (Cup of China and NHK), Grant had good results in deep fields to start his year. He competes with a quad toe in both programs, but has a tendency to get low GOE on that element. The quality of his programs are great to watch and he could make a statement here if he can jump cleanly.
Tim Dolensky Season Average: 212.88 Season Best: 219.06 (Skate Canada) Tim Dolensky had a wonderful moment at Skate Canada, with a beautiful freeskate that rebounded him from a disappointing short. New to the senior grand prix, Tim is still growing into the senior level but he has a really graceful quality to his skating and I’m looking forward to seeing him compete here. He did compete with a quad the last time we saw him in Canada.
Vincent Zhao Season Average: 209.82 Season Best: 221.92 (Sectionals) Like Nathan Chen, Vincent competed as a junior in the Grand Prix and made a trip to the Grand Prix Final, where he placed fourth. Vincent competed this season with one quad in his free program.
PREDICTIONS: Alright, I am going #straightfromtheheart with this pick- Adam Rippon will win the crowd over with a fantastic performance and grab his first national title. Of the field, I feel like Adam has the best combination of technical elements (don't forget those spins and footwork!) AND components, plus he was consistent in the Grand Prix. While Max Aaron has made huge strides in the performance area, it's still not up to par. I think he'll make a mistake or two, but score enough to get him silver and back to the World team. I think Nathan Chen will quad his way onto the podium with his consistency under pressure. It will be interesting to see if the USFSA will send him to senior worlds and/or junior worlds, depending on his placement here. I was impressed with Ross Miner at Rostelecom Cup this year, and I want to see him put down some great skates here for fourth. I was also very impressed by Grant Hochstein in the Grand Prix, and I think he will finish in the top five, with a continuation of that consistency. I'd like to see Tim Dolensky get in the last group for the free skate and put down a solid skate to land in sixth place. Alexander Johnson, Vincent Zhao and Sean Rabbit should place in the top ten.
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