U.S. figure skating champion Max Aaron‘s Olympic season is off to a personal-best start.
Aaron, 21, scored an 81.49 to take the lead at the U.S. International Classic in Salt Lake City on Thursday night, bettering his 78.20 from the World Championships in March, where he finished seventh overall.
Aaron’s short program highlight was a quad salchow-triple toe loop combination, though he put both his hands on the ice on the quad. Aaron also landed a clean triple axel, putting him four points ahead of second-place Stephen Carriere of the U.S. (full results below).
Carriere, 10th at last season’s U.S. Championships, skated a clean program but did not attempt a quadruple jump.
The men’s free skate is Friday at 9:15 p.m. ET on icenetwork.com. It will be preceded by the short dance (2:35) and women’s short program (5:10).
2013 world junior champion Josh Farris, 18, is in third place after his international debut short program scored a 72.58. Farris stepped out of a quad toe loop landing.
The U.S. men are beginning a season in which they’ll compete for two spots on the Olympic team at the 2014 U.S. Championships in Boston in January.
Other contenders for Sochi include 2010 Olympic champion Evan Lysacek, who pulled out of the U.S. International Classic earlier this week. Lysacek has not competed since winning gold in Vancouver. Also in the running are three-time U.S. champion Jeremy Abbott and the last three U.S. silver medalists, Ross Miner, Adam Rippon and Richard Dornbush.
In the pairs short program Thursday, Canadians Kirsten Moore-Towers and Dylan Moscovitch took a six-point lead with a score of 68.52. 2013 U.S. champions Marissa Castelli and Simon Shnapir placed second despite Shnapir falling on a side-by-side triple salchow.
Moore-Towers and Moscovitch are the defending champions of the U.S. International Classic and took fourth at the World Championships in March.
2012 U.S. champions Caydee Denney and John Coughlin were third at 61.66, followed by Tarah Kayne and Daniel O’Shea (60.31). Denney put her hand on the ice on a side-by-side triple toe loop and a throw triple lutz.
U.S. bronze medalists Felicia Zhang and Nathan Bartholomay were sixth out of seven pairs at 50.23 after falls on a throw triple lutz and side-by-side triple toe loop (Bartholomay).
1. Max Aaron (USA) 81.49
2. Stephen Carriere (USA) 77.48
3. Josh Farris (USA) 71.85
4. Grant Hochstein (USA) 63.29
5. Oleksii Bychenko (ISR) 62.19
6. Christopher Caluza (PHI) 61.79
7. Michael Christian Martinez (PHI) 59.65
8. Andrei Rogozine (CAN) 58.39
9. Stanislav Samohin (ISR) 56.84
10. Charles Pao (TPE) 34.62
1. Moore-Towers/Moscovitch (CAN) 68.52
2. Castelli/Shnapir (USA) 62.26
3. Denney/Coughlin (USA) 61.66
4. Kayne/O’Shea (USA) 60.31
5. Lawrence/Swiegers (CAN) 59.30
6. Zhang/Bartholomay (USA) 50.23
7. Davidovich/Krasnapolsky (ISR) 43.70