Jeremy Abbott sets national record
BOSTON -- After one of the best programs of a career that already includes three national titles, Jeremy Abbott nearly did a pratfall.
He would have been entitled following a spotless performance highlighted by three picture-perfect jumps, smooth spins and almost celebratory footwork in a short program victory Friday night at the U.S. Championships.
Coming out of his final move, his excitement overtook him and Abbott lost his balance. And when he saw his U.S. record points total, 99.86, a look of amazement dominated the 28-year-old veteran's face.
"I went through all my history here," Abbott said. "I tried to live all of it but stay in the moment and just enjoy what I was doing, each crossover, each step. I really did that. This is a night I'm never going to forget."
Abbott has built a reputation as a strong domestic skater, winning nationals in 2009, '10 and '11. Yes, he was the top dog from the United States heading into the Vancouver Games, where countryman Evan Lysacek won gold while Abbott finished ninth.
That was one of many disappointments on the international stage for Abbott, including an eighth and two 11th-place showings at worlds. He failed to make the U.S. team for worlds last year.
With another routine like his short program here, though, he'll be America's No. 1 contender at the Sochi Olympics.
"I have a toe maybe over the threshold of the jetway," Abbott said.
He's competing at his final national championships.
"I wanted to take in all the energy and all the excitement and just really live in it, because it's never happening again," Abbott said.
Abbott held the previous U.S. mark for a short program, 90.23 at the 2012 nationals. He shattered that, building a lead of 7.82 points over Richard Dornbush.
Jason Brown was third heading into Sunday's free skate.
Dornbush, 22, has struggled since coming in second at 2011 nationals and didn't even compete in the Grand Prix series this season. But he was spectacular from the get-go Friday night, landing a perfect quad and triple axel that had the fans entranced.
By the time his 2½-minute program was done, the crowd was on its feet, Dornbush was on his knees throwing an imaginary punch through the air and celebrating a career best.
"I'm not sure any thoughts went through my head," he said. "I was pretty excited, pretty pumped."
And he was only the second skater of the night.
"I always seem to be early, so maybe I was in my comfort zone," he said.
So was Brown in a smokin' skate to Prince's "The Question of U" -- he even wore a black and purple costume embellished with rhinestones around his neck, and down his back and side, plus Prince's "love symbol" on the back.
He nailed a triple axel and a triple flip-triple toe loop with gorgeous flow to open the program. He added a lutz with both hands above his head, footwork that meshed with every element and with every nuance of the music, and speedy spins that had the crowd roaring.
"Everyone has such a good chance to make the team," said Brown, who just turned 19. "It really pushes all of us to work as hard as you can."
Defending champion Max Aaron was fourth, one of five skaters to land a clean quad.
"I'm looking forward to everyone skating well," Aaron said of the free skate, which he won in 2013. "I want to send the best men, and that's what I'm here for."
Earlier, Meryl Davis and Charlie White danced within range of their sixth straight U.S. title by romping in the short dance. Indeed, the current world champions and 2010 Olympic silver medalists could have danced all night and never been caught.
Skating to selections from "My Fair Lady," Davis and White broke their own record with 80.69 points to build more than a seven-point lead on Madison Chock and Evan Bates. Siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani were third; three teams will go to Sochi.
"This is the first time we felt comfortable enough to let things happen naturally," Davis said. "This is the fifth time we're competing the program. With this program, it's all about being comfortable enough to let things happen naturally, and when you reach a point where it can be just fun, that's what we really enjoy about skating."
Coach Marina Zoueva had wanted them to skate to this music for several years.
"As we have grown with the program, we fell in love with the program and what it means ... that exuberant joy," Davis said.
Chock and Bates posted a career-high 73.41. Chock fell in practice Wednesday, crashing hard into the boards, but said she was fine other than a little soreness in her shoulders. She even joked that the boards took the biggest hit.
The free dance is Saturday.