Shaun Rogers can land a quad jump. It's the little things that bring him down.
The skater from Millersville is competing in his fifth senior national championships. He's hoping for a top-six finish that would lead to a Grand Prix assignment next season.
Rogers, 22, is completely healthy for the first time in memory. What seems to be getting in the way this year are mental lapses, like the ones at Eastern Sectionals in Raleigh, N.C., in November that almost cost him a chance to be here.
On the up side, he powered into a quad toe loop, a triple axel-triple toe combination and a triple salchow-double toe-double loop combination. But he lost his concentration and stepped out of the back end of another triple-jump combination, turned a triple loop into a single and fell on a triple flip. The judges awarded him fourth, good enough for the final spot at nationals.
"That was close," he said.
The inconsistency puzzles Pam Gregory, coach of both Rogers and U.S. women's champion Kimmie Meissner.
"He needs the big tricks to break into the top six," she says. "He can do the hard stuff and then he loses focus. That's a problem."
Rogers' early days mirrored Meissner's. He started in the sport at 8, when he went to a skating party for his Old Mill Middle School class. He liked it and started group lessons, which gradually became private lessons.
Before Meissner got her driver's license, she would often catch a ride with Rogers. The two skaters like to compete during practice, betting pizza and soft drinks.
At the University of Delaware send-off show two weeks ago, after all the routines were over and the audience was leaving, Meissner and Rogers couldn't help but indulge in a little variation on H-O-R-S-E. Meissner launched triple-triples and Rogers snapped off quads.
Rogers' short program tonight will be performed to "Battle on the Ice" by Alexander Nevsky. He skates 10th out of the field of 18 men.
Most of tonight's drama, however, will be front-end loaded.
Three-time U.S. champion Johnny Weir will skate second and Evan Lysacek, who dethroned him last year, will perform fifth.
Ryan Bradley, last year's surprise runner-up, drew the 13th spot. Scott Smith, who calls Montgomery County's Sandy Spring his hometown, follows him.
Bel Air's Bosley sixth in junior ice dance
Pilar Bosley of Bel Air and partner John Corona of Glen Mills, Pa., finished sixth yesterday in the junior ice dance competition with a combined score of 144.37.
They were in third place after compulsories, then finished sixth in original dance and ninth in the free dance.
Madison and Keiffer Hubbell, a brother-and-sister team from Ohio, won with a score of 167.48.
The money game
They lost a $12 million network TV deal and don't have a title sponsor for their showcase event, but the leaders of U.S. Figure Skating say the budget is balanced and they expect to find a replacement for longtime sponsor State Farm Insurance.
Federation president Ron Hershberger and executive director David Raith offered their "State of the Skate" assessment yesterday morning at the national championships and pronounced themselves satisfied.
The combination of increased membership and fees, a $1.4 million infusion from the U.S. Olympic Committee, revenue from events, TV advertising, sponsorships and donations means the federation has a balanced budget, they said.
Raith said he was "very, very confident" that the federation will find a new sponsor for nationals -- worth $1 million annually -- explaining that he wanted a multi-year deal rather than a one and done.
A revenue sharing deal with NBC to televise nationals takes the federation through 2010. Raith said the federation sold all of its portion of the commercial time at this event.
In addition to broadcasting rights, they announced a deal with Comcast to televise national junior-level and synchronized competitions. The contract will run through the 2010 season.