"This wasn't just a performance that happened. This is how he trains," Zakrajsek said. "Our big goal was just to deliver what he trained and see how he fit in."
Aaron's big score in the free skate — 175.87 — was going to be tough for Abbott, Miner and the rest of the guys to top. No one came close.
Miner has quietly developed into one of the most reliable U.S. men, finishing third at the previous two nationals and winning a bronze at this year's NHK Trophy. That's bolstered his confidence, and he's skating with more polish and assertiveness than ever before. Every element in his program, to the old "Captain Blood" movie, was finished to perfection. There was no rushing out of jumps or awkward ends to spins.
It's the kind of precision a skater has to have if he's to contend with the international crowd.
He, too, did a quad salchow — a gorgeous one, to boot — and seven other triple jumps. His only flaw was singling an axel, a silly mistake that's sure to nag at him until next year's nationals.
"The single axel is not what I was looking for, but I'm happy I kept my head in it and fought all the way to the end," Miner said. "It was a good day."
Not for Abbott, whose program was barely adequate technically for a skater of his caliber.
He was so slow on the approach to his quadruple toe it looked as if he was going to stop and, no surprise, he landed on his rear end. But it was his other jumps that were more disappointing. His landings were scratchy and awkward, a shock for a skater who prides himself on his skating skills, including edge quality so fine the carvings could be sold as artwork.
He still might have finished ahead of Miner had he not popped his final jump, turning a planned triple salchow into a double. He skated off the ice banging his forehead with his fist.
"Stupid bleeping triple sal," Abbott said of what he was thinking. "When I doubled it, I knew that was going to be the difference. It's the easiest jump in the program, and I let it go. I knew at that point I going to be just enough behind."