BOSTON -- Max Aaron rushed into the kiss-and-cry area to embrace Adam Rippon.
Rippon had just skated a rousing long program Friday at the world championships, moments after Aaron did the same to briefly place them at Nos. 1 and 2 in the standings in front of a giddy home crowd. It was an exhilarating free skate for the American men, yet it was deflating at the same time.
Right now, what qualify as sterling performances for the U.S. still fall well short of the world's best. The three Americans combined to try four quadruple jumps Friday -- under-rotating one of them but not falling on any. The bronze medalist, China's Jin Boyang, cleanly landed four quads in his long program.
All three Americans -- Rippon, Aaron and Grant Hochstein -- finished in the top 10, when based on past results, it was plausible coming in that none would make the top 10. But the showing wasn't enough to secure the U.S. three spots at next year's worlds.
To earn the maximum three berths, a country needs its top two finishers' places to add up to 13 or fewer. Rippon was sixth and Aaron eighth, so they narrowly missed the magic number.
Rippon under-rotated his quad lutz, but the rest of the program to a Beatles medley had TD Garden roaring. In his translucent purple Sgt. Pepper-inspired shirt, Rippon waved his arms mid-performance to get the fans to scream even louder. He held his hand to his ear afterward, soaking in the adulation.
"I was ready, and I went out, and I laid down one of my best long programs, and I'm so happy it was at worlds in Boston," he said.
Rippon had the fourth-highest free skate score with 178.72 points for 264.44 total. Once regarded as a skater unable to fulfill his promise, he is turning out his best performances at age 26, but he doesn't have the big jumps of the world's top competitors.
Aaron has the jumps, if not the artistry, and landed two quads Friday. He scored 172.86 points for 254.14 total.
"The crowd is so cool," he said. "You just enjoy it. You embrace it and let it ride you all the way home."
Hochstein, making his world championships debut at age 25, had never finished better than seventh at nationals. He landed a quad toe loop to open his program to "Les Miserables" and earned a standing ovation before his final spin. He scored 162.44 points for 237.25 total and finished 10th.
"What is it? Cloud nine? I'm, like, on cloud 11," he said.
Hochstein made the team when the third-place finisher at nationals, Nathan Chen, was injured. The 16-year-old Chen offers hope for the future -- if he can stay healthy. He has the big jumps -- he landed four quads in his long program at U.S. Championships -- though his artistic scores lag behind for now.
Injury also probably cost Jason Brown a spot on the world team. He too is lacking the quads of the world's top skaters, but he managed to finish fourth at worlds last year without one.
No American man has won a medal at worlds since Evan Lysacek in 2009.