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  • Sunday, February 14, 1999

    Silverstein and Pekarek continue winning ways

     SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Jamie Silverstein and Justin Pekarek now have a national title to add to their world crown.
     Silverstein and Pekarek easily won the junior ice dancing title Saturday with a mature and passionate free dance, earning marks ranging from 5.4 to 5.9. Emilie Nussear and Brandon Forsyth of Simsbury, Conn., who were second, had marks ranging from 5.1 to 5.6.
     Crystal Lynn Beckerdite, of San Jose, Calif., and Matt Healy, of Greenville, S.C., were third.
     "I think we're just trying to be more mature, express deeper emotions," Pekarek said.
     Silverstein, 15, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and Pekarek, 17, of Southfield, Mich., have had a breakthrough season after finishing second at junior nationals last year. They won the Junior World Championships in November -- the second straight American couple to claim the crown -- and swept the compulsory dances, the original dance and the free dance at nationals.
     After their free skate, a fan tossed a small plastic album on the ice filled with photos of their performance at last year's nationals. One of the photos showed their marks -- 5.2s to 5.4s.
     The couple said they've been inspired by five-time U.S. champions Elizabeth Punsalan and Jerod Swallow, who also train at the Detroit Skating Club. Punsalan and Swallow even took Silverstein and Pekarek out to dinner after they won junior worlds.
     And who knows, there might be more celebratory dinners in the future. The duo hasn't decided if they'll move up to seniors next year.
     "We have broader horizons now," Pekarek said. "We're looking more toward the future now in skating. It's not just a junior thing. The junior worlds is a stepping stone."
     A FLIPPANT SENDOFF: Dan Hollander knew he wasn't going to take home a medal from his last nationals, so he figured he may as well give the audience a show.
     Hollander, who was third at nationals in 1997 and 1998, did a back flip with about 20 seconds left in his free skate Saturday afternoon. The move is illegal, but the audience loved it, letting out a huge roar when he landed it. When he finished his program, he got a standing ovation.
     "I was in my spin at the end and I could hear people screaming," Hollander said. "I thought, 'Geez, maybe I should have done this years ago.' It was a cool moment. It was as nice as '96 nationals."
     Hollander, who was third at nationals in 1996 and 1997, hasn't been able to train as he wanted because he's been fighting a groin pull for the last year. He was 14th after the short program, and he was feeling so awful physically that he called the U.S. Figure Skating Association on Saturday morning and told them he was withdrawing.
     After a quick shower and a ride to the arena, he'd changed his mind and asked to be let back in.
     "Finally, I decided 'No, no, this would be a really good last time to enjoy it and be with the audience.' Things were going OK and I was having a good time at the very end, so I thought, 'Let's give this audience a really good show. At the end I thought, what the hell, why not?'
     "Looking out at the audience and seeing them smile, it was by far worth it."
     Hollander finished 11th.
     WITHDRAWALS: Danny Clausen, Jeff Merica and Morgan Rowe all withdrew before the free skates Saturday.
     Rowe, who was 13th after the women's short program withdrew because of an intestinal infection. Clausen, in eighth after the short program, pulled out because he was ill. Merica, who was second-to-last, didn't give a reason.
     Rowe, of Harwich, Mass., was second at the Eastern Sectionals. She finished 12th at nationals last year.
     Clausen, 22, and Merica, 24, both won their qualifying competitions. Clausen, of Anchorage, Alaska, won the Upper Great Lakes Regionals and the Midwestern Sectionals to earn his first trip to senior nationals. Merica, of Annapolis, Md., was first at the South Atlantic Regionals and the Eastern Sectionals.
     Merica finished 14th at last year's nationals, his first as a senior. He was second at the 1996 junior nationals.
     WHAT A TRIP: Some young skaters are going to be getting some bonus frequent flyer miles.
     Danielle and Steve Hartsell, who won their first pairs title Friday, and Trifun Zivanovic and Timothy Goebel, the silver and bronze men's medalists, were selected for the inaugural Four Continents Championships later this month in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
     Laura Handy and J. Paul Binnebose, who were third in pairs, and Tiffany Scott and Philip Dulebohn, who were fifth, also will go to Four Continents. Scott and Dulebohn were chosen over third-place finishers Tiffany and Johnnie Stiegler, who were ineligible because Tiffany Stiegler is too young.
     Matt Savoie, who finished fourth, will be the other men's representative.
     National champion Michael Weiss and Kyoko Ina and John Zimmerman, who were second in pairs, weren't selected because they're competing in the Grand Prix Final the following week.
     The women's team has Angela Nikodinov, Sarah Hughes and Erin Pearl, who were third through fifth at nationals. Champion Michelle Kwan will spend the time prearing for the world championships, and runner-up Naomi Nari Nam is too young for ISU senior competitions.
     The Four Continents, which will be held Feb. 21-28 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is designed as a balance to the European Championships. Skaters from the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania can compete.

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