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Zahradnicek, Dunne win respective junior free skates

Evans takes second in junior men, well back; Siraj is next-best lady

Junior ladies free skate winner Haley Dunne sits with pair skater Michael Chau after her victory on Saturday at the Liberty Summer Competition.
Junior ladies free skate winner Haley Dunne sits with pair skater Michael Chau after her victory on Saturday at the Liberty Summer Competition. (Lynn Rutherford)

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By Liz Leamy and Lynn Rutherford, special to icenetwork.com
(07/20/2009) - Alexander Zahradnicek had an impressive showing in the junior men's free skate at the Liberty Summer Competition, winning the event by more than 12 points.

The skater, who trains under Karl Kurtz and Priscilla Hill in Wilmington, Del., landed six triples, including an opening triple flip-triple toe combination, in his program, which was set to a techno version of Bach's "Toccata and Fugue."

"It felt great. I was really comfortable out there," Zahradnicek said. "My coaches have been working with me on a lot of things to try to improve my overall skating and make two top-level programs."

"We've been focusing on higher jumps, softer landings and skating with more passion," added Kurtz.

Steven Evans, who is coached by 1992 Olympic pair champion Natalia Mishkutionok in the Dallas area, placed second with a solid skate to "Warsaw Concerto."

"I felt that it got stronger and stronger as it went on," the 17-year-old Evans said. "I was very nervous at the beginning, but each jump made me feel more confident.

"I'm so happy I did the triple Lutz-triple toe combination in the second half. I did it last year at the Broadmoor Open, but the toe was downgraded and I haven't done it since. I planned to do a triple flip-triple toe as my first move, but I doubled the flip. I thought if I could pull off the Lutz-toe, I'd rack up points."

Evans was right; he earned 10.25 points for the maneuver and ended up with 101.32 overall.

Alexander Aiken took third place with a jazzy routine to Bobby Helms' "Sunny" that was at least half improvised. The skater fell on his first triple Lutz, but he landed a triple loop, a triple flip-double toe combination and three double Axels, amassing 91.60 points in all.

"We changed the concept about three weeks ago, threw it out and started fresh," said Aiken's coach, Herbert Wiesinger, who is choreographing the program with his pupil.

"The first 40 seconds are set, and all of the jumps and spins are all laid out but he got a bit confused. Initially, I didn't want him to do the free, but it was a long trip here [from the Atlanta area] just for the short program."

Peter Max Dion was fourth with 90.01 points.

Dunne shines in junior ladies free

Haley Dunne, of Raleigh, N.C., took gold in the junior ladies final free skate with her theatrical rendition of selections from West Side Story.

Dunne earned an 85.14-point total score for her program. It featured a triple Lutz; a triple Salchow-double toe combination; and two triple toes, one of them in sequence with a double Axel. She also did a fine layback spin with a Biellmann variation.

"I was very happy with my program," said Dunne, 16, who is coached by Shirley Hughes in Alexandria, Va.

"It's the second time I've done it this year, and I love it. It's totally different from what I've done in the past in that I am able to act out a part."

Yasmin Siraj, 12, was second with 79.80 points for her Middle Eastern-themed program. She landed four triples, including a flip and two toes, as well as two strong double Axels.

Kiri Baga, the 2009 U.S. novice champion, wound up third with a high-voltage interpretation of Carmen that earned a score of 77.73.

Baga, 14, of Bloomington, Minn., executed a triple toe-double toe-double loop; another triple toe; and three double Axels, two in sequence.

"I had a lot of fun getting my programs out there," said Baga, who is coached by Lorie Charbonneau, the mother and coach of 2009 Canadian junior champion Kate Charbonneau.