Varsity Blues enter as champs, but remaining field figures to fight for gold at Invista Centre

Varsity Blues enter as champs, but remaining field figures to fight for gold at Invista Centre

Kingston, Ont. – Time to sharpen up the skates and hit the ice, as the top figure skaters in the province head to Kingston to glide their way to a top result at this year’s OUA championship. The two-day finale will see nine teams compete across 14 events, all aiming to skate their way to a banner finish for their school, just like the Toronto Varsity Blues have done for the last three years. They will look to make it four straight titles when they lead the field to the INVISTA Centre in Kingston on February 12 to 13.

2019 OUA Figure Skating Championship Fan Guide

A big reason that Toronto was able to capture their third-straight banner a year ago was their depth, reaching the podium in 12 of the 14 events over the two-day championship. Now under first-year head coach Brittany de Lapeyre, the team has not missed a beat this season, with their strong contingent of skaters helping them capture first place at both the Fall and Winter Invitationals.

Hannah Broker (Brampton, Ont.) was one of the standouts that helped Toronto earn those results at the winter event, as the rookie shone brightly with a triple-gold performance. The first-year grabbed top spot in the solo dance, open rhythm dance with Jessica Reid (Owen Sound, Ont.), and in the dance fours. She’ll look to do the same this week when she takes the ice with the same partners. Two-time OUA all-star Chyna Hui (Richmond Hill, Ont.) is another skater to watch at her fourth championship. The veteran skater is slated to hit the ice in the STAR 10 solo dance and will also pair with Melanie Zavitski (Barrie, Ont.) for the 8/9 similar skate; an event they captured first place in at the Winter Invitational.

Two other skaters that should find themselves on the podium are Keiko Marshall (Burlington, Ont.) and Ehren Chang (Vancouver, B.C.). The former will skate the novice short program for the Blues, having placed second at last year’s competition, and the latter is set to participate in the open men’s freeskate and team synchro with medal results under his belt as well.

While the Blues managed to top the field a year ago, the margin was slim, as the Western Mustangs were nipping at their heels with just a four-point differential. As the purple ponies enter this year’s festivities, they will look to not only bridge that four-point gap, but show that they are once again one of the teams to beat on the ice when they shoot for gold. For them to do that, they will turn to medal-winning skaters to turn in further award-worthy efforts.

Emily Bird (Toronto, Ont.) took home the bronze at last year’s senior silver solo dance, while also topping the podium in the junior silver similar dance competition along with teammate Nicole Lawson. Alongside Bird, Denis Margalik (London, Ont.) will aim for matching results to his gold-medal skate a year ago as well. The third-year skater claimed top scores in the men’s freeskate in 2018 and was part of the silver-medal dance fours, which made him a key member to the purple and white’s overall success. If these returning skaters produce similar results, while the team as a whole maintains their strengths in events like the synchro, the Mustangs should once again be a contender for the provincial banner.

Rounding out last year’s top three are the Brock Badgers, who captured the bronze medal in the overall team competition at the 2018 event, not to mention a silver-medal finish the year prior. With a largely new group hitting the ice for the St. Catharines squad this season, however, the new-look Badgers hope to not only continue their track record of success, but gain experience for their new skaters and coach along the way.

Looking to lead this young group is one of the team’s veterans, Bralyn Nelson (St. Anns, Ont.), who competes in the freeskate fours, as well as the similar pairs and synchro categories. Last competition, Nelson and her partner, Stacey Woods, won the similar pairs event and have their eyes set on the same results this week. Another of the returning skaters, Alexa Leitch (Norwich, Ont.), will be pushing to finish one rung higher at this year’s championship, meanwhile, as the third-year skater earned silver in the STAR 10 freeskate and intermediate similar pairs a year ago.

Just shy of the podium a year ago, falling three points short of the bronze-medal Badgers, the McMaster Marauders will be skating for a top-three result this time around. If the team wants to take that next step, they’ll surely be hoping for multiple golden finishes this year; something they were unable to achieve last year in Aylmer. The lone first-place finisher, however, is back for another year with the maroon machine, and she’ll be looking to lead the charge once again.

That lone gold medalist was Belvina Mao (Richmond, B.C.), who took home top spot in the senior silver solo dance, and the reigning OUA all-star will be using her veteran experience to lead her team into this year’s competition. The team’s other returning medalist from a year ago will be Emma Bonafiglia (Grimsby, Ont.), who earned the bronze in 2018 in the open solo dance. With these two veterans at the forefront, the Marauders will return the bulk of their best performers from last year – which also includes half of their bronze-medalist dance fours group as well – and will certainly be looking to eliminate the narrow gap that kept them off the podium last year.

Like the Marauders finished three points back of the Badgers, it was the Guelph Gryphons who were just three behind McMaster in last year’s standings. Despite the fifth-place result, the Gryphons know what it is like to top the figure skating elite, earning four titles in their program’s history, and will be looking to add to that haul for the first time since 2013-14.

Andrew McDonald (Kitchener, Ont.) is one of the true leaders for Guelph and a member of the Gryphon Leadership Academy. Not only has he helped elevate the team’s focus, but he was also a member of the Gryphon dance fours team that won gold at the OUA championship a year ago. While McDonald returns, however, the team did lose some excellent skaters from last season, and they’ll turn to their strength in the team events and their ever-developing cohesion from the 2018-19 campaign to bring home some hardware with their new-look roster.

Another medal-winning member of the team, albeit one with just one banner season under her belt, is Olivia Stallaert (Chatham, Ont.). The versatile skater, who is also part of the Gryphon Leadership Academy, won two medals as a rookie a year ago, taking bronze in the freeskate and silver as part of the women’s pairs. Alongside the second-year skater, newcomers like rookie freestyle specialist Keara McDonnell and April Trussler could also have a major influence.

The Queen’s Gaels, despite earning some individual hardware a year ago, will be looking to build on their sixth-place overall finish from 2018. They will be able to do so this year in front of their home crowd, as the Tricolour are set to host this year’s provincial finale.

Among those who are hoping to skate to stardom on their home ice is Charlotte Lawson, who not only captured a silver and two bronze medals at last year’s event, but has continued her winning ways this season as well with another trio of top-three finishes at the Winter Invitational. Behind Lawson and a slew of additional medal winners from that event, the Gaels took home a third-place finish and will have their sights set on similar success when they welcome the province’s elite this week.

Improvement is also the name of the game for Carleton this year and they’ll be eyeing those higher ranks with a group made up largely of new members. The black birds welcome several fresh faces to the squad this season and are looking to carry the momentum they’ve had throughout the season to put their best foot forward in Kingston.

Vanessa Chartrand (Ottawa, Ont.) is one of Carleton’s brightest stars that has built a strong track record of success this season. The third-year skater transitioned from a national level competitor in 2017-18 to leading the Ravens ice dance team this year. She placed third in the gold solo dance at the 2018 Fall Invitational and second in the rhythm dance with partner Hannah Whitley. Chartrand will skate to showcase all of her hard work this season at the OUA championship, just like fellow Raven Carolyn Hall (Paris, Ont.). In his final year of study, Hall will be competing in four events at this year’s finale. While also finding success during the campaign, the veteran skater will look to defend her first-place finish, along with partner Amanda Cousineau, in the intermediate similar pairs from a year ago.

A team looking to put an exclamation point on their season after starting under a new administration this year is the Ryerson Rams. With a fifth-place finish at the Winter Invitational, they’ll have similar aspirations in this year’s OUA championship, which would be an improvement on their seventh-place result from a year ago. But if the Rams want to achieve more ups than downs this week, they’ll need their key performers to do what they do best.

Among those Rams who are poised to shine on the ice are Chris Berneck (Barrie, Ont.) and Rebecca Bourgeois (Stouffville, Ont.). The former is a reigning two-time silver-medalist in the men’s freeskate, while also reeling in a gold back in 2016. The versatile fourth-year skater is also a big part of the synchro team’s success and competes in dance fours, helping the Rams finish second in the event at the Winter Invitational two weeks ago. The latter, meanwhile, has taken on the title of Supervisor for Ryerson figure skating this season as the team operates without a head coach. In addition to her administrative responsibilities, the third-year skated to a silver medal two weeks back as part of the dance fours team and was part of the Rams’ silver-medal winning synchro team in 2017.

Rounding out this week’s participants are the Waterloo Warriors, who despite earning just a pair of points a year ago, will look to bring their best to Kingston along with the rest of the nine-team field.

Competition kicks off on Tuesday, February 12 at the INVISTA Centre and continues into the following day before a champion is crowned on Wednesday, February 13.