Varsity Blues eyeing third straight banner after similar top finishes during 2017-18 season

Varsity Blues eyeing third straight banner after similar top finishes during 2017-18 season

BURLINGTON, Ont. – The East Elgin Community Complex will welcome the province's best skaters next week, as the Western Mustangs host the 2018 edition of the OUA Figure Skating Championship. And while plenty of medal hopefuls will be stepping onto the ice for their respective competitions, each school will have their eyes on the two-time reigning champion Toronto Varsity Blues with the hopes of dethroning the champs and bringing home a banner win of their own.

Details surrounding the upcoming championship can be found in the 2018 Figure Skating Championship Fan Guide.

After capturing their first banner in 25 years two years ago, the Varsity Blues have gone on to win the past two championships and enter will enter this year's competition ready to lift their third consecutive banner. The team will do so on a high note, as Toronto is coming off a dominant season, which saw them win both the OUA Fall and Winter Invitationals.

The Blues return two-time OUA all-star Chyna Hui. The third-year history/evolutionary anthropology major will look to defend her titles in the senior silver solo dance as well as the junior silver similar dance, this year with second-year skater Maggie Chen. Hui will also team up with Stéphanie Carroll, Katia Orlova-Kramble, and Jessica Reid for the gold creative skating skills event.

Fellow OUA all-stars Christina Liao and Lily Asher return and will team up with Melanie Zavitski and Felicia Bonitatibus to vie for Toronto's third straight gold medal in the free skate pair fours. Liao will also skate in the gold freeskate, while Bonitatibus is set to pair up with Keiko Marshall in the senior similar pairs as well.

Runners up a year ago, the Brock Badgers will head into the OUA Championship with their sights set on nothing short of gold. Leading the charge for the Badgers will be 2017 OUA All-Star Sydney Vanderveen. who enters the competition undefeated in the Women's Novice Short Program event, and will look to defend her gold medal therein.

Also looking to repeat as a gold medallist is Katie Desveaux, competing in the Women's Open Solo Dance event. Competing in that event at the Fall and Winter Invitationals, Desveaux placed second and first, respectively, and is poised to retain her position on the podium.

2017 OUA Coach of the Year Katie Dortono will also be looking for support from two medal favourites in Emily Albrecht and Alexa Leitch, as the two smooth skaters will pair with Desveaux in the Open Short Pair Dance and Intermediate Pairs Freeskate, respectively. Leitch will also be looking for her own individual gold in the Star 10 Freeskate; an event in which she finished first at the Winter Invitational a few weeks ago.

The championship host and defending bronze medallist Western Mustangs will look to use home ice to their advantage as they make a push for an OUA banner. With the exception of Jessica Chow, the Mustangs return all their OUA medallists from the 2017 championships, hoping to maintain or better their performances from a year ago.

The most notable returning skater for the 'Stangs is the reigning OUA gold medallist in the Men's Open Free Skate, Dennis Margalik. A star on the ice, Margalik comes in to the competition undefeated after a first place finish at the Winter Invitational in the same event.

Three-time OUA medallist Giozelin Mutlu will look to capture her first OUA gold week at this year's event, after a second-place finish in the Women's Novice Short Program a year ago. Mutlu will also make an appearance in the Senior Similar Pairs event – looking to improve on a bronze medal in 2017 – with partner Natalie Li. Li, in her first season with the Mustangs, has already reached the podium at both the Fall and Winter Invitationals, and will surely be looking to make an impactful debut at the OUA Championship in the Gold Freeskate event.

Rounding out the purple and white's medal threats are veterans Nicole Lawson and Emily Bird in the Senior Silver Similar Dance event. Lawson and Bird were the 2016 Junior gold medallists in that discipline, and are coming off a silver medal performance in 2017. They will be keen to take top spot on the podium this year.

The four-time champion Guelph Gryphons, meanwhile, will make the trip to the East Elgin Community Centre looking to capture the OUA banner for the first time since 2013-14.

With the departure of six-time OUA medallist Claire Hughes, the Gryphons will look to 2015 gold medallist Julie Cenedese and two-time silver medallist Jade Morrow to carry the torch. Cenedese, a three-time medallist herself, was part of the gold medal winning Pairs Four team in 2015, while Morrow, an OUA All-Star in 2017, found success placing second in the Gold Creative Dance. The two came together last year to capture the silver in the Women's Open Short Dance, and will make a strong push for gold this year.

Coming into the championship with aspirations of their first OUA title, the Ryerson Rams will look to rise the ranks from seventh place finish in 2017. The Rams will turn to heavy hitter Christopher Berneck to repeat his podium appearances. As a rookie, Berneck won gold in the Men's Open Freeskate event and followed that up with a silver medal performance in 2017. Coming into the OUA championship, Berneck can surely be expected to make another run for the gold medal.

Also featured in the Rams' lineup is Sawyer Buchanan, who captured silver in the Senior Similar Dance event in 2016. Following a pair of podium finishes at the Fall and Winter Invitationals this season, Buchanan is certainly a favourite to make a return to the podium this year.

From a team looking for their first banner to a team that leads the conference in figure skating triumphs, the Queen's Gaels – who are in search of their 17th championship win – return several key skaters striving to bring the Tricolour their first such result since 2005-06.

Returning for the Gaels is two-time silver medallist in the Similar Pairs event, Chantal Deane, who will look to leave this year's event with that elusive gold medal. Also returning for the Gaels is the Women's Four Pairs team of Tiffany Lung, Natasha Calizon, Melissa Kustra, and Leah Monette, who will look to upgrade their 2017 silver medal for gold in 2018.

Louis Hains and the McMaster Marauders come into the competition looking to improve on a fifth place finish at last year's OUA Championship. Hains, the reigning two-time gold medallist in the Women's Gold Starskate event, will look to make it a three-peat in her event. She will also pair with teammate Jessica Wiskar in the Women's Senior Similar Pair event, where they finished second just a year ago.

Additionally, after finishing one shy of top spot in 2017 in the Gold Creative Skating Skills event, Hains and Wiskar will join Emma Curtis in hopes to make it gold this time around.

For the Carleton Ravens figure skating team, Amanda Cousineau came away with the bronze medal in the Women's Starskate 10 event in her rookie season last year at the OUA Championship, and after a fourth place finish at January's Winter Invitational, will make a push for the podium again this year. Joining Cousineau will be Vanessa Chatrand and Grace Duncan, both of whom are both competing in the Senior Similar Dance event. They recently placed fourth at the Winter Invitational in January and are looking to build at the provincial finale, as well.

Also featured in the competition will be the Waterloo Warriors, who will see second-year skater Jocelyn Wong (Waterloo, Ont.) – a fourth place finisher in the Gold Women's Freeskate at the Winter Invitational – lead the charge. Wong will be hoping to skate her way to not only earn a podium spot, but to leave the competition with her first OUA medal for the black and gold.

This year's OUA Figure Skating Championship kicks off on Tuesday, March 6 at 12:00pm, as competition starts with the Women's Starskate 10, and will wrap up the following afternoon with the Synchro Teams event. The championship trophy and banner, as well as medals for each participating skater, will be presented to the winning institution at the conclusion of the championship.