Youngsters out for a spin

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

William Wu remembers the thrill of watching the Skate Canada Junior Nationals last year at the Nepean Sportsplex.

Now it's his turn.

At age 11, he's probably the youngest entrant at the 2005 junior nationals, which begin tonight in Ste-Foy, Que. The Nepean Skating Club competitor knows he'll feel a different kind of excitement when he hits the ice tomorrow for the juvenile men's event.

"I've never been to a Canadian championship before," said Wu. "I'm sort of nervous, but I'm excited, too."

This year's junior nationals are also brand new for Wu's clubmate, Marci Hanson (juvenile women), as well as four athletes from the Minto Skating Club -- Annie Claire Bergeron-Oliver (pre-novice women), David Leenen (pre-novice men), and juvenile ice dancers Michelle Menard and Berlin Lafleche.

Nepean SC coach David Graham said that's not necessarily a hard thing. "Sometimes going into it being very naive about what it is, you don't get nervous," he said.

TAKING BEST SHOTS

Wu talks about wanting to place "between fourth and seventh," while Hanson hopes to finish "in the middle" of the 13-skater field.

"I just want to skate my best," said Hanson, 12, of Arnprior. "Hopefully, that will be good enough to do well."

At the juvenile level, at least, that's probably the right attitude. Graham calls trying to forecast results in that age category "a crapshoot."

"I wouldn't even try to guess," he said, adding the new cumulative points calculation system being employed for the first time this season clouds the issue further.

For three pair teams from the Nepean club -- all of whom skated at last year's junior nationals -- the thought process is a little different.

Cassandra Oakley and Eric Charette, headed to their third junior nationals, talk confidently about being in the novice medal hunt.

"Go big or go home," the 15-year-old Oakley said with a smile.

Added Charette, 19: "If we skate well and finish lower than third, we'll still be happy."

Mainly, they're hoping to atone for a poor free skate last year that dumped them into 11th place.

"We want to make sure everyone knows that's not what we are about," said Oakley, who'll skate despite a hairline fracture in her right wrist.

It'll help having their friends and clubmates, Veronique Lalonde and New Brunswicker Bradley Price, in the same event.

"Hopefully we can finish in the top five ... as high as we can," said Lalonde, 16, of Gatineau. They were sixth as pre-novices last year.

One of the busiest skaters will be Nathan Last, who's entered in novice men's singles, as well as pre-novice pairs with Emily Jamieson. He's facing two programs on Friday.

"I've been skating a lot (in practice), so I don't think it'll be too much harder," said Last, 16, of Cardinal.

Added Graham: "Nathan's in great shape. He can do it."

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Entries from Ottawa-area clubs at the Skate Canada Junior Nationals at PEPS Arena and the Centre Sportif Ste-Foy today through Saturday:

NOVICE

- Men -- Nathan Last, Nepean

- Women -- Tara Forstner, Alexandria

- Pairs -- Cassandra Oakley and Eric Charette, Nepean; Veronique Lalonde, Patinage Gatineau, and Bradley Price, Nepean

PRE-NOVICE

- Men -- David Leenen, Minto

- Women -- Annie Claire Bergeron-Oliver, Minto

- Pairs -- Emily Jamieson and Nathan Last, Nepean

JUVENILE

- Men -- William Wu, Nepean; Samuel Angers, Patinage Gatineau

- Women -- Marci Hanson, Nepean

- Ice Dance -- Michelle Menard and Berlin Lafleche, Minto


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