Minto dancers in medal chase

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:07 AM ET

Michelle Menard and Berlin Lafleche made their point.

Now the Minto Skating Club couple needs a few more to get onto the medal podium at the Skate Canada Junior Nationals.

After yesterday's juvenile compulsory dances in Ste-Foy, Que., Menard and Lafleche find themselves in fifth place in the field of eight couples. But they're less than a point out of third spot.

Menard, 11, and Lafleche, 15, both of Casselman, placed third in the first compulsory, the Fourteenstep, then wound up fifth in the European Waltz.

They carry 19.08 points into today's rhythm dance final. That's only 0.91 back of third-place Cindy Thibodeau and Benjamin Smyth of Quebec. Another Quebec duo, Ariane Beaudry and Alexandre Laplante, holds the lead with 23.24 points.

The juvenile compulsories were the only event on the dance card on a slim opening night of competition at the junior nationals.

All that changes today, as medals are handed out in all four juvenile disciplines, and the pre-novice short programs are presented.

ROAD WARRIORS? They'll have less in the way of friends and family in the stands today. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, say Emily Jamieson and Nathan Last, who made their junior nationals debut a year ago on home ice at the Nepean Sportsplex. "Last year, we were a lot more excited," said Jamieson, 15, of Stittsville. "We knew a lot of people were coming out to watch us, so it made us a little more nervous." They finished fifth in juvenile pairs in 2004, and will skate the pre-novice short program today. Is a higher finish in the cards this time? "You just do what you can do," said Last, 16, of Cardinal. "You don't worry about anybody else."

A WHOLE NEW GAME: The new cumulative points calculation scoring system is making its junior nationals debut this week. Even though it's new for everyone, the skaters seem to get what it's all about. "It takes the emphasis off the big elements," said Nepean-based Eric Charette, who'll skate in the novice pairs event with Cassandra Oakley. "The team with the full package will win. It's a combination of everything, who can rack up the most points." Clubmate Brad Price, also entered in novice pairs with Veronique Lalonde, adds "it's all different now ... there's more strategy this year."


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