Dancing with the stars

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:38 AM ET

Lisa Casselman and Ryan Behnia might be on the verge of something truly big.

It was a golden weekend for the young Nepean couple at the Skate Canada Eastern Challenge in Moncton, N.B. Casselman and Behnia won the pre-novice dance crown, their most significant result yet as a team.

Though the Nepean duo won both phases of the competition, it was a squeaker. They posted a final total of 58.36 points, less than a point better than runners-up Raphaelle Viau and Benjamin Arcieri of Quebec (57.66).

Even more impressive: The score earned by Casselman and Behnia was higher than any produced at the Western Challenge, which was held concurrently at the Tim Hortons 4-Ice Centre.

It means they'll clearly be in the mix for the medals at the Skate Canada Junior Nationals, Jan. 31-Feb. 3 in Brampton. Casselman and Behnia were 10th at that competition a year ago.

The Challenges were the final qualifier for both junior nationals (novice and pre-novice) and the BMO Financial Group Canadian championships (junior), which run Jan. 15-21 at the Halifax Metro Centre.

At the latter event, the area will be well represented in the junior women's event. Annie Claire Bergeron-Oliver of the Minto Skating Club, who finished seventh in her nationals debut a year ago in Ottawa, seems poised to possibly make a move up in Halifax. She won the bronze at the Challenge with a 96.17-point score, which was sixth-best among all skaters in Moncton.

Joining Bergeron-Oliver at Canadians will be Minto clubmates Dana Zhalko-Tytarenko (fourth, 95.28) and Alexandrine Chong (seventh, 91.12).

PAIRS QUALIFY

Eastern Ontario Sectionals champ Brooke Paulin finished 13th and won't advance. However, Paulin will be in Halifax thanks to a fourth-place finish in junior pairs with partner Nathan Last, who also qualified for the junior men's event by grabbing the 10th and final qualifying spot at the East Challenge.

In novice and pre-novice events, the top eight or top third advanced to Brampton. Other qualifiers from the area: Nepean's Paul Parkinson, eighth, novice men; Kim Poudrier of Aylmer Asticou and Jonathan Arcieri of St-Leonard, Que., eighth, novice dance, and Samuel Angers of Patinage Gatineau, fifth, pre-novice men.

Chelsi Fahrngruber and David Leenen of Nepean will be alternates in pre-novice pairs after placing ninth.

Senior and juvenile skaters, meanwhile, did their qualifying at last month's Eastern Ontario Sectionals at the Nepean Sportsplex.

The top four seniors there earned tickets to Halifax, while the juvenile sectional champs head to Brampton.


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