Last year, Kim Navarro and ice-dancing partner Brent Bommentre finished a career-best third at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.

As a result, the duo earned its first trip to the World Championships.

But in the months that have followed Navarro has realized she and Bommentre got something else thanks to their breakthrough performance: Pressure. Expectations. And an inability to play the role of gutty little underdogs.

?I like being under the radar,? said Navarro, 27, a graduate of El Molino High. ?I feel more comfortable that way.?

Too late.

When the curtain opens on the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in Cleveland on Sunday, Navarro and Bommentre will find it hard to avoid the spotlight.

With the withdrawal of five-time U.S. champions Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto due to injury, Navarro and Bommentre are being viewed as legitimate contenders for a silver or bronze medal.

?Sometimes I feel like we?ve earned all these opportunities,? Navarro said. ?And now all we can do is lose them. Sometimes it?s a little scary.?

Doors have indeed opened for Navarro and Bommentre, 24, who finished 12th at the World Championships in Sweden last year.

In May, they worked in Los Angeles with Emmy-nominated choreographer Barry Lather, who has worked with Michael Jackson, Prince and Usher. They also received instruction from ballroom world champion Louis van Amstel, who has worked on ?Dancing With the Stars.?

?We?ve had an opportunity to work with some amazing choreographers,? Navarro said. ?It?s been an honor to work with these people.?

Navarro, who lives in Philadelphia, will leave for Cleveland on Monday. The ice-dancing competition will begin Wednesday with the compulsory competition. It will continue Thursday (original dance) and conclude on Saturday (free dance).