Unofficially, the Lo-Ellen
Park Knights can lay claim to boasting the top high-school
nordic ski program in the province.
Unofficially, only because
there isn't actually a banner that reflects the overall
aggregate totals from two complete days of racing,
earlier this month in Duntroon, one that encompasses
both the open (club skiers) and high-school athletes
that are participating at both the junior and senior
Officially, the haul
of hardware that came north was incredibly impressive.
Both of the Lo-Ellen senior teams walked away with
the championship banners for their respective divisions,
again from an aggregate standpoint.
The Junior teams finished
second as the overall Knights' resume bested long-time
nordic powerhouse schools such as Glebe Collegiate
Institute in Ottawa and Collingwood Collegiate Institute,
both of whom field teams that are ripe with club skiers
from Nakkertok, Hardwood and Highlands Nordic ski
clubs, the premier venues for the sport in the province.
Individually, the noteworthy
Lo-Ellen results would fill a good sized scrapbook.
Among the many highlights:
Austin Mashinter - gold
- Jr Boys high-school 6 kms
Meredith Kusnierczyk - gold - Sr Girls high-school
Auggy Marks de Chabris - gold - Sr Boys high-school
Nathalie Marks de Chabris - silver - Sr Girls high-school
Amanda Symington - bronze - Jr Girls high-school 3.5
Alex Lambert - bronze - Jr Boys high-school 6 kms
Jayde Hurley - 4th - Open Sr Girls 6 kms
Kendyn Mashinter - 4th - Open Sr Boys 7.8 kms
Patrick Wiss - 5th - Open Jr Boys 6 kms
Max Mahaffy - 6th - Open Sr Boys 7.8 kms
Chandyn Bachiu - 15th - Open Jr Girls 3.5 kms
Kalila Bachiu - 17th - Open Jr Girls 3.5 kms
Cameron Boland - 18th - Open Sr Boys 7.8 kms
Maggie Parks - 21st - Open Jr Girls 3.5 kms
Joining the Lo-Ellen contingent in cracking the top
25 was Sacré Coeur Griffons senior girls racer
Danica Levesque, sliding in to 22nd place in her event.
That said, this meet clearly belonged to the Knights.
Not that this shocked
Alex Lambert, an Elliot Lake native who lists the
triathlon as his first and foremost passion. Transferring
to Lo-Ellen and living with his grand-parents as he
completes grade 10 this year, the young athlete who
is clearly predisposed to distance competitions immediately
took stock of a far different prevailing attitude
in the school that he now calls home.
"They all seem very
into the sport here, compared to my previous school,
where we had a couple of cross country runners who
would participate," said Lambert. "They
actually take it very seriously here. It's definitely
a lot more motivating - you want to work really hard
to get better."
With distance running
already a key component of his skill set as a triathlete,
Lambert focused largely on the same transition that
so many of his new teammates encountered once the
snow hits, sliding over from cross-country season
to nordic ski.
"I had to adjust
to the different forms that you have to use, and knowing
what to use based on the difficulty of the course,"
he said. "Going up a hill, you use a different
technique than you would on the flats. Running is
the same technique the whole time."
Now three years into
a sport that he currently practices in the more competitive
club environment, Kendyn Mashinter can relate to exactly
what Lambert is experiencing. "The first couple
of weeks of skiing, my arms are sore," said the
17 year old grade 11 senior.
"The arm movements
are different, and there's also different strides
in skiing." And for as much as he and his fellow
Knights have now taken their rightful place among
the very best high school cross-country running teams
in Ontario, Mashinter knows that there is a slightly
different mindset as they make the move over to nordic
"There is less pressure
in skiing for the races," he said. "They're
a little more low key, generally with less competitors,
and more competitors that are new to the sport."
Still, he sees his complementary sporting passions
as an absolute must as he looks to decide on his post-secondary
options, and well beyond, for that matter.
"I definitely want
to do something with either running or skiing beyond
high school, but I'm not sure which one - maybe both,"
noted Mashinter with a laugh. "Nordic ski and
running are sports that you can do for life. It's
not like you need a team to do it. I see myself doing
it my entire life."
These are quotes that
would have been every bit as applicable if 16 year
old grade 11 star Meredith Kusnierczyk had spoken
them. "I love nordic ski, but cross country running
and skiing are very close for me," she said.
"I can't say that I prefer track as much, just
because it gets very repetitive running seven and
a half laps around the track. I like the different
terrains with cross country - it's really pretty on
some of the courses."
While there has been
a legacy of OFSAA nordic success, in recent years
at Lo-Ellen, the team would have been challenged to
lay claim to being #1, overall, at the meet, until
"I think we thought
we had a chance at doing as well as we did, but I
wasn't expecting it," said Kusnierczyk. "We
didn't want to get our hopes up too much."
Turns out their wildest dreams were very realistic,
as the Knights were arguably even more dominant when
it came to the relay races on Friday.
Lo-Ellen senior girls
- gold - 8:53.87 (4 X 0.8 kms)
Lo-Ellen senior boys - silver - 7:35.17 (4 X 0.8 kms)
Lo-Ellen junior girls - bronze - 8:58.41 (4 X 0.8
Lo-Ellen junior boys - 5th place - 8:05.22 (4 X 0.8
While Colin Ward once again led the Knights coaching
staff this year, he was quick to share the accolades
with a large handful of key assistant coaches, including
Neil Phipps, Sara McIlraith, Bridget Spoel, wax technician
Robert Wiss, and coach/manager Vanessa Cato.
Also representing Sudbury
with a great deal of pride was the local para nordic
duo of Audréanne Soenens (Macdonald-Cartier),
first in the para standing girls event, and David
Barber (Sudbury Secondary), second in the para standing