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Friday, May. 24, 2019
Knights making a name at OFSAA nordic ski
by Randy Pascal

It turns out that a whole lot of fitness can go a long, long way when it comes to OFSAA Nordic Ski Championships.

Lo-Ellen Park Knights cross-country ski coaches Sara McIlraith, Colin Ward, Neil Phipps and Vanessa Catto were not blessed with a great deal of nordic ski experience. In fact, nine of the ten juniors who represented the school in Timmins last week were essentially "rookies" to the sport.

What they did have in their back pocket was a fitness base that was evidenced last fall as the Knights dominated both the SDSSAA and NOSSA cross-country championships. That base, combined with a dedication to practice and improve the required skill element, allowed Lo-Ellen to return home with medals in four separate categories, including two for the junior boys team of Cameron Boland, Kendyn Mashinter, Lucas Mrozewski, Max Mahaffy and Daniel Musico.

"It's been growing for a few years and we've hit the magic number (in terms of participants)," noted coach Ward. "The kids are enjoying themselves and have stuck with it." In fact, when the senior girls silver medal winning tandem of Allison Caswell and Kate Richards (they combined with Sydney Tarini, Bridget Spoel and Eden Santi to finish second in the 5km freestyle event) were in grade nine, they were the only two skiers representing Lo-Ellen at OFSAA.

Growing in leaps and bounds, the program truly flourished this winter. "My cross country running team was huge and successful, and my skiers were all on the running team and they recruited," said Ward. "They came out, and came out in numbers this year."

Coaches and athletes provided a match made in heaven. "Sara put together the training plans and Neil has the technical expertise in waxing. And a lot of out skiers have hockey background, which I believe facilitates the ability to learn the skating motion."

And, to their credit, learn they would. "I think being fit and strong and powerful is very different than being skilled," Ward added. "This sport really does combine the two. Our team certainly came in fit, but is still very gradually getting the skill."

With OFSAA nordic ski combining the midget and junior aged athletes into a single category, schools can send four teams to provincials - junior and senior boys, and junior and senior girls.

On day one, the senior girls (silver) and junior boys (bronze in the 5km free) were joined on the podium by the junior girls grouping, as Jayde Hurley, Meredith Kusnierczyk, Fiona Symington, Nathalie Marks de Chabris and Devin Mantle finished third in the aggregate scores of their placement over the 4km freestyle course.

On day two, the junior boys added a second bronze medal performance, this time in the sprint relays, to their resume, with the senior girls sliding into sixth and the junior girls just one spot further back.

The Knights senior boys team of Kelly Thompson, Josh Tillson, James Norrie and Chris Dodds were also highly competitive, slotting in at #6 in the 7km freestyle event and #8 in sprint relays.

Individually, Allison Caswell showed the way with the Knights only top-ten performance (5th - 34 seconds behind gold medal winner), with Kate Richards (11th), Cameron Boland (12th), Jayde Hurley (15th) and Kendyn Mashinter (15th) also creeping up with the fastest of the Ontario racers.

Following is a complete breakdown of the Lo-Ellen individual performances:

Junior Girls (4 km free)
Jayde Hurley - 15th
Meredith Kusnierczyk - 26th
Fiona Symington - 29th
Nathalie Marks de Chabris - 33rd
Devin Mantle - 37th
Team Finish - BRONZE
Relay Finish - 7th

Junior Boys (5 km free)
Cameron Boland - 12th
Kendyn Mashinter - 15th
Lucas Mrozewski - 17th
Max Mahaffy - 24th
Daniel Musico - 131st
Team Finish - BRONZE
Relay Finish - BRONZE

Senior Girls (5 km free)
Allison Caswell - 5th
Kate Richards - 11th
Sydney Tarini - 21st
Bridget Spoel - 28th
Eden Santi - 81st
Team Finish - SILVER
Relay Finish - 6th

Senior Boys (7 km free)
Kelly Thompson - 24th
Josh Tillson - 34th
James Norrie - 36th
Chris Dodds - 81st
Team Finish - 6th
Relay Finish - 8th

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