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Tuesday, May. 21, 2019
Knights can legit lay claim to top nordic ski in Ontario
by Randy Pascal

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 levels.

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 6 kms
Auggy Marks de Chabris - gold - Sr Boys high-school 7.8 kms
Nathalie Marks de Chabris - silver - Sr Girls high-school 6 kms
Amanda Symington - bronze - Jr Girls high-school 3.5 kms
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 in December.

"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 this year.

"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.

Relay Results
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 kms)
Lo-Ellen junior boys - 5th place - 8:05.22 (4 X 0.8 kms)

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 boys race.

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