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Tuesday, Jun. 25, 2019
Sport and so much more at annual Kin Games
by Randy Pascal

It’s not easy to describe, in a highly succinct manner, the balancing act that is the annual Kin Games.

Try as they might, members of the Laurentian University Kin Games team, all of whom are affiliated with the School of Human Kinetics at L.U., struggled mightily to address the teetering between the athletic competitiveness that they have known for most of their lives, with the indelible experience that is this yearly gathering of several hundred kindred spirits from right across the country.

“Everyone there wants to win, but you want to win nicely,” suggested Ryan Faubert, a pitcher with the Laurentian Voyageurs baseball team, making his second appearance at the event. “You want to win, but you don’t want the other team to hate you.”

“As someone who grew up playing competitive sport, where you’re there to win and you’re there for your team only, this is different,” noted Lindsey Boland, a Lo-Ellen Park graduate, now in her third year at Laurentian. “Even at the banquet, you want to be sportsmanlike, but I do think it’s more acceptable there to embrace being super proud of what you have accomplished as a team.”

All of which kind of brings us back to the very premise of this story.

For the first time in the 19 year history of the Kin Games, the crew representing Laurentian University would crack the podium in a big way, finishing in second place overall, and garnering top spot in the academic portion of the cross-country gathering.

Armed with 18 students from the L.U. Kin crew, a grouping split evenly between male and female participants, Laurentian would compete against 30 other Canadian post-secondary institutions over three straight days in a series of mini-competitions within four distinct brackets: sports, academics, dance and spirit.

True, this is not nearly as black and white as the majority of pure sporting encounters. But that is also a big part of the attraction for those who travel from far and wide to become completely immersed in the very special atmosphere of this assembly.

“You are genuinely there to meet 600 of the best people that you will ever meet,” said Boland. “But you wake up at 6:30 in the morning, you show up at your activity for the day, you do all your sports and stuff, and then there are other events not related to the competition.”

One of three captains of the Laurentian team, Renée Lalonde tried to add a little more perspective, all while painting a picture of what a typical Kin Games match-up might look like. “There is definitely an element of athleticism in the Games,” she said. “Even the academic challenges are athletically based.”

“You’re answering Kin related questions, but you’re having to sprint or swim or something to get the questions. And then the top 16 teams move on in an Amazing Race style of event. There is a kind of vibe about being there, everyone is just so excited. Eighteen people from each of 31 schools, right across the country, all there to celebrate kinesiology and participate in challenges related to it.”

In a sense, it’s the ancillary elements of the Games that add to the unique nature of these proceedings. The sports category, for instance, included five non-mainstream pursuits (dodgeball and ultimate Frisbee were among the lineup), but also, in the spirit of the inclusivity theme of the 2019 quasi-tournament, a seated volleyball battle of the para-sport variety.

Sportsmanship and positive spirit are paramount.

With just five minutes remaining on the 20-minute time allotment in one of their dodgeball encounters, Laurentian enjoyed a three games to none lead over Mount Royal University, with the latter having no chance of making up the deficit in the final five minutes. “We just mixed everyone together from both teams to make it more fun,” recalled Faubert.

“It’s hard not to be super competitive, sometimes, but at the end, we’re all best of friends. There are moments where you are super competitive, but you don’t want to lose out on the spirit points.”

Ironically, it is the “Dance” competition that is the one that garners the most practice hours in the months leading up to the Games. Combining the skill-set of a pure competitive dancer with the athletics of an American cheerleading showdown, this facet requires the involvement, on the floor, of all 18 members of a team, with the entirety of the remainder of the field providing the audience, hooting and hollering in pure delight.

“They give you a sheet of criteria and they grade you, and you try and hit everything,” stated Faubert. “We’re doing back-flips, throwing people up in the air, focusing on choreography, song choice, inclusion and everything.”

A product of Lockerby Composite, Alex Burton reflected on the raw emotion of the closing banquet, the time at which all of the top placements are revealed, rankings which are near impossible to monitor with any kind of accuracy over the course of the weekend itself.

Suffice to say that the screams of joy from Team Laurentian might well have been heard from the site of the function, on the campus of the University of Toronto, all the way back to the comfort and home of the Ben Avery Gym.

“It just felt so good, I was so proud of everyone,” said Burton, who admitted to not being alone in shedding tears of joy during the crowning moments for the L.U. reps. “We worked so hard – we were a really well rounded team. We had the academic side, we had the athletes, we had the dancers – and we worked so well together.”

In addition to team captains Renée Lalonde, John Nigh and Nick Seftel, the silver medal winning (aggregate) Laurentian squad also featured Brad MacKenzie, Alex Burton, Emma McDougall, Ted Nigh, Lindsey Boland, Cam Dowell, Gavin Long, Shivam Chadha, Hailey Speziale, Brittany Elidias, Jenn Oelschlagel, Ryan Faubert, Dylan Kryskow, Ariane Giroux and Jenny Houston.

The Laurentian team also wanted to give a shout-out to their weekend "mother" for the event, Naseem Shaikh, who effectively served as a Toronto-based guide for the three to four days that the locals were in the GTA.

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