Traditionally, Ontario Games have tilted somewhat towards the more social component versus the more competitive end of the spectrum, when looking at the overall athlete experience.
Given that the 2022 event in Mississauga was the first set of Ontario Summer Games since 2018, this truism held firm even more than usual last week.
Yes, there is an element within many of the provincial sport governing bodies to encompass a degree of talent identification to their two to three day schedules – but with the bulk of the participating teenagers tasting the multi-sport atmosphere for the very first time, there is also a balance in play, to be sure.
“Compared to Ontario Team Trials, for instance, this is a lot more fun,” acknowledged Sudbury Canoe Club member Mateo Volpini, the only local to crack the OSG lineup for the event that would see the regatta hosted in Welland, a ninety minute drive from Games Central and site of the Opening Ceremonies last Thursday evening.
“There was not much rest compared to a normal regatta where we might have a maximum of five races in a day,” added the 16 year old grade 11 student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School. Volpini and his fellow paddlers crammed seven different races into a single day competition, with all of this taking place just a week before he joins six SCC teammates at the Western Ontario Divisionals at the same site.
With only three of his races of the K1 variety (where he would be alone in his craft), the remainder of his day was interspersed with K2 and K4 competition, perhaps not as big a challenge as might normally be the case as Volpini partnered with paddlers with whom he had never paddled before.
“Normally when you go into a crew boat or team boat, you have a decent connection with the person (other paddler) in order to paddle properly with them; you need to have a similar stroke. With the group of paddlers that were there, with all of us being very good at the sport, we all had enough skill to already be decently compatible with each other.”
For as much as the ultra intensity may have been toned down a touch, it wasn’t as though there were not a nice collection of very attractive Ontario Summer Games’ medals making their way north. The local volleyball crew accounted for a pair of those thanks to a five athlete delegation, plus a coach, which participated in the combination court/beach aggregate event hosted at the Paramount Fine Foods Centre.
Manitoulin native Mya Balfe was part of the silver medal winning Team D contingent while Sudbury coach Carrie Welsh was a member of the staff for the bronze medal Team H crew. Remaining local girls on hand included Maili Jutila, Hailey Ayre and Isabella Sooley, with Alessandro Moretta part of the boys competition, his team settling in fourth after dropping their bronze medal encounter.
Local triathlete Georgia Lepage earned bronze, falling short of a silver medal performance by 12 seconds in spite of hitting a curb and crashing during her first of two heats. With the electric shifter pulled from the battery after the accident, Lepage was limited to riding at a 140 cadence, unable to make up enough time on her second heat to climb above a still respectable bronze medal performance.
With nine of their 12 player roster calling Sudbury home, the Team North (U14) girls overcame a bit of a flat start in tournament play, beaten 53-31 by South Simcoe in game one by finishing at 2-2 thanks to victories over both Huron region (64-47) as well as the Capital region in their final outing (56-40).
Local players cracking the roster included Paige Dawson, Michaela Tripp, Allessia Vallilee, Zayda Paris, Sofie Lafond, Sophie Montgomery, Sophie Miller, Sarah Guignard and Kaylee Prevost-Patterson, along with coaches Chris Miller, Adam Lafond and John Dawson.
“I liked that the team got stronger throughout the tournament and gelled as the weekend went on,” noted coach Miller. “Every girl had a great moment or two – and a lot of fun. Several players had breakthrough performances. I was proud of the team and how they represented the north.”
The Team North boys squad also posted a 2-2 mark, overcoming a pair of losses out of the gate to close out the tournament in style with victories over Mountain (64-57) and Central East North (93-44).
The team roster featured Dylan Nelson, Sullivan Smith, Christian Wreegbo, Keegan Adair, Ian Ziegler, Kieran Adams, Noah Skrobot, Cooper Jackson, Charlie Smith, Rowan Waye, Cade Kirwan and Ethan Dobson.
Over at the Iceland Arena, girls hockey was running full tilt, a Summer Games entry in order to avoid the event being played right in the middle of the provincial playdowns that take place every March (when Ontario Winter Games are typically held). The sole Sudbury representative on the ice was U18 AA Lady Wolves defenceman Laryssa Mayer, a member of Team (Ella) Shelton.
OWHA officials apparently did a nice job of finding parity between the eight different teams, with Mayer and her teammates earning three ties in five games. “I got to meet new people, all the teams were evenly matched and it was really good hockey,” said the 15 year-old who is moving from CND to ESMC this fall for grade 10.
With no other Lady Wolves players on hand, Mayer was thankful for the chance to build some new relationships, even if it took her a little out of her initial comfort zone. “At the start, I was a little scared to get to know other people but I had a very good roommate (Aubrey Lagrotteria from Stoney Creek) who got me out of my shell.”
“We just went on from there and I made new friends.”
The Sudbury Girls Hockey Association did lay claim to a pair of gold medals with local coaches Julie Hébert and Stephanie Pascal both on the bench of Team (Victoria) Bach, along with Mississauga Jr Senators head coach Darcy Breakey.
After posting a 2-1 record in pool play, the gold medal winners edged Team (Claire) Thompson 2-1 and avenged an earlier 2-1 loss to Team (Sarah) Fillier with a 5-1 triumph in the final.
Over at the track, there were no podium finishes for the local quintet, although sprinter Marin O’Malley did manage to register a new personal best time of 26.41 seconds in the 200 metre dash, advancing to the finals.
A long-time competitive gymnast, pre-Covid, the 14 year old tapped into much of her experience from that setting as she has progressed from her more serious start on the track roughly one year ago. “In terms of form, I kind of knew how to use my body a lot from gymnastics,” said O’Malley, a member of the Air Blastoff track team that also accounted for the four remaining locals who competed (Jade Paradis, Aria Petroski, Gracie Dale, Grady Dale).
“Because I’ve always been used to competing with gymnastics, I actually find the pressure of track easier than the pressure I felt in gymnastics.”
And, like so many of the others, O’Malley very much enjoyed the social interactions. “At a lot of the track meets, it’s always the same people, especially in the Toronto area,” she said. “But since this was Ontario Summer Games, it was everyone in Ontario so I met a lot of new people that I had never raced against before.”
Sitting in a three-way tie for first place after the first two rounds, local golfer Lea Lemieux slipped back a little, posting a total score of 246, good for a tie of fifth place. On the boys side, the lads were a little further back of the leaders, though they had solid representation thanks to the Idylwylde tandem of Ryan and Connor Di Salle, Carter Baron from Timberwolf and Noah Thorpe from Manitoulin Island.
Finally, the Team North baseball crew was more than competitive, beating West Counties 16-6, edged 9-6 by York Simcoe but turning the table with a walk-off 6-5 win over Inter-County in their final pool game. Unfortunately, a 4th/5th quarter-final matchup with York Simcoe did not go their way, closing the book on Ontario Summer Games – 2022.