Basketball High Schools

HIGH ACHIEVERS: It’s all practice, practice, practice for Canada Topflight Academy players as they hope for basketball games

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-at-Home Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

Twenty Ottawa and area swimmers are on the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic radar, 16 have received trials’ invites and seven are eyeing the 2021 Tokyo Games.

The modified Canadian Olympic and Paralympic swimming trials are slated for April 7-11 in Toronto, after a three-day, pre-meet training period. There will be a maximum of 20 swimmers in each event.

Strictly following all COVID-19 safety protocols, including physical distancing, all races will be timed finals as each event will have two 10-swimmer competitions. There will be no spectators.

Swimming Canada recently issued its initial list ranking the top 30 athletes in each Olympic event based on long-course race results from Sept. 1, 2018 to Dec. 6, 2020. Trial invitations were sent to the top 20.

The deadline for first-round acceptances was Friday, Jan. 15, and, depending on what races the swimmers select, more invitations could be extended in the second round, beginning Jan. 20.

Eli Wall. File photo

Montana Champagne and Regan Rathwell, both of the Greater Ottawa Kingfish Swim Club, Eli Wall of Toronto Swim Club, Ottawa’s Alexandre Perreault, Smiths Falls’ Bailey Andison of Perth Stingrays Aquatic Club, and Pembroke’s Alyson Ackman of Pointe-Claire S.C. will press for an Olympic berth.

Two-time Paralympian Camille Berube of Natation Gatineau is the only National Capital Region swimmer in the Paralympic swim trials, which will have 44 world-ranked qualifiers.


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Champagne has achieved the FINA B Olympic qualifying time standard in the 400-metre IM (4:21.40) and 200m butterfly (1:59.21), where he’s ranked No. 2 in Canada for both races and is No. 4 in the 200m IM (2:02.09).

“He has had a really good year so far,” said his former University of Ottawa coach Dave Heinbuch. “He’s on the outside a little bit, but we’re hopeful.”

He’s about 2.5 to 3 seconds off FINA A standard in his 200m races.

Wall, a Toronto Titans International Swimming League team member, is No. 2 in Canada in 200m breaststroke (2:12.80) and No. 3 in 100m breaststroke (1:01.70), which are both FINA B standards.

Perreault, who represented Canada at the 2018 world short-course championships and 2019 Universiade, has the B standard in the 100m butterfly (53.47) and is ranked No. 3 nationally.

Andison, who posted good short-course results inside the International Swimming League bubble, is No. 3 and No. 5 respectively in the 200m IM (2:11.33, A standard) and 400m IM (4:45.20, B).

Ackman, a triple medallist at the 2019 Lima Pan-Am Games, has national top-10 rankings in six freestyle races, including five FINA B standards. She’s one to three seconds off the A standard over 100m, 200m and 400m.

Rathwell, who has committed to the University of Tennessee for 2022 and raced the 200m backstroke A final at the 2019 Canadian world championships trials, is ranked No. 5 in 200m back (2:12.39, B), and No. 9 in 100m back (1:01.16, B).

Berube, who competed at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics, is ranked No. 6 in the world in the SM7 class 200m IM. She also will race in S7 backstroke and S6 breaststroke races at the trials.

University of Ottawa Gee-Gees’ Lauren Shearer (200m breaststroke), William Barrett (200m breaststroke), Louis Bertrand (400m freestyle) and Conor Smythe (200m backstroke) will be looking to crack the top 8 at trials.

The top-20 rankings also include five swimmers from the Nepean-Kanata Barracudas Swim Club: Madison Archer, 800m/1,500m freestyle; Mia Zahab, 200m butterfly/400m IM; Megan Wheeler, 200m backstroke; David Quirie, 200m/800m/1,500m freestyle; and Colton Milne, 200m breaststroke.

Hoping for a top-20 promotion after qualified swimmers make their choices are: Gee-Gees’ Adelle Yamashita-Ball, 800m freestyle, and Jamie Demers, men’s 100m breaststroke; Barracudas’ Breckin Gormley, 100m butterfly; and Swim Ottawa’s Gabriel Tejada, 100m butterfly.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.

Martin can be reached by e-mail at martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.

Dreams of again hoisting a championship trophy seem a little distant for Canada TopFlight Academy. File photo

By Martin Cleary

The deep-bass sounds of basketballs hitting the Notre Dame High School gymnasium floor ended 9 months ago. The Canada Topflight Academy senior team was preparing for the National Preparatory Association tournament.
 
The squad was peaking, having won its last 8 games, owning a 30-4 overall record, including 10-2 in NPA, and capturing tournaments in Toronto and Montreal. But then came an opponent with an offence they couldn’t defend against: COVID-19.
 
The worldwide pandemic shut down their successful 2019-20 season a few weeks before attempting to win their third NPA championship. “We couldn’t finish the season and we were never together again,” said head coach Tony House.
 
In the past nine months, players have graduated from one of the top high school prep basketball programs in Canada, three have transferred out of the Ottawa academy and several others have declined this year for health and safety reasons.
 
Despite recruiting in the off-season for an uncertain 2020-21 season, House was able to fill a 15-man roster for his Gold senior team and a 10-man lineup for the Red junior varsity squad, which is based out of St. Pius X High School.
 
But House had to cancel the girls’ program because coaches couldn’t conduct talent identification sessions and tryouts, plus the wife of head coach Mario Gaetano had passed away. “It was OK to take a year off,” House said.
 
For the players on the Gold and Red teams, the academy’s program is significantly different this year. In the past, the student/athletes had a regular day of classes followed by academy study hall, weights and cardio training and a two-practice.
 
Today, the students study every other day either virtually from home or in-class focused on two subjects each quadmester. Each class is 150 minutes long. Basketball training happens on non-school days – three one week and two the next week.
 
Since Ottawa’s high school gyms are closed, the Gold team practised outdoors until mid November and is now training at La Cité collégiale and Kenwood Athletic Centre in Arnprior. The Red team practises at Greenboro Community Centre and RA Centre.
 
“When I was recruiting, I promised I would do as much as I could do. There would be training and practices without compromising anyone’s health,” House said. “It’s yet to be seen if we will have any games.”
 
In the near future, House hopes to have two intrasquad games for the Gold team. This will allow the players to have some recruiting video from game situations to forward to university coaches, who are unable to travel and visit players.
 
Seven Gold team players are in their final year, but trying to earn a Canadian or American university athletic scholarship offer will be difficult. The 2020-21 U Sports season has been cancelled, but players will not lose a year of eligibility.
 
“I have phoned a lot of coaches and they tell me they have no spots. University teams won’t lose a body. All the players will come back,” added House, who also has told parents he won’t compromise their son’s health to play a league game.
 
“I feel bad for them. They’re antsy to play. They’re frustrated. At the end of the day, I tell them we’re working on skill development and getting better. We hope to do controlled scrimmages. It’s not a great climate. Maybe by the end of January.”
 
As frustrating as this season has been for House in his fifth year operating the academy, he’s clinging to one positive. “My daughter (Madison) is pregnant and I’m going to be a grandfather. She’s due March 1,” he proudly stated.

Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for over 47 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.

When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.

Martin can be reached by e-mail at martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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