HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Jennie and Jolene Wong have lots in common. That’s understandable, since they’re twins: fifth-year graduating students at Carleton University, Ravens women’s soccer team midfielders and varsity council members.
When they graduate from Carleton later this year, they’ll have something else in common. The Wongs are part of a group of fourth- and fifth-year graduating students who will be honoured Friday night in a Zoom virtual recognition ceremony.
Despite having their 2020-21 OUA women’s soccer season cancelled along with all other varsity sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Carleton Athletics will present these dedicated student-athletes with a cardigan and a trophy or a watch.
A total of 29 graduating student-athletes in men’s and women’s soccer, hockey and nordic skiing as well as football, women’s rugby, basketball and rowing, and men’s water polo will be recognized for their time and effort.
If only the Wongs could have had matching soccer careers for the Ravens. Jennie played four seasons (2016 through 2019), while Jolene only competed in her freshman season in 2016 before she become a sideline supporter, after two knee injuries.
“Jennie and Jolene embody the spirit of the Ravens athlete,” said Kwesi Loney, the Carleton men’s head coach and soccer operations men’s and women’s program director. “They have been an absolute pleasure to work with these past five years.
“They display a level of humility and selflessness which has benefited their team and the greater community of Carleton Athletics. In addition to being successful student-athletes, they were big contributors to our Jr. Ravens program, summer camps, varsity council and other volunteer initiatives such as Bell Let’s Talk and Bench Barriers.
“We are proud of their contribution to our program and to our department and wish them all the best on their next chapter.”
Jennie was especially proud of being named an Academic All-Canadian in her third year, scoring her first and only OUA goal in her second year, and spending time with her teammates on and off the field.
“I’m so happy I came to Carleton University,” said Jennie, a biology major who originally registered at Queen’s University. “It’s a great family and great atmosphere. I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Jennie not only developed her leadership skills on the soccer pitch, but also was thrilled to be a sport rep on the varsity council, where she was involved in a variety of good causes and community outreach.
Despite being “very, very disappointed” that she couldn’t play her final OUA season, Jennie continued to train with the team last summer and fall as well as benefit from off-season high-performance training.
Jolene enjoyed “a really great first year in a good team environment,” but despite dealing with knee injuries for her next three seasons, she learned to take on a new role with the team.
“One of the things I proved to myself was I came out stronger physically and mentally,” Jolene said. “I’m so happy I pushed through. I worked hard to stay a part of the program. The physio staff was incredible.”
When the pandemic started 13 months ago, Jolene and her teammates thought it might be gone by June and there would be a 2020-21 OUA season. But that wasn’t the case and Jolene and Jennie never had a soccer match all season.
“I was really hoping to finish something that I had started,” Jolene added. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 (ended the season). But I’m really grateful that I got to play.”
While Jennie played, Jolene supported her teammates.
“I definitely took a different role,” she said. “I tried to be a good teammate. The coach (Dom Oliveri) stresses help where you can, help cheering on.”
Having had an ACL knee injury, surgery and rehab, Jolene was able to walk a freshman teammate through the steps of her recovery and provide some guidance in the situation.
Jolene also enjoyed serving on the varsity council, where she got to know student-athletes from other sports as well as take part in community outreach programs in areas such as mental health.
“It’s incredible to be recognized for our time as varsity athletes,” Jolene said. “We put the time in, but it’s an honour to wear the jersey. It’s really humbling.”
Anastasia Bourka, who will co-emcee the recognition ceremony with Jimi Aribido, will be one of the honoured graduating student-athletes in women’s rugby with teammates Demetria Swann, Kristen Zinger and Roberta Drummond.
The other female graduating student-athletes are: Karyne Jolicoeur and Jaclyn Ronson, basketball; Carly Wouters and Annie-Pier Tremblay, hockey; Magdalena McClure, nordic skiing; and Abigail Allair, rowing.
The male graduating student-athletes are: Cristopher Malekos, Diego Politis and Jeremy Aweya, soccer; and Trevor Hoyte, Shaiheem Charles-Brown, Joshua Lambersky and Matthieu Pickens, football; Cody Caron, Alex Mann, Dakota Odgers, Matthew Sozanski and Justin Nichols, hockey; Filip Mastilovic, Mike Nevins, Duncan Branda and Mihailo Krstic, water polo; and Colin Ward, nordic skiing.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.