High Schools Skiing

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Nordic skier Luke Allan heading to Dartmouth College

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

Read More in this series on Ottawa’s HIGH SCHOOL BEST here.

Nakkertok Nordic skier Luke Allan. Photo provided

By Martin Cleary

Luke Allan will graduate from Ashbury College in June, but to reach that finish line, he has had to survive a thorn-among-the-roses academic year.

Wherever he went, whether as an accomplished athlete or student, he has been met with discouraging news because of the wide-reaching span of the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 14 months. No gathering.

If he wanted to train for his final cross-country running season with his Colts teammates and chase a medal in National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association championships, the answer was: No.

If he wanted to try to win a fourth consecutive gold medal at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations’ nordic ski championships, the answer remained the same: No.

If he wanted to have the best possible experience as an Ashbury athletic prefect by lifting school spirit through organizing or promoting sports competitions, the answer was: No. Find another way.

But Allan, who has felt the mental strain of the pandemic as it related to his lifestyle, was resourceful. He found avenues to make things work. He also happily made a major decision in his life.

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After careful consideration, Allan decided to attend Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, in 2021-22 to continue his education and compete for The Big Green in its respected nordic ski program.

“They have a history of producing excellent skiers and running a super program,” Allan wrote in an email interview. “So, I was very interested in Dartmouth from the beginning of my search.

“I also chose Dartmouth because of their academic rigour. I think the student-athlete experience at a school like Dartmouth is difficult to match and I am very excited to experience that next fall.”

Allan, who also was recruited by Harvard University and the University of New Hampshire, is leaning towards studying economics. Engineering is on his consideration list as well.

By the time school starts at Dartmouth, Allan is hoping the pandemic will be on its last legs so he can experience in-class studying and training with his teammates in the nordic ski program.

“It was very mentally challenging to train super hard all summer… and not even know if there was going to be a racing season in 2021,” Allan added.

“Once it became clear that it was going to be impossible for any official races to be organized in 2021, I became very focused on making this season about consistency and setting training goals.”

Initially, Allan found hard training was motivating and fun. But by March, his motivation sagged as he missed the racing part of the season. He stepped back, took April off and resumed this month.

“During the winter, I did a lot more technique work than usual and was able to get in a lot more consistent training because of the lack of racing and travel,” he explained.

“I was also able to fit in some race intensity time trials during the winter, which were helpful to remind my body how to race and go hard.”

Allan missed the fall cross-country running season, calling it “a sad loss.”

“These races would have been my last races as a high schooler and likely my last ever cross-country races,” he continued.

2018 national capital high school junior boys’ cross-country running champion Luke Allan. File photo

As a co-athletic prefect at Ashbury, Allan found this year “very unique and difficult to promote the typical spirit that comes with athletics.” But they came up with a solid Plan B.

“We have been forced to run a series of virtual athletic initiatives in order to promote physical activity and some friendly competition such as our ‘running challenge’ in which the school either logged kilometres, walking or running, to see who could go the farthest. Luckily, Ashbury was able to offer some in-person co-curricular sports, which was really beneficial for morale.”

As an endurance athlete, Allan won the 2018 and 2019 junior boys’ open and the 2020 senior open gold medals at the OFSAA nordic ski championships. He also captured three NCSSAA titles.

In open, age-group provincial ski races, Allan has won more than 20 medals, and at the 2019 Canadian championships (his only nationals) he earned one gold and four silver representing Nakkertok Nordic.

He won the 2018 NCSSAA boys’ junior cross-country running race and had fourths as a midget and a senior. He also qualified for the 2018 OFSAA track and field championships in midget 3,000 metres.

Read More in this series on Ottawa’s HIGH SCHOOL BEST here.

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 martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.

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