HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
WEEKEND WRAP: Freshman quarterback Christian Veilleux of Ottawa made his Penn State University Nittany Lions debut Saturday under the most trying and difficult situations.
Playing in his first football game since he attended The Bullis School in Maryland two years ago, Veilleux made the most of the unexpected opportunity.
For most of the week leading up to the Lions blanking Rutgers University 28-0, the Lions’ roster was facing a medical crisis. It wasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic, but rather a flu-like bug that was washing over the State College, Pennsylvania, campus and the football team couldn’t avoid its impact.
As many as 35 players missed practices during the week, and on game day head coach James Franklin was missing key starters and wondering who would start at quarterback.
About an hour before kickoff, starting quarterback Sean Clifford reportedly needed an IV treatment. Backup quarterback Ta’Quan Roberson wasn’t dressed. Veilleux was dealing with flu-like symptoms, but passed a temperature check Saturday morning. Walk-on quarterback Mason Stahl was the healthiest of the quarterbacks on Friday and appeared to be the starter.
Veilleux looked like the No. 1 quarterback during the pre-game warmups, but Clifford started the game and didn’t look himself. He completed only two of eight pass attempts, moved the ball only 32 yards and gained one first down in the Lions’ first four possessions. Clifford exited the game with a potential injury in the first quarter, after he fell on a running play.
Veilleux got the call from Franklin and offensive co-ordinator Mike Yurcich and looked like a poised quarterback. On his first play, he ran the ball for 14 yards and finished the game with 36 yards on 10 carries.
His passing was sharp. He completed five of his first seven pass attempts and made 15 of 24 passes for 235 yards and three touchdowns overall, including two on a back-to-back, third-quarter series.
Late in the second quarter, he threaded the needle and hit Jahan Dotson for an eight-yard touchdown in the end zone corner. Veilleux also connected with Parker Washington (17 yards) and Malick Meiga (67 yards) of St. Jerome, Que., for third-quarter touchdowns.
“Love this team!” Veilleux wrote on his Twitter account. “If only y’all knew how hard we had to fight this week. 1-0.”
The 6-4, 202-pound Veilleux, 19, joined Penn State last winter as a three-star recruit. He was named the 2019 Interstate Athletic Conference offensive player of the year at Bullis, completing 118 of 232 passes for 2,006 yards and 29 touchdowns.
Safety Jonathan Sutherland of Ottawa also received more playing time for Penn State because linebacker Curtis Jacobs was missing and recorded one interception, two solo tackles and two assisted tackles.
Linebacker/defensive end Jesse Luketa of Ottawa, who has accepted an invitation to play in the 2022 Senior Bowl, earned one assisted tackle for the Nittany Lions.
JAMIE SINCLAIR RINK FALLS SHORT AT U.S.A. OLYMPIC TRIALS
There was a distinct possibility Ottawa could have two skips in the women’s draw at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, but that’s now down to one and that opportunity is on thin ice.
Jamie Sinclair of Osgoode, ON., finished tied for third place with a 4-6 record from the double round-robin United States Olympic curling trials in Omaha, Nebraska. Her rink needed to finish in the top two spots to qualify for the best-of-three final.
Tabitha Peterson (9-1) and her rink of Nina Roth, Becca Hamilton, Tara Peterson and Aileen Geving swept Cory Christensen (7-3) in the final 8-7 and 11-4.
Sinclair, who lost the 2018 Olympic trial final 2-1 to Roth, started 0-2, but rebounded to be 3-3 with four games left. She needed to win all four matches for a chance to reach the final, but went 1-3.
The Canadian Tim Hortons curling trials are underway in Saskatoon and Ottawa Curling Club’s Rachel Homan lost her first two matches in the nine-team round-robin.
Homan, whose rink won the 2017 trials and finished sixth at the 2018 Winter Olympics, gave up two in the 10th end to lose 6-5 to Jacqueline Harrison of Dundas, ON., and allowed three over the final two ends in a 9-5 defeat by Krista McCarville of Thunder Bay, ON.
The Homan rink, which is completed by Emma Miskew, Sarah Wilkes and Joanne Courtney is scheduled to face Kelsey Rocque of Edmonton on Monday night. Both rinks are 0-2.
Ottawa curling fans also have other athletes with local connections to cheer for during the women’s and men’s Olympic trials: Lisa Weagle and Dawn (McAskin) McEwen are front-end players in Jennifer Jones’ five-player team, Lynn Kreviazuk plays second for Harrison, two-time Olympic champion John Morris plays with Kevin Koe, and Matthew Camm is the second for John Epping.
ISABELLE WEIDEMANN, IVANIE BLONDIN MULTIPLE MEDALLISTS
The Ottawa long-track speed skating duo of Isabelle Weidemann and Ivanie Blondin have each won three medals, after the two World Cup meets in Tomaszow Mazowiecki, Poland and Stavanger, Norway.
Weidemann placed second in the women’s 3,000 metres in Poland and briefly held the Tomaszow Mazowiecki track record at 4:05.255 until she was beaten by The Netherlands’ Irene Schouten in 4:04.009.
Blondin ended the meet in Poland placing second in the mass start. In between, Weidemann, Blondin and Valerie Maltais won the women’s team pursuit for Canada.
In Norway, Weidemann surpassed the Stavanger track record with a silver-medal performance in the 5,000 metres in 6:54.953. But again Weideman was passed by winner Schouten, who trimmed almost four seconds off the track mark with a time of 6:52.83.
“I’m still two seconds back from her and she’s on a phenomenal trajectory right now, but it’s given me a lot of fire,” said Weidemann, who was paired to race against Schouten.
Blondin skated with Maddison Pearman and Alexa Scott and finished second in the women’s team sprint, which isn’t an Olympic race.
Vincent De Haître, who competed at the Tokyo Olympics this past summer in cycling, placed 14th and 18th in the men’s 1,000 metres in his return to the ice. He was also 6th in the team sprint this past weekend.
TOP-10 RESULTS FOR JOANNA BROWN, KIANA GIBSON
University of British Columbia Okanagan’s Joanna Brown of Carp, ON., and University of Guelph’s Kiana Gibson of Ottawa earned All-Canadian status by placing sixth and eighth respectively during the women’s 8,000-metre race at the U Sports cross-country running championships in Quebec City.
Brown finished in 28:47.6, while Gibson stopped in 29:09. Jessy Lacourse of Laval won the race in 28:25.5 and sparked the Rouge et Or to the team gold medal. Gibson and her Guelph teammates took team bronze.
NORDIC SKIER KATHERINE STEWART-JONES SKATES TO 11TH
Nakkertok Ski Club’s Katherine Stewart-Jones of Chelsea, Que., was 11th in a FIS women’s 10-kilometre skate-ski race Sunday in 23:35.2 at Beitostoelen, Norway. She was 24th in a classic 10-kilometre race on Saturday.
She has been training most of this month in northern Scandinavia and will have a World Cup race next weekend in Ruka, Finland.
“The classic race was a bit of a struggle, but I felt much better today (Sunday) in the skate, both technically and physically,” Stewart-Jones said. “It feels good to get some competitive racing in and some of the nerves out before the first World Cup weekend in Ruka.”
Clubmate Pierre Grall-Johnson of Ottawa had six races at the Gaellivare, Sweden, Ski Festival and his best result was a 15th in a men’s sprint final.
“The trip was a great experience,” he said. “I’m particularly happy with the 15th in the sprint, a good result in a top-level international field.”
NCAFA TEAMS FALL IN PROVINCIAL BATTLE
The inaugural Fall Cup Ontario minor football championships were held in Toronto on Saturday and the National Capital Amateur Football Association champions lost all three games: Burlington Stampeders 40, Kanata Knights 7, U14 division; Essex Ravens 49, Nepean Eagles 0, U16; and Essex Ravens 34, Nepean Broncos 8, U18
TABLE TENNIS SILVER
Former Ottawa table tennis player Eugene Wang won the silver medal at the Pan American championships in Lima, Peru, losing the tight final 4-2 to top-seeded Hugh Calderano of Brazil.
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.
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