HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
If you’re able to walk into your neighbourhood high school a short time after the class dismissal bell, listen for the sounds of happiness – athletic shoes squeaking on the gymnasium floor, a sharp buzzer sound from the scoreboard and a few groups of fans cheering for the home team.
Yes, those days have returned after a two-month absence. High school sports are back in business and the student/athletes feel like their lives are a little more complete during this COVID-19 pandemic occupation.
From early October until Dec. 16, 2021, the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association sports programs were in full operation with a number of adjustments here and there to make it safe for the student/athletes, teacher/coaches and officials. But the intimidating presence of the Omicron variant forced school officials to hit the pause button for sports in mid December. After two months of no team practices, games or strategy sessions, life has been injected with a little more positivity and high school sports have resumed with some vigour.
“The sports have resumed where they left off,” NCSSAA co-athletic co-ordinator Steve Smith said in a conference phone interview Thursday. “They’re excited to play.”
“Everyone is very excited to get back … and grateful for some sort of season,” added NCSSAA co-athletic co-ordinator Ginette Godmaire.
The NCSSAA winter sports scene is all over the place these days. The boys’ junior Tier 1 and 2 basketball seasons are coming to an end, while the boys’ senior basketball teams were slated to start their 2022 regular season on Thursday.
While the girls’ OFSAA and Tier 2 division volleyball leagues were scheduled to begin Thursday, the Tier 1 league will determine its champion Tuesday.
The boys and girls’ OFSAA and non-OFSAA leagues for curling are about halfway through their regular seasons, playing out of the Carleton Heights, Rideau and Huntley curling clubs. Multi-game, day tournaments have resumed in hockey for the boys’ contact and girls’ OFSAA, Tier 1 and Tier 2 leagues.
The NCSSAA alpine ski championships are Monday and Tuesday at Camp Fortune, while the city cross-country skiing championships are March 9 at Nakkertok.
Swimming, which is normally held in the fall, will be staged in April and there will be no wrestling season.
Once the different sports leagues have completed their NCSSAA regular seasons and playoffs, the champions will not advance to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations’ championships. OFSAA has cancelled all its winter provincial high school championships because of the pandemic.
Before the winter OFSAA championships were cancelled, the NCSSAA was planning to send representatives to the provincial girls’ AAA volleyball championship in Rockland and the girls’ A/AA hockey championship in Cornwall because the Ottawa champions could travel to and from the venue every day and not worry about the potential health concerns of overnight hotel stays.
The NCSSAA plans to stage a full spring calendar of sports and OFSAA is aiming to run its provincial championships.
Meanwhile, undefeated Omer-Deslauriers will be on its home court for the NCSSAA boys’ junior Tier 2 basketball championship Friday against Cairine Wilson. Omer-Deslauriers has a 6-0 record, while Wilson is 5-1. In its regular-season meeting, Omer-Deslauriers defeated Wilson 66-56 on Dec. 15.
The boys’ junior Tier 1 basketball quarterfinals were scheduled for Thursday with the winners advancing to Monday’s semifinals. The championship game is slated for Thursday, March 3. The Tier 1 league had 34 teams in five divisions.
Sacred Heart, 7-0, will play host to Nepean on Tuesday for the girls’ senior Tier 1 volleyball championship. Sacred Heart has won 21 sets and lost only one this season and is the only team in the 24-team, three-division league without a loss.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 49 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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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