HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
WEEKEND WRAP: When you think of sports at Carleton University, it’s typically the varsity variety that comes to mind, like basketball, football and hockey.
But there’s also a second level of athletic competition called competitive club sports that shouldn’t be ignored as the athletes on teams with much smaller budgets and profile train just as hard and pursue similar goals.
Swimming is a perfect example.
Recognized as one of Canada’s high-performance sports with Olympic and world championship medallists, the Carleton Ravens stepped up their game in their first and only significant meet of the season, more than met the challenge of competing against varsity swimmers from other universities, and had one of their best-ever showings at the OUA swimming championships in the University of Toronto pool.
Viewed more as a participant team rather than a powerhouse at past OUA championships, the Ravens over-achieved, placing fifth in the men’s standings, sixth in the women’s meet, winning three individual medals, notching 10 top-five results, smashing 14 varsity records (seven men and seven women) and setting best times in 90 per cent of their races.
And to top it all off, Carleton swimming head coach Pierre Lafontaine was named the OUA Coach of the Year in both the men’s and women’s divisions. It also was the first time that award was presented to a Carleton swim coach.
“I’ve done this a long time,” said Lafontaine, who received the awards from OUA CEO Gord Grace, a former colleague of his at the national university sports office. “It’s a privilege to be named coach of the year (which was voted on by the OUA coaches). To me, these kids did a hell of a job and made me look good.”
While the Carleton swimmers couldn’t match the legendary performances of the University of Toronto athletes, who won the OUA swimming title for an eighth consecutive year and 18th in total, they excelled at the right moment in a disruptive, COVID-19 pandemic season.
“No one expected anything like this, but I did,” added Lafontaine, who has coached at all levels of swimming and served as a top executive for Canada’s national swimming, university, cross-country skiing and cycling associations during his accomplished career. “The teams they were competing against were amazed. There were a number of coaches and athletes who spoke to our guys and said they were awesome, amazing and they loved our energy.”
Cam Teasdale and Finn Tuck paced the Ravens as they each scored one individual and one relay medal. Teasdale swam a time of 28.26 seconds to not only place third in the men’s 50-metre breaststroke, but also qualify for the U Sports championships, which are March 24-26 at Université Laval. He was the lone Raven to advance to the university nationals.
Tuck earned the men’s 100-metre backstroke bronze medal in 56.39. Yazan Al Bawwab, who competed for Palestine at the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Teasdale, Nathan Landry and Tuck picked up the bronze medal in the men’s 200-metre medley relay at 1:43.91. They finished 0.66 seconds out of second place.
Al Bawwab, Tuck, Teasdale and Landry also were fourth in the 200-metre freestyle relay in 1:35.71. Tuck, Teasdale, Al Bawwab and Rhys Martin were fifth in the 400-metre medley relay in 3:50.74.
Individually, Al Bawwab tied for fourth in the 100-metre backstroke in 56.70 and was a solo fourth in the 50-metre backstroke in 26.29, while Tuck took fifth in 26.44.
Jo Streppel finished fifth in the women’s 200-metre butterfly in 2:28.72 and joined Ella Milloy, Aoife McGrory and Dina Egorov for a fifth-place result in the 400-metre medley relay in 4:28.96.
Setting Ravens women’s varsity swim records were:
• Streppel, 100 m butterfly (1:04.31) and 200 m individual medley (2:24.98)
• Milloy, 50 m backstroke (30.74) and 100 m backstroke (1:05.23)
• Egorov, 50 m freestyle (27.54)
• Milloy, McGrory, Streppel and Egorov, 4×50 m medley relay (2:02.06) and 4×100 m medley standard (4:28.96)
• Teasdale, 50 m breaststroke (28.26) and 100 m breaststroke (1:02.85)
• Tuck, 100 m backstroke (56.39)
• Al Bawwab, lowered 18-year-old 50-metre butterfly record (25.40)
• Al Bawwab, Tuck, Teasdale and Landry, 4×50 m freestyle relay (1:35.71) and 4×50 m medley relay (1:43.91)
• Al Bawwab, Tuck, Teasdale and Martin, 4×100 m medley relay (3:50.74)
The OUA swimming championships were delayed by one month because of the pandemic. They were held over three days with six, single-gender sessions, and all races were timed finals, instead of morning heats and evening finals. Masks were worn at all times, except for swimming, and there was no mingling between swimmers and spectators.
BRONZE MEDAL FOR OTTAWA’S JASMINE LYONS AT NCAA NORDIC CHAMPIONSHIPS
University of New Hampshire freshman Jasmine Lyons of Ottawa was stellar on her skis at the NCAA cross-country ski championships in Soldier Hollow, Utah, winning the bronze medal in the women’s mass start 15-kilometre skate race. Earlier, the Nakkertok Nordic Ski Club athlete was eighth in the five-kilometre classic race.
Her results helped New Hampshire place sixth in the combined nordic and alpine point standings with 241. Host University of Utah won combined ski title with 578 points. Dartmouth University placed 11th at 142 points as Luke Allan of Ottawa/Nakkertok was 24th in the 20-kilometre skate race and 34th in the 10-kilometre classic race.
On the alpine side, former Ottawa racer Simon Fournier was a member of the third-place University of Denver team with a fourth in the men’s slalom and a 17th in the giant slalom.
SPRINTER LAUREN GALE SETS CANADIAN RECORD IN FIRST NCAA 400 FINAL
Ottawa’s Lauren Gale of the Colorado State University Cougars set a Canadian record and finished eighth in the women’s two-heat, timed-final 400 metres at the NCAA indoor track and field championships in Birmingham, Alabama.
The Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club member finished in 51.64 seconds, which eclipsed the 30-year-old Canadian indoor women’s open record previously held by Jillian Richardson at 51.69. Earlier this season, Gale ran faster than Richardson’s indoor time, but the time was denied as a national record because the Colorado University venue didn’t meet Canada’s record-book standards.
“Overall, she had a good run and set a record for her home country, which is nothing to take lightly,” said Cougars assistant coach for sprints J.J. Riese. “I’m really proud of her performance not only today, but (also) all season and excited to see what she can do in the outdoor season.”
Gale also earned her first career NCAA All-American First-Team honour, which came with a commemorative trophy. She will travel to Belgrade, Serbia, this week to represent Canada at the World Athletics indoor championships and run in the 4×400-metre relay heats Sunday.
WORLD CUP SPEED SKATING SEASON ENDS WELL FOR IVANIE BLONDIN
While triple-Beijing-Winter-Olympic-medallist Isabelle Weidemann of Ottawa missed the World Cup Final in Heerenveen, The Netherlands, because of a positive COVID-19 test, teammate Ivanie Blondin of Ottawa skated her final three races and finished with three top-10 overall results, including a second in the mass-start event.
The Olympic team-pursuit gold medallist and mass-start silver medalist (which was worth $35,000 CDN to her from the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athlete Excellence Fund) placed fourth in the final World Cup mass-start race to finish second overall in the season standings, which earned her $10,000 US. Blondin noted in an Instagram post, however, that Canadian athletes’ trips were self-funded for the World Cup Final and earlier World Allround Championships.
She also was 10th in the 1,500 metres (1:58.831), which put her 10th overall in the standings for $1,500, and 11th in the 3,000 metres (4:06.837) for a season-ending eighth overall for $2,500. Weidemann, the leader of the long-distance class standings for 3,000- and 5,000-metre races before the World Cup Final, dropped to sixth and won $3,500.
CANADA WINS SILVER AT AMERICAS WHEELCHAIR RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
Canada has qualified for the 2022 world wheelchair rugby championship Oct. 8-17 in Vejle, Denmark, after losing the Americas tournament final 54-50 to the United States.
“Even though we didn’t get the outcome we wanted, we feel like we played a strong tournament,” co-captain Patrice Dagenais of Embrun said in a press release. “The team is going in the right direction and we look forward to the opportunity of facing the USA again at the worlds.”
Canada defeated Chile 61-31, Colombia 59-41 and Brazil 57-33 in the preliminary round before downing Brazil 52-35 in the semifinals.
SEMI-FINAL RESULT FOR JAMIE SINCLAIR AT U.S. MIXED CURLING CHAMPIONSHIP
Jamie Sinclair of Osgoode, Ont., saw her bid to win the United States mixed doubles curling championship end in the semifinals in Middleton, Wisconsin.
After posting a 4-2 round in the preliminary round, the No. 1-seeded team of Sinclair and Rich Ruohonen from Chaska, Minnesota, won its first playoff game, but lost its semi-final to Monica Walker and Andrew Stopera 9-8 in an extra end.
JOHN MORRIS FALLS IN BRIER CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Playing alongside Kevin Koe at the Brier national men’s curling championships, Ottawa-raised John Morris got to an extra end with a score of two in the 10th end but ultimately fell in the extra end to Brad Gushue, who won 9-8 with a lineup reduced to three due to a positive COVID test.
Team Koe went 7-1 in the preliminary round and won two playoff matches to reach the final. This was Morris’s 13th Brier, and fourth silver medal to go with three gold.
The 43-year-old also competed in mixed doubles at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games with fellow Ottawa native Rachel Homan, placing fifth.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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