By Martin Cleary
Gary Monsour was upbeat and breathing easier late Wednesday morning, after learning the East Regional high school track and field championships will be staged Thursday and Friday at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility.
The all-important qualifying meet for next week’s Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships came within a few hours of operating under a secondary contingency plan or, possibly, not at all.
The violent thunderstorm which ravaged Ottawa on Saturday afternoon zapped the electrical power supply to the Terry Fox track and field venue on Riverside Drive and closed the site to all athletes this week. A notice on the City of Ottawa website said the facility was temporarily closed.
But four stressful days after the storm, Monsour was given the green light to welcome the top high school runners, throwers and jumpers from the Eastern Ontario, Central Ontario and National Capital athletic associations. Monsour is co-convenor of the OFSAA East Regional track and field championships with Simone Wilson.
He was told by Anna Lapointe, the facility manager at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility, the venue had full power and was in good condition for the championships. The Ottawa Carleton District School Board also gave permission to operate the second-to-last high school track and field meet of the season.
“We are officially a go. Power is up and running,” Monsour wrote in an email to High Achievers: Stay-Safe Edition on Wednesday.
He was encouraged late Tuesday night that the East Regionals would happen, when he was told the lights were on at the Terry Fox site. Everything fell into place on Wednesday to stage the two-day championships.
“The conditions are great,” Monsour said in a phone interview as he visited the Terry Fox venue late Wednesday afternoon. “Damage was minimal and the power is back on.”
Monsour and Wilson, who are convenors for the host National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association, held an emergency phone meeting Tuesday night with officials from the Eastern Ontario Secondary Schools Athletic Association and the Central Ontario Secondary Schools Association.
“We came very close (to cancelling),” Monsour said. “We had an emergency meeting with the other associations and set a deadline of noon today (Wednesday) about what to do.”
If there was no power at the track but it was still in good condition, they considered bringing in generators for a power supply and portable toilets.
There also was talk of moving the East Regional to another location, but logistically it wasn’t viable, especially when it came to making accommodation reservations for one or two nights.
“It has been four or five sleepless nights because this is an OFSAA qualifying meet and we have to follow OFSAA guidelines,” said Monsour, a NCSSAA track and field convenor for about 10 years and a long-time coach at Hillcrest High School.
“We have to hand in our paperwork online on a new OFSAA hub. We haven’t done track in three years. We’re learning to walk again. We’re all out of practice. Some schools have had no power to upload the paperwork.”
The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled the 2020 and 2021 outdoor track and field seasons.
As Hydro Ottawa carefully and methodically restored power to its customers across the city, Monsour is thankful and relieved the East Regional championships will play out.
“In one day (Wednesday), the stress was gone. We’re ready to go,” he said enthusiastically.
The East Regional meet will attract close to 1,800 student-athlete entries for heats, finals and timed finals. They will be vying to qualify for the OFSAA championships June 2-4 at the Toronto Track and Field Centre at York University.
East Regional competition is slated to start for boys and girls in the novice, junior, senior, ambulatory, wheelchair and visually-impaired categories Thursday at 1:30 p.m. and run through 5:30 p.m. The track schedule features the 200-metre heats plus the finals, the timed finals in intermediate hurdles and the 1,500 metres.
There will be three field events for the senior athletes and two each for the junior and novice competitors.
The remainder of the East Regional track and field schedule will be held Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, the NCSSAA cancelled its touch football, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and baseball games on Wednesday because of “school closures and bus cancellations.”
The game cancellation list could be extended through Friday, according to the Merivale High School athletics Twitter account, @MHSMarauder: “Because of power outages and blocked roads, NCSSAA has reluctantly cancelled all games scheduled for the remainder of this week with the expectation to reschedule missed games where possible.”
NCSSAA officials could not be reached to confirm if the games have been cancelled for the rest of the week.
OTTAWA JR. SENATORS MISS CENTENNIAL CUP PLAYOFFS
There will be no playoff run for the Ottawa Jr. Senators at the Centennial Cup national junior A hockey championship in Estevan, Saskatchewan.
The three-time defending Central Canada Hockey League champions flirted with victory late in their final round-robin game, but gave up a late third-period goal and an early marker in overtime to lose 4-3 to Summerside Western Capitals.
The loss left the Senators, who reached the Centennial Cup semifinals in 2019 and 2018, in fourth place in Group A with one win, one loss and two overtime defeats.
Captain Thomas Freel scored the Senators’ only goal in the first period, which ended 1-1. The Senators led 2-1 after two periods on a goal by Braxton Ross. Massimo Gentile scored his third goal of the championship at the 14:45 mark of the third period to give the Senators a 3-2 advantage.
But Brendan McCarthy replied for Summerside with 21 seconds left in the third period to even the game and force overtime. At the 1:47 mark of overtime, Colby MacArthur gave Summerside the win and the ticket to the playoffs.
Senators goaltender William Desmarais played his fourth consecutive game, stopping 29 of 33 shots. He finished with a 2.26 goals-against average, a 0.907 save percentage and one shutout.
The Senators were ninth best offensively in the 10-team national championship, averaging 2.50 goals a game.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 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 High Achievers “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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