HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
When Emma Liagridonis walked off the grounds of Holy Trinity Catholic High School for the final time, she had enough positive memories to fill a book, perhaps volumes.
When she recently reflected and spoke about her academic, athletic and school community roles and achievements, it was a rather overwhelming list of information.
But when asked about her Grade 12 year as a student/athlete, which included being named senior female Athlete of the Year, winning MVP awards in three sports, coaching several teams and sitting on the student council, one of her best moments involved a family member.
“My Grade 12 year was really big for me. This year, I played a lot of varsity sports with my sister (Sophia, a Grade 9 student), who made the teams,” said Liagridonis, who also was Holy Trinity’s Athlete of the Year in Grade 8 and Grade 9.
The Liagridonis sisters were thrilled to share their first and only year of high school together by being able to play on the girls’ varsity basketball, soccer, track and field, ultimate and co-ed volleyball teams and even coach a team together.
“The big thing was we both played soccer,” said Emma, who started playing soccer at four years old and also is a member of the Gloucester Hornets U18 community team in an Ottawa women’s competitive league.
“We were such a duo. I scored the most goals, but they were all assisted by her. She had the second most goals and I assisted on most of her goals.”
And they did more than play together.
“I love to be involved anyway I can in sports,” Emma said, responding to why she also liked to coach various Tornado teams. “This year, I helped to coach the girls’ junior volleyball team and my sister was captain of the team.
“I got to be around her and it was so much fun. I was going to be at the games anyway (so why not coach).”
And then, the Liagridonis sisters were given permission to co-coach the Grade 7-8 girls’ touch football team.
“It was special that my co-coach was my sister. We got to do it all together. I love being around athletes with potential and having so much knowledge to share. I’m thankful for my teachers who gave me the opportunity. It’s super memorable.”
During the Holy Trinity athletic awards banquet, which she helped organize as the athletic rep on student council, Emma sat with Sophia.
“I think I started to cry a little,” Emma recalled, when her name was announced as the winner of the Holy Trinity senior female Athlete of the Year. “I was sitting next to my younger sister. She had won the girls’ junior volleyball award, the same award I won when I was in Grade 9.
“It was nice. She (Sophia) looked at me and she knew it would be me (for senior female Athlete of the Year). It was nice to share the moment with her.”
Emma, who graduated with a 90 per cent academic average and will attend Concordia University in 2022-23 to study political science and play on the women’s soccer team, had a strong presence in Tornado varsity sports.
She was selected the team MVP for girls’ soccer, volleyball, and badminton and also earned the Tornadoes Award for ultimate. Emma also played basketball, co-ed volleyball and was on the track and field team.
As a coach, she helped with the girls’ and boys’ junior volleyball teams and the Grade 7/8 girls’ touch football team.
While her father Tom, a former high-level volleyball player, would have liked her to focus on his sport, Emma will continue to dedicate her time to soccer, which has and continues to take her around the world.
For the two summers before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, she trained with and played for the Poland U17 team. Later this month, she will be part of the girls’ U19 national program in Greece.
She can play international soccer because her mother is Polish and father is Greek. At some point, she will have to make a decision about which national program she would prefer to follow, if she wants to go that route. She speaks English, French, Greek and some Polish.
“If I have an opportunity, why not?” Emma said about being involved in international soccer programs. “Since there was this opportunity, I felt like I should take advantage of it.
“I did Poland before COVID and it was really nice to go to different areas in Poland and the training camps. We played two to three sessions a day and two days we had games against pro teams.”
Emma is uncertain what her Greek U19 experience will be like, but she knows soccer and sports will be a part of her life for the near future.
“I like to be on a field. It feels so right for me. The athleticism. I found my fun. Soccer was my calling and it spoke to me more than any other sport.”
But it never prevented her from playing or coaching multiple sports. She has been called to do it all and enjoy it.
2022 HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
Follow this week’s High Achievers High School Best Series to hear about the athletes of the year from a number of local schools. Here are the first three:
HOLY TRINITY CHS
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Adrian Yamazaki
SPORTS: Volleyball, baseball, basketball, beach volleyball
THE WHY: Yamazaki was a team leader, an impressive player for the Tornadoes’ baseball team and was selected the baseball MVP. A Grade 11 student, his all-around athletic skills allowed him to play multiple varsity sports.
WEST CARLETON SS
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Nathaniel Ng
SPORTS: Cross-country running, track and field, badminton, ultimate
THE WHY: Ng showed his versatility and ability in distance running, as a long/triple jumper, a racquet sport athlete and a team player.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Grace Munro
SPORTS: Cross-country running, ice hockey, touch football, track and field
THE WHY: Munro found success in many varsity sports. She won a city championship in touch football and played in the girls’ ice hockey final. In track and field, she won medals in the girls’ senior 400 and 800 metres at the West Conference, National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association and East Regional championships and qualified for OFSAA.
ST. PIUS X CHS
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Jordan Cruz
SPORTS: Hockey, baseball
THE WHY: A graduating student/athlete, Cruz was a strong leader and MVP for both of his varsity sports.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Sarah Mikhael
SPORTS: Volleyball, touch football, soccer
THE WHY: A natural leader and outstanding athlete, Mikhael also was a strong Grade 11 student, a girls’ junior volleyball assistant coach and a strong competitive community volleyball player.
Read More in our 2022 High School Best Series, presented by Louis-Riel Sports-Études, as we tip our caps to top local student-athletes at:
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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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