By Martin Cleary
Bryce Carusi was determined to make the absolute most of his final year at A.Y. Jackson Secondary School. He achieved his goal in many different areas.
Whether it was sports, academics or volunteering, Carusi achieved more in his Grade 12 year than he did in his first three years combined at the west-end high school.
In his first and only year to represent the varsity Jays in sports, he was part of National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association boys’ senior championship teams in basketball and volleyball. Carusi was the unexpected star in the city boys’ senior basketball final. In the spring, he made his track and field debut and went all the way to the OFSAA provincial championships in the boys’ senior triple jump.
Academically, he achieved marks in the 80s in all his subjects and became an honour-roll student for the first time.
As his final school year was ticking towards the final week, he joined his basketball teammates for a fund-raising game against the boys’ junior team. The seniors came out ahead on the scoreboard at 79-68, but the Kanata Food Cupboard was the big benefactor, receiving $400 as students paid $5 each to watch the lunch-hour game.
Carusi enrolled in A.Y. Jackson in 2018, leaving his forever-bouncing basketball at home until he became familiar with the school. He didn’t play sports in Grade 9 and was away on a trip during the boys’ junior basketball tryouts.
“I wanted to focus on school, get acquainted with the teachers, find friends and see where I fit in,” Carusi said about his calculated entry into high school.
When it looked like he might expand his horizons at school, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. He faced various forms of schooling and NCSSAA sports were cancelled for his Grade 10 and 11 years.
“In Grade 12, I wanted to make it my year for sports,” said Carusi, who applied that theme to everything he did at Jackson. “I wanted to make the best of it.”
In the end, his talents and achievements were recognized as he won the Jackson boys’ senior Athlete of the Year award. He knew he was in contention for the award and playfully reminded the various coaches about his credentials when it came time to make that decision.
Carusi brought his impressive basketball skills, intense drive and hard work to the basketball team, which won the NCSSAA boys’ senior Silver Division championship. The Jays finished first in the West 3 Division with a 5-1 regular-season record and were unbeatable the rest of the way.
They won two overlap games against teams from other divisions and posted three victories in the single-game elimination playoffs – 80-78 against Béatrice-Desloges in the quarterfinals, 62-46 over Colonel By in the semifinals and 47-44 in the nerve-wracking final against Paul-Desmarais.
The Jays had lost their scoring touch in the intensity of the final. But Carusi, a point guard, decided to step forward to take some shots instead of setting up his teammates.
It worked. He kept shooting. The ball kept dropping. The A.Y. Jackson fans kept screaming.
“I scored 18 points, my highest point total,” recounted an ecstatic Carusi, who has spent hundreds of summer hours developing and refining his game on the outdoor court at Kanata’s Eva James Memorial Community Centre.
When it came to volleyball, he was a newcomer to the sport and played an important support role on the bench. But he did get the occasional look at his left-side hitter position. Carusi also was an assistant coach with the girls’ senior volleyball team.
The Jays boys’ volleyball team placed second in the West Division at 6-1 before winning three straight playoff games for the OFSAA/Tier 1 championship. Jackson defeated Gisèle-Lalonde 3-0 in the quarterfinals, Nepean 3-2 in the semifinals and Louis-Riel 3-0 in the final, which also was staged on the Jays’ home court.
Using his jumping ability and power, he entered track and field at full speed, competing in the local high school meets in triple jump, long jump, 110-metre hurdles and the 4×100-metre and 4×400-metre relays. By far, his best event was the triple jump.
He won the West Conference and NCSSAA city championships with respective best jumps of 12.36 metres and 12.39 metres. At the East Regionals, he placed second at 12.78 metres. He finished 14th at the OFSAA provincial high school championships at 12.43 metres.
“I was surprised I made it that far. I was going up against young guys who had been training forever. But I’ve always had good jumping skills and power,” said Carusi, who was born in Brisbane, Australia, but moved to Canada with his family at age three.
He was especially proud of reaching the OFSAA championships, which made his athletic family proud of him. His father Paul was a noted tennis player and cyclist Down Under and his grandfather Louie Carusi was one of Australia’s top sprinters in his day.
“I lived up to the Carusi name. It felt good,” he boasted. “Track and field was fun. I’d go to practices, events and meet new people. It was more relaxing than volleyball and basketball. It was a good environment to be around.”
He could say that about his entire Grade 12 experience, a good environment for his farewell before he heads into a gap year with co-op work as a fitness trainer.
2022 HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
This week’s High Achievers High School Best Series will spotlight the athletes of the year from a number of local schools:
A.Y. JACKSON SS
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Abby Angell
SPORTS: Basketball, volleyball, badminton, track and field, ultimate club, girls’ junior volleyball volunteer scorekeeper.
THE WHY: Angell’s speed, agility and determination were her strengths, when she played her varsity sports. Her coaches and teammates also respected her for her commitment, dedication and easy-going, positive and supportive attitude.
EARL OF MARCH SS
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Amelia Van Brabant
SPORTS: Cross-country running, track and field, golf, ultimate, softball.
THE WHY: A Grade 11 student, Van Brabant won the National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association girls’ senior cross-country running title in the fall. She also used her powerful running ability to capture the 3,000-metre track and field titles at the West Conference, NCSSAA, East Regional and OFSAA championships. She was first in the 1,500 metres at the conference and city levels, second at regionals and fourth at OFSAA. She ran her high school seasonal-best times at OFSAA _ 4:33.47 for 1,500 metres and 9:47.94 for 3,000 metres.
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Matthew Robin
SPORTS: Hockey, rugby.
THE WHY: Robin was a valuable team player for the varsity boys’ rugby and non-contact hockey teams, which both won city championships. The rugby Lions, who had the best offence (113 points for) and defence (27 points against), were first in the Tier 1-2 West division and defeated Sacred Heart 21-17 in the Tier 1 final. In hockey, Earl of March was the non-contact Tier 1 champion with a season-best 31 goals for and seven goals against as it went 5-1 for second place in the West division. In the playoffs, the Lions defeated West Carleton 2-0 and St. Francis Xavier 3-0 in the semifinal and final respectively.
FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Karina Gruson
SPORTS: Cross-country running, swimming, field hockey, touch football, nordic skiing, track and field.
THE WHY: A graduating student/athlete, Gruson was the cross-country running and swimming MVP, qualified for the OFSAA swimming championships, and received her letter ‘N’ for major contributions to athletics. She also received the Anne Graham Award for perseverance and commitment to excellence in sport and academics. Previously, the four-time OFSAA participant was the junior athlete of the year and a sport MVP in cross-country running in Grade 9 and swimming in Grade 10.
MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Liam Mason
SPORTS: Basketball, soccer, volleyball, cross-country running.
THE WHY: In his Grade 12 year, Mason played four team sports and showed his typical leadership, strong work ethic, and ability to bring out the best in his teammates. He was named the team MVP for cross-country running and earned his school letter ‘N’ for his athletic contributions. Mason also was presented the Rick Pollock Award for perseverance and commitment to excellence in sport and academics.
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 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 email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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