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HIGH ACHIEVERS: Zach Sikka ‘as busy as possible’ and successful in graduating year at St. Paul

HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic

By Martin Cleary

Zach Sikka entered his final year at St. Paul Catholic High School with one intention – fill every single moment in his daily calendar with something related to the Golden Bears’ community.

He certainly didn’t miss much and if he did, it was only because he didn’t have enough time to cram something else into his non-stop school life.

Essentially, he was a polite and committed high achieving student and athlete.

Academically, he excelled in all his subjects and finished with a final average exceeding 95 per cent.

Athletically, he was connected to four varsity sports teams – track and field, cross-country running, tennis and soccer. He would have played badminton, too, but a coach wasn’t found in time to form a team. Sikka’s response: he started a badminton club for 20-25 students, which ran one hour a week for two months.

As a volunteer, he was student council co-president, working tirelessly building school spirit through fund raisers and spirit-week events. When the Olympic Games were in progress, he provided students with audio and video updates, which again reflected his love of sport.

As St. Paul teacher Catherine Ferry put it, when nominating Sikka for an OFSAA Character Athlete Award: “His impact on bringing the school spirit back to life, after the tough times of online classes, is immeasurable.”


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And there’s more. Sikka also found time to tutor two Grade 12 students in chemistry, coach a community soccer team and founded a table tennis club.

Zach Sikka. Photo provided

All of those various ingredients allowed him to win the Golden Bears boys’ senior Athlete of the Year award, the school’s athletic letter ‘P,’ the Ottawa-Carleton Teachers’ Graduating Student Award, the Director of Education Graduating Student Award, the OFSAA Character Athlete Award and an entrance scholarship into the University of Ottawa, where he will study data science in 2022-23. He also was a finalist for the Chancellor’s Scholarship at Queen’s.

“The biggest point I remember about Grade 12 is being involved in all the sports and the student council,” Sikka, 17, said in an interview Thursday.

“I tried to be as busy as possible. It’s the best way to make the most of it.”

In the fall, the well-organized Sikka, who constantly was prioritizing his various assignments to make sure he met every deadline on time, must have felt like a juggler. He had three sports on the go for practices and competitions.

Cross-country running was his top priority, but he did his best to make it to as many tennis and soccer training sessions as possible.

He first viewed the COVID-19 pandemic as a negative as it took away most of the middle two years of his high school athletic career. But then, he saw it was a positive because he used his extra free time for more training as a long-distance runner.

Sikka ran his first National Capital Secondary School Athletic Association cross-country running championship in Grade 9, placing 12th in the boys’ midget race. After he increased his training hours and dedication as well as learning proper running techniques with the Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club, Sikka made giant strides last fall in the overland sport.

He surprised himself by placing second in the boys’ senior race in the early-season Capital XC meet and scoring an impressive victory at the West Conference championship. During the NCSSAA championships, he made an earlier than expected break for the finish and was never challenged.

“I didn’t look back and won by a decent margin. It was exciting to win a city championship. In Grade 9, I was top 12 and I won in Grade 12. That meant a lot to me,” said Sikka, who was disappointed to learn he couldn’t attend his second OFSAA cross-country championships because Ottawa’s four school boards didn’t want their students travelling during the pandemic.

Zach Sikka competing at the Canadian Track-and-Field Championships. Photo provided

Sikka carried that momentum into the spring track and field season, where he trained for the 1,500 and 3,000 metres and added a new event – the 2,000-metre steeplechase.

“The reason I did steeplechase was because it was an open event and that gave me one of my best chances to go to OFSAA,” he explained. “It turned out to be a good decision. I made it to OFSAA and ended up fourth.”

In his first OFSAA experience as a Grade 10 runner at the 2019 cross-country championships, he started at the back of the 263-runner pack, ran over a snowed Sudbury course and finished 88th.

Thankfully, there was no snow for his first and only OFSAA track and field championships in Toronto. He qualified third for the boys’ open 2,000-metre steeplechase final and challenged for a medal in the championship race before finishing fourth.

“I was seeded 12th going into OFSAA and got third in qualifying. Maybe I could go for a medal. That would be great. I can go all out for a medal, but I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself, if I don’t get one,” he explained.

Then he realized: “It’s still a huge success making it to OFSAA.”

Sikka qualified for OFSAA in steeplechase by winning the West Conference final (6:53.13) and the NCSSAA championship (6:44.99) as well as placing third at the East Regionals (6:32.59).

At the OFSAA final, Sikka finished fourth in 6:12.94 and lost a shoulder-to-shoulder battle with Tristan Bouius of John Diefenbaker Senior School in Hanover. Bouius had a better effort over the final water jump and stronger legs down the stretch to take the bronze medal in 6:09.04.

“I was a little disappointed to be so close to a medal,” he said. “But I was super happy because I had a successful track season,” said Sikka, who also was runner-up in the West Conference 1,500 and 3,000 metres and the NCSSAA 1,500 metres.

Successful. That word describes Sikka’s all-around Grade 12 year rather succinctly.

“Coming from playing a lot of sports, I got to high school and I wanted to be involved and do as many as I could,” he said. “I also wanted to help out other athletes and motivate others and get them involved in as many as possible. Sports can help them in a lot of different ways, including academics.

“I definitely enjoyed my high school experience and made the most of it. COVID derailed us, but we were back in Grade 12. I had a lot of fun and success. I’m proud of that.”

2022 HIGH SCHOOL ATHLETES OF THE YEAR

This week’s High Achievers High School Best Series spotlights the athletes of the year from a number of local schools:

ST. PAUL CHS

FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Katelyn Garneau

SPORTS: Touch football, basketball, curling.

THE WHY: No matter the sport, Garneau always carried a positive attitude into every situation. Her leadership skills made her a key player on her team and in the school setting. She was part of the St. Paul non-OFSAA Division curling championship team and helped the Golden Bears post a 3-2-1 record in touch football.

ÉSP OMER-DESLAURIERS

MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Omar Chebihi

SPORTS: Soccer, basketball, track and field.

THE WHY: After losing the city final twice in the past three years, Omer-Deslauriers (6-1-1) rebounded to capture the NCSSAA Tier 2 boys’ senior soccer title and Chebihi was a key player and leader on the squad. He also helped the basketball team reach the boys’ senior Copper Division basketball semifinals and ran the 1,500 metres in track and field.

FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Madelyn Stanley

SPORTS: Cross-country running, basketball, volleyball, touch football.

THE WHY: Powered by her positive energy and dedicated work ethic, Stanley was a key contributor to all four of her teams. Her most memorable season was in volleyball as Omer-Deslauriers placed fourth in the NCSSAA West Division at 5-2, but lost in the quarterfinals.

OSGOODE TOWNSHIP HS

MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Jesse Waters-Martin

SPORTS: Basketball, beach volleyball, co-ed volleyball.

THE WHY: Waters-Martin returned to his two court sports following the cancellation of the 2020-21 basketball and volleyball seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic. His basketball season was noted for a 3-3 record and a fifth-place result in the East-West Division of the boys’ senior league. The team reached the playoff semifinals in the league’s season-ending Brass Division.

FEMALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR: Callia Bickmore

SPORTS: Volleyball, basketball, track and field.

THE WHY: Bickmore made her greatest impact in track and field as one of the city’s top throwers. She won the girls’ senior shot put at the East Conference and NCSSAA championships and finished third and first respectively in the discus. Her best result at the East Regionals was fifth in shot put with a high-school, seasonal-best 9.05 metres.

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:
https://ottawasportspages.ca/2022/06/20/ottawa-high-school-best-2022/

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 martincleary51@gmail.com and on Twitter @martincleary.


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