By Darren Lum
There won’t be any chance of regional or provincial glory this season, but there’s something more important for the Red Hawks Nordic ski team than medals and podiums … It’s a future to build upon.
The competitive season was pretty much over when the COSSA (Central Ontario Secondary Schools Association) and OFSAA (Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations) championships were cancelled recently as a result of rising COVID-19 cases raising concerns for transmission of the virus, and further delayed by the province’s Return to Step Two of the Recovery to Reopen plan lasting 21 days.
With a six-year absence for the Nordic program, which included multiple all-provincial berths over its existence and its role in establishing a love of Nordic skiing, the team’s coaches Mike Rieger and Karen Gervais were excited to help bring the Nordic program back in December. Despite the delays, co-coach Mike Rieger, who is coaching the team with Karen Gervais, said he welcomes the opportunity to have a season, which he believes will help in laying the foundation for the program’s future beyond this year.
“I think it’s just going to be nice to actually get some skiing in, regardless of what it looks like. Most of the other winter sports that got paused were able to run for several weeks before Christmas and at least have a “season,” he wrote in an email. “With the very late arrival of snow, the ski team only got to do a few dry land training sessions before extra-curriculars were paused. With the goal of bringing back Nordic skiing on a permanent basis, it’s going to be really important to actually get out on the trails so that we can start building a foundation of practices, logistics and competition.”
There were eight members to start the 2021-22 season, but that number has been reduced to six as a result of the uncertainty related to whether there was going to be a season, Rieger added.
The team is already training for this coming week’s first meet at the LCS Nordic Invitational on Wednesday, Feb. 23 in Lakefield.
Grade 12 student Corin Gervais welcomed the opportunity to compete even if it’s only for a series of exhibition meets, which won’t lead to a championship.
He said competing and participating in extra-curricular activities, whether it was volleyball, basketball or cross-country has been helpful for him. The senior said this chance to compete is even more important because of how he will be graduating from the high school at the end of the year. Having skied since he was six, which includes competitive Nordic skiing with the 1129 Haliburton Army Cadets, he is happy to be able to participate in a sport he likes and represent the Red Hawks with his peers again. Gervais ran for the Hawks cross-country running team this autumn.
The high school was given the go-ahead like all schools in the Trillium Lakelands District School Board (TLDSB) and in the province a little more than a week ago.
In a letter sent by email on Feb. 10 addressed to parents of students in TLDSB it said, “In alignment with the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020 (ROA), schools will be allowed to resume high-contact sports and activities effective immediately.”
This provincial decision regarding public health measures at publicly funded schools was made in “consultation with the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health.”
The letter continued by outlining masks must be worn by individuals on school premises, who are on the bench waiting to play a sport or an instrument for music, but can remove them while participating in activities such as in extra-curricular sports, high-contact/intensity activities, an indoor curriculum-based program, which can include health, phys ed and music.
Rieger said there may be another competition at Lakefield from March 4 to 6, but that has not been confirmed as of press time.
He said there is potential for a Nordic meet will be held in Haliburton.
“We’re looking into potentially having a meet at Glebe in early March, but that is going to be based on the other team’s interest and sorting out all of the logistics,” he wrote.