By Karen Gervais
The Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Nordic ski team was finally able to make it to their first meet on Wednesday, Jan. 18 at Kawartha Nordic Ski Club – and with great results! After several years of not fielding a team and almost getting a season going last year, but losing one meet to transportation cancellations and the rest being shut down due to the pandemic, our arrival at competition was long overdue.
It was looking like this year was going to be a repeat of last year with the first meet canceled due to the lack of snow altogether in early January. And the fate of the next competition hinged precariously on the weather warnings citing freezing drizzle. But things were thankfully a go at Kawartha Nordic, and the athletes were finally able to make it to their first long-awaited official high school competition.
And the results were worth the wait. In the high school junior girls division, Violet Humphries swept first place in the five kilometre race, followed by teammates Erika Hoare in second and Ella Gervais in fifth. In Senior Girls, Olivia Humphries was the first High School division skier to cross the line. Olivia completed the seven kilometre senior course with a very competitive time of 25:29.
OFSAA-sanctioned Nordic skiing competition is tiered to allow for athletes racing for their high school to compete separately than skiers who are regularly training and racing for a competitive club. These skiers compete in the Open division rather than the High School tier. There is also a novice category for skiers in their first year of racing, regardless of age. The novice skiers compete on a three kilometres course.
Of our novice skiers, Olivia Gruppe led the pack with a second-place finish in a field of 27 skiers. Grace Allder was behind her in third. Skiers Teagan Hamilton and Hannah Sharp, who are experienced on the downhill slopes, but just donned their cross-country gear for the first time this season, finished in sixth and ninth place in their first race.
Haiden Bird, another very fresh skier but veteran cross-country runner, made up for in heart what he was lacking in technique. Bird made it around the three kilometrescourse with his unique double-pole/run style to finish eighth in his division in a field of 17 skiers.
The afternoon featured some fun mixed sprint relays. Our novice team of Grace, Hannah, Teagan and Haiden was once again tops in their race and the Junior Girls team of Violet, Ella, Erika and Olivia Gruppe finished fourth. Olivia Humphries, skiing two laps in the relay, joined up with sibling Tristan Humphries and Elementary skier Winston Ramsdale to ski to a strong third-place finish in the 4×900 metre sprint relay.
Winston and Tristan were the only skiers in the Elementary Boys division and finished first and second respectively. Their times on the three kilometre course would have put them in the top rankings of the high school novice boys division.
Part of the team’s success in addition to their hard work and commitment, has been due to the amazing support of our team of coaches, which includes community volunteers Joleen Thomas and Kevin Hoare as well as high school staff Mike Rieger and Karen Gervais. Many skiers have also been involved in our local Jackrabbit developmental program and our team in lucky to have premier Nordic ski trails in such close proximity to the high school. They are grateful for the help of the Haliburton Nordic club volunteers, especially Mike Darlington and his groom team who have been fantastic in making sure the trails are safe for the skiers.
The team is on break for exams, but looks forward to their next competition at the Pre-OFSAA Lakefield Invitational meet on Feb. 8, followed by COSSA on Feb. 15 again at Kawartha Nordic.
Skiers Olivia Gruppe and Grace Allder, and maybe some others, are looking to up their game and enter in the three kilometre high school junior girls race in the hopes of creating a strong and competitive team challenged for a spot at the OFSAA meet in Lakefield on Feb. 23 and 24. A team consists of five skiers, where the top four across the line are scored. The individual race finishes are combined with the team result in the 4x900m sprint relay.
The full results from the Kawartha Invitational Meet can be found on Zone 4: zone4.ca/race/2023-01-18/f44ca93a/results.