A High School Sports Year Mixed with Rewards and Regrets
It's the end of June - and the end of another high school sports year.
No shortage of highlights, be they individual or team accomplishments and how about the pile of championships, especially the titles that have been a long time coming?
There were many contentious matters, controversial if you prefer that word, and some decisions made by OFSAA that drew criticism in more ways than one. Some that even involved the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Even a few bizarre moments that left people scratching their heads and muttering frivolous things.
With apologies to those I may have missed, here are some highlights from my world of high school sports in the past 10 months.
Let's start with the individual highlights. Aaron Brown, from Birchmount Park, who ran the 100 metres in 10.36 seconds - but just missed out on a Canadian interscholastic record because it was wind-aided. That's quicker than Carlton Chambers, Desai Williams and Hugh Spooner - who went on to compete for Canada internationally. Brown, also a great football player, ignored play calls from his coach twice - and got away with it scoring touchdowns in a Metro Bowl playoff win.
Take note of Andre Ford-Azonwanaa. Only 14, this kid proved he could be the quickest for his age in Canada, timed in 10.89 seconds over 100 metres. The Cardinal McGuigan sprinter went on to win three Ontario high school gold medals on the track.
Rachel Rennick, from Lawrence Park in Toronto, won the Ontario high school slalom and giant slalom ski races despite fracturing an elbow in a toboggan accident a week before the finals. Jonathon Babulall, from Turner/Fenton in Brampton, won his fourth consecutive Ontario wrestling gold medal and has been undefeated in three years. Ryan Dixon, from Wilson in Oshawa, scored six touchdowns and piled up 471 yards on 44 carries in the Ontario Regional junior football final. Shanice McKoy came out of surgery to repair a collapsed lung to play basketball at Pope John Paul II in Toronto and is now on her way to Texas on a U.S. scholarship.
Let's not forget Thea Imbrogno, a Toronto Star hockey all-star the past several years, and she scored the winning goal in OT as St. Basil The Great became the first Toronto school to win back-to-back Ontario gold medals. Oh yes, Julian Clarke. The Oakwood Collegiate basketball star, now athlete of the year, nailed five consecutive three-point baskets and late in a boring OFSAA gold medal basketball game for the Barons' biggest provincial win in 17 years.
On the subject of teams, Oakwood being one of them, Pickering won back-to-back Ontario track and field titles - and coach Cyril Sahadath predicted it too. How about St. Marcellinus from Mississauga, the hockey team that won everything but its last game - the OFSAA gold medal game. In volleyball, the girls' team at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Oakville was the first school from the GTA in the 33-year history of the Ontario Catholic Classic to win the prestigious crown. And Birchmount Park, a perfect 39-match run bolstered a 73-0 streak the past two years to win the OFSAA boys' voilleyball title.
There was the story of 500 free tickets to the NFL game at the Rogers Centre between Buffalo and the New York Jets handed out by OFSAA to coaches, players, volunteers and not sure who else. And OFSAA got the jitters about a possible battle, one it was advised by its lawyers it would likely not win, with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The subject: gender equity. Now, a girl can play on a boys' team - if she makes the cut. OFSAA wanted boys on boys teams and girls' playing on girls teams.
Gymnastics could be going the way of the dinosaurs and, it appears, the same for cheerleaders. Following a steroids incident that saw a university football team get pulled for a year, people started asking questions about whether high schools could be centres for some students taking performance enhancing drugs and human growth hormone. No money for testing and denials from many people. Seemed like the goal was to try sweep this topic under the carpet quickly. And dozens of students continue to pick U.S. universities, and even high schools, over what is offered in Canada. And many of them are coming home too.
And to some other eye-poppers. On-ice racial slurs by several hockey players led the Principal at Thomas A. Blakelock High in Oakville to pull the plug on the boys' hockey team at his school. Turns out that beer and baseball don't mix - for under-age players. An Ottawa school, competing at the Prentice Cup playdowns, packed up and went home after the coach forced several of his suspended players caught with alcohol to watch others on their team play a meaningless game. There was also the ridiculous move by several football players at Chaminade College in Toronto to see what would happen when they put feces in a microwave oven while on a team trip to Michigan.
One of the saddest stories of the year, a freak accident that shattered the dreams of Anthony Lue. The former Pickering High multi-sport athlete, who aspired to be a major league baseball player, was crushed inside a car at a recycling facility. He's now in a wheelchair. And we continue to pray that Wesley Jorisch, a 16-year old at Marshall McLuhan, miraculously recovers from severe injuries suffered in a rugby game.
What a year - and just barely scraped through some of the stories.