After an extended amount of time in the car, driving from the Toronto/ Barrie area to Temiskaming Shores, we were greeted by freezing and dry conditions. Our pre ski of the course was slow and purposeful. Getting very little glide, the creaky sounds of our skis and pole plants often drowning out our conversation. Still, our Pee Wees’ pushed through the 3 km course they would do for both skate and classic events, while our Midgets tested out the 3 km skate course and the 5 km classic course. The real draw on Friday seemed to be the ski park, with bumps, jumps, rollers and steep banks. Didn’t see that one coming.
We were informed that the weekend of racing was to be condensed to the Saturday only due to the low temperature forecast for Sunday, projecting unsafe conditions. Although having back-to-back races in alternating techniques is unusual, our athletes were well prepared. We have done numerous practices where we transition techniques halfway through, and they are not strangers to longer distances. There were a couple coaches uneasy about this change of plan, but Team Hardwood was ready.
Saturday started with very chilly conditions. Our athletes were faced with the same slow snow they had pre skied on. They pushed on, through the 3 km skate event and definitely had fun!
The afternoon warmed up rather quickly to the forecasted high, making grip wax testing fun for the wax team. Products that worked in the morning lost effectiveness hours later. We found the right combination to use, and our application factory sprang to life. They did an excellent job making sure each athlete was happy with their skis. Couldn’t thank the wax team enough for all they did!
The afternoon classic race mass start races were epic to watch. Especially with the 40 Pee Wee boys all charging out, jockeying for position. As you would expect, all our athletes have stories about the shenanigans in the scramble zones, as the five starting lanes were reduced to three, then to two.
As the races began making their way back to the finish line, you could tell many had taken a tumble somewhere along the trail. The slow morning snow conditions had changed to responsive and fast, and did our athletes every look fast.
The Midget boys category finished first, all with huge smiles on their faces. They all agreed this race was so much fun. They had calmly splintered off from the main group to form a lead pack with friends from other clubs at their ability level. They recall chatting away with one another on the first part of the course. This is what these Championships are about.
Our Midget girls finished next, looking very strong, and applying tactics they had developed over the season. They too seemed to have had a great time, after the whole day of racing.
The Pee Wee boys were off next, finishing close together, still heated about a couple incidents in the race. Seeing them charged up, exhausted, and telling stories together made me realize the brotherhood they had developed this season. Our team is a family, and these boys prove it.
Last race of the day was the Pee Wee girls, our girls all looked like superheroes in the mass start! They pushed through right till the end, and gave it everything they had left. I’m pretty sure there were even a few lunges at the line. These girls had worked very hard.
That evening was the banquet, which had been adjusted to accommodate the awards ceremony for both the races. The organizers had the teams create a poster for their club. I may have slightly biased opinion, but I thought ours was the best.
The banquet went on as you’d expect, with pictures from the day, draw prizes, and a scramble for the food. What was unexpected was that our Devo team asked for the stage, and delivered a heart-warming speech that almost had their coach tear up.
I couldn’t have dreamt of a better group of young athletes to spend the season with. Their hard work, drive, and dedication are blatantly apparent by our measure of success. Each one has achieved the goals they set for themselves this season. Each one has made tremendous gains in ability, and capacity. Each one has approached this season with a positive attitude, and has reaped the benefits associated with this. I couldn’t be more proud, each one of you is truly exceptional.
The success of this weekend, and season couldn’t have been possible without the countless hours our athlete’s parents put in. You are our chauffeurs, our logistical support, motivational speakers, personal assistants, wax technicians, photographers, personal bankers, everything in between, and you are our athlete’s biggest fans. Thank you for all of your support this weekend, this season, and believing in the potential of sport.