BURLINGTON, Ont. – Ontario university skiers will be hoping the weather will be more cooperative for the OUA Nordic Skiing Championships after the annual competition was cut short last year due to extreme cold.
More favourable temperatures are in the forecast for the event, taking place Feb. 19-21 at the Nakkertok Nordic Ski Club, where the host Carleton Ravens men's team will be looking to reclaim their title.
Two OUA all-stars will be returning from last year's gold medal winning team: Patrick Van Walraven (Ottawa, Ont.) and Carrington Pomeroy (Chelsea, Que.), who is fresh off a second-place finish in the men's 20 km classic at the Eastern Canadian Championships. Another hopeful who had an impressive showing at the championship is Ryan Jackson (Barrie, Ont.), who won bronze in the men's Open/Junior A category for the short distance (15 km), as well as the sprint final heats (1.5 km).
The Ravens women's team will also be in action and after claiming a silver medal a year ago, Carleton will have golden aspirations at home. 2015 OUA all-star Adrienne Hynes (Whitehorse, Y.T.) will be returning, coming off a top 10 finish in the 15 km classic at the Eastern Canadian Championships. Also placing in the top 10 was Zoë Williams (Cantley, Que.), who finished sixth in the short distance (10 km) and third in the Sprint Final Heats (1.4 km), both in the Open/Junior A category.
On the women's side, the Lakehead Thunderwolves will be looking to continue their OUA Nordic domination, eyeing their 12th consecutive title. Leading the way for the Thunderwolves will be 2015 OUA all-star Sadie White (Thunder Bay, Ont.), who won the Juvenile 5 km event at the Eastern Canadian Championships. White was recently named to the Canadian national team and will be competing in Romania Feb. 23-28, after placing fourth in the 10 km classic at the World Junior/Under-23 Trials. Also returning as an all-star from the gold medal winning team is Camille Hamm (Thunder Bay, Ont.), who secured a top 10 finish in the 6.6 km classic at last year's OUA Championships.
The Thunderwolves men's team will be looking to return to the top of the podium for the fourth time in five years, after finishing second at last year's championship. Like White, Thunderwolves skier Scott Hill (Toronto, Ont.) will be representing Canada in Romania in less than a week as a part of the Canadian national team, after he finished second in the 15 km classic at the World Junior/U23 Trials. Joining Hill at Nakkertok will be returning all-star Chris Hamilton (Thunder Bay, Ont.).
The Nipissing Lakers will also be looking to repeat as hardware recipients, after both the men's and women's teams secured bronze at last year's championship. The men's team will feature an all-star from a year ago, Jordan Cascagnette (Penetanguishene, Ont.), who recently captured the gold medal at the Eastern Canadians in the men's 20 km classic.
Cascagnette's teammate on the women's side, Shelby Dickey (Collingwood, Ont.) is also returning as an all-star, where she will be joined by Lauren Aarts (St. Marys, Ont.), who won bronze in the 15 km classic in Huntsville at the Muskoka Loppet.
The Laurentian Voyageurs men's team missed out on a podium finish last year after locking down bronze at the 2014 OUA Championships, and will be leaning on veterans Thomas Gore (Sudbury, Ont.) and Ewan Craig (Deep River, Ont.) to return them to a medaling finish. Craig recently finished in 6th and 12th in the university categories at the Eastern Canadian Championships in Gatineau.
Laura Williams (Ottawa, Ont.) and Katherine Grove (Caledon, Ont.) were Laurentian's top competitors on the women's side in last year's OUA Championships, and will once again be hitting the trails in this year's event.
The Guelph Gryphons placed fourth in both the men's and women's championships of a year ago. On the women's side, two returning Gryphons placed in the top 20: Ashley Huet (Lakefield, Ont.) and Elise Huet (Caledon East, Ont.), who finished 14th and 16th, respectively.
Like the Gryphons, the Queen's Gaels men's and women's teams also finished the 2015 OUA Championships in the same position, coming fifth. Top performers from a year ago who are returning include Colin Foley, who finished 18th on the men's side and Sarah Lamb, who came 24th on the women's.
Rounding out the competition this weekend will be the Algoma Thunderbirds, Toronto Varsity Blues and Waterloo Warriors.
The first races of the championship will be the men's and women's 7.5 km Interval Free, taking place on Friday, Feb. 19 at 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. respectively. Saturday, Feb. 20 will showcase the men's 3x3 km team relay at 10:00 a.m. and the women's 3x3 km team relay at 11:00 a.m.
The final events will take place Sunday, Feb. 21, as the women's 10 km mass start is set to take place at 9:00 a.m. and the men's 10 km mass start is to begin at 10:00 a.m.
Awards will then conclude the weekend, which will follow the men's race.