BURLINGTON, Ont. – The best university Nordic skiers in the province will take to the Mountainview Ski and MTB Centre in Midland, Ont. this weekend for the 2017 OUA Nordic Skiing Championships.
The Ravens soar into this weekend's championship as the defending gold medalists on the women's side. In search of their tenth OUA title in program history, Carleton will look to sophomore Zoe Williams (North Bay, Ont.). Earlier this season, Williams, who is a member of the Canadian National Junior Ski Team, finished in the top 10 in a Continental Cup series race and competed in the World Junior and U23 Trials in Park City, Utah.
After seeing their 11-year winning streak come to an end last year, the Lakehead Thunderwolves will head to Midland this weekend looking for revenge. The 'Wolves will look to rookie Erika Mihell (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) to help them reclaim top spot. Despite making her OUA championship debut this weekend, Mihell is a podium contender after finishing 6th overall in the 10km race at the 2017 Haywood NorAm Canadian Eastern Championships.
The Guelph Gryphons have only captured the OUA championship banner once in program history and will look to double that come Sunday afternoon.
Now in her fourth season with the Gryphons, Elisa Huet (Caledon East, Ont.) is one of the veterans on a Guelph team that is the defending bronze medalists from 2016. At last year's championship, the Caledon East native finished 15th in the 10km Women's Mass Start before leading the Gryphons to a fifth place finish in the team relay. Off her skis, Huet finished second in the distance event at the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships at Blue Mountain last fall.
Like the previously mentioned Gryphons, the Nipissing Lakers will make the trip to Midland this weekend looking to capture the OUA championship for just the second time.
For Nipissing, it begins with team captain Shelby Dickey (Collingwood, Ont.) who helped the Lakers win bronze last year in the team relay. Dickey, who placed 17th in the 7.5km Women's Interval Free, recently represented Canada at the 2017 FISU Winter Universiade in Almaty, Kazakhstan. After posting the third fastest Canadian time in the 5km Individual Classic, Dickey finished 41st overall 5km Pursuit Free.
Coming off a fifth place overall finish a season ago, the Laurentian Voyageurs will be looking for a place on the podium come Sunday afternoon. Third-year veteran Laura Williams (Ottawa, Ont.) is the most experienced on a young Voyageurs roster that features four rookies. Last year at the OUA championship, Williams finished in the top 10 in the 10km Women's Mass Start and was a member of the Voyageurs relay team that finished sixth.
After winning the OUA championship three times in a five year span between 1986-1990, it's been a long drought for the Queen's Gaels on the women's side. Competing in her third season with Queen's, Marlee Sauder (St. Mary's, Ont.) is coming off a top 20 place in the Sunday Cyclery Pursuit 15km and is looking to improve upon her 15th overall finish in last year's 7.5km Women's Interval Free.
Fans will also want to keep an eye on University of Toronto Varsity Blues rookie Katherine Marshall (Ottawa, Ont.), sophmore sensation Hannah Goodings (Thornbuy, Ont.) from the host Waterloo Warriors and Marissa Ditoro (Rockwood, Ont.) of the Algoma Thunderbirds.
On the men's side, the defending champion Lakehead Thunderwolves have hoisted the Paul Allen Trophy four times in the past five seasons and sixteen times in program history. Gavin Shields () is back in the mix once again for the Thunderwolves and makes the trip to Midland as the defending OUA champion in the both the 7.5km Men's Interval Free and 10km Men's Mass Start. Shields traded in his Thunderwolves blue and gold late last month for red and white as he was a member of Team Canada competing at the 2017 FISU Winter Universiade.
However, the Thunderwolves have alternated ownership of the trophy with Carleton over the past three seasons and if the trend continues, the Ravens could find themselves perched atop the podium on Sunday afternoon.
After narrowly missing the podium last year, the Ravens are expecting big things from fourth-year veteran Carrington Pomeroy (Chelsea, Que) this weeknd. Pomeroy finished fourth in both the 7.5km Men's Interval Free and 10km Men's Mass Start and was also a member of the Ravens relay team that finished fifth overall. Last year at the 2016 Canadian College and University Nordic Championships, Pomeroy won bronze in the team sprint competition. The Chelsea, Que. native also represented his country last month at the 2017 FISU Winter Universiade.
The Nipissing Lakers men's Nordic team has never won the OUA championship banner but if team captain Jordan Cascagnette (Penetanguishene, Ont.) has anything to say about it, that streak could very well be broken this weekend. Cascagnette, who joined Pomeroy and Shields on Team Canada, is the defending OUA bronze medalist in the 7.5km Men's Interval Free and 10km Men's Mass Start. As a team, the Lakers finished third overall at the 2016 OUA Championship. The Penetanguishene, Ont. native is also a member of the Lakers rowing team.
Having not hoisted the Paul Allen Trophy since 1993, the Queen's Gaels will head to the hills at the Mountainview Ski and MTB Centre looking to bring an end to that.
As a rookie a season ago, Marcus Nussbaum (Ottawa, Ont.) finished in the top 20 in both individual events and was a member of the Gaels relay team that finished sixth. However, now in his second year with the team, Queen's has high expectations for the Engineering Physics major as they chase a place on the podium this weekend.
For the Laurentian Voyageurs, it begins with fourth-year veteran Ewan Craig (Deep River, Ont.). A season ago, Craig, who is studying geography at Laurentian University, finished 15th in the 7.5km Men's Interval Free and 17th in 10km Men's Mass Start. Following a successful 2015-16 season, Craig was named not only team MVP but also cross country MVP as well.
The University of Toronto Varsity Blues will literally look to Liam Fox (Collingwood, Ont.) to lead them in pursuit of their first OUA championship in program history this weekend. Fox, a fifth-year coach and captain, earned the top result for the U of T men last year, finishing in 16th in the 15 km classic mass start race, while earning 18th in the men's 7.5 km freestyle event. Ealier this season, Fox finished sixth in the 15km free pursuit at the Ontario Cup event in Duntroon, Ont.
Other skiers to watch this weekend include Guelph Gryphons rookie Robert Simpson-Spook (Mississauga, Ont.), from the host Waterloo Warriors Isaac Alexander-Cook (Ottawa, Ont.) and Algoma Thunderbirds standout Roberto Lake (Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.) who was named team MVP last year.
The first races of the championship will be the men's (10km) and women's (5km) Interval Free, taking place on Friday, Feb.24 at 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m., respectively. On Saturday, Feb. 25, teams will compete in the men's 3 x 3km free technique relay at 10:00 a.m. and the women's 3 x 3km free team relay at 10:40 a.m. The final events of the championship will take place on Sunday, Feb. 26, as the women's 10 km mass start is set to take place at 10:00 a.m. and will be followed by the men's 15 km mass start.
Awards will then conclude the weekend, which will follow the men's race.
Friday February 24th
3:00 PM Men 10km Interval Start Free
4:00 PM Women 5km Interval Start Free
Saturday February 25th
10:00 AM Men 3 x 3km Free Technique Relay
10:45 AM Women 3 x 3km Free Technique Relay
11:30 AM Exhibition Relay
5:00 PM Banquet
Sunday February 26th
10:00 AM Women 10km Mass Start Classic
11:00 AM Men 15km Mass Start Classic