Held every two years since 1967, the Canada Games is the largest multi-sport competition for young athletes in the country, and in 2013 the Summer version will be contested in Sherbrooke, Quebec with several McMaster Marauders representing their home provinces.
The Canada Games alternate between winter and summer sports and bring together competitors from every region. The Sherbrooke games are being held from August 2nd to the 17th.
The McMaster men’s and women’s volleyball teams have a total of seven athletes representing Ontario this summer.Playing for Team Ontario on the men’s side are Alex Elliott, Austin Campion-Smith, Jori Mantha, new recruit Brandon Koppers and transfer student Andrew Kocur, who joins the Marauders after a year at UC-Santa Barbara. Head Coach Dave Preston has been to the Canada Games twice as Team Ontario coach in 1993 and 1997 and expects his players to have an amazing experience. “The two times I was at Canada Games are still so fresh in my mind and are a career highlight for me,” said Preston. “Those guys are going to have a tremendous time and the benefits to our program when they come back to Mac will be immeasurable.”
Making the cut for the Team Ontario women’s team are Marauders Taylor Brisebois and Rebecca Steckle. Mac Coach Tim Louks says his players have earned a great opportunity to play the best players from across Canada in their age group. “Those kinds of matches against those types of players will offer the best competition they could see and should be a fantastic experience, “said Louks.
McMaster swim coach Andrew Cole also has great memories of the Canada Games as he won a Gold Medal swimming for Nova Scotia in 1981 and was the head swim coach for New Brunswick in 1993 and 1997. “The Canada Games are the country’s best vehicle for developing athletes that want to compete at the international level,” explained Cole. “It gives them valuable experience and the motivation to pursue the next level.”
Cole has dug into his Nova Scotia roots to mine talent for the Marauders and two of those Atlantic imports, Mohamed Eldah and Conor Gillespie-Friesen, will be representing Nova Scotia in Sherbrooke.
Both Eldah and Gillespie-Friesen will be starting their second-year in the fall after solid freshman campaigns swimming for Mac. While they are teammates in the McMaster pool, Eldah is on Team Nova Scotia as a swimmer and Gillespie-Friesen is using his swim talents to compete in the triathlon.
Coach Cole will also be cheering for a member of Team B.C. at the Games, as one of his prize recruits, Olivvya Chow from the city of Surrey and the Pacific Sea Wolves Swim Club, will be representing her home province before arriving in Hamilton this fall to study at and swim for McMaster. With swim recruits coming to McMaster from coast to coast, Cole is excited about his program’s growing reputation as a destination for high level competitors.In athletics, McMaster’s rising sophomore Connor Darlington will represent Ontario and run the 5000m event. The 5000 is a new distance for the Whitby native, who has been a fixture at both the 800 and 1500m distances.
Mac track coach Paula Schnurr is another former Canada Games participant, who ran for Ontario in 1985. Schnurr says the provincial team berth for Darlington is his first major competition appearance. “This is huge for Connor because it’s a new event for him and he has been training very hard,” said Schnurr. “It’s a great reward for all his hard work and I think he’ll be looking to medal. It’s also great preparation for our men’s cross country season where we hope to win a CIS medal this year.”
Darlington will also be joined by one of his McMaster teammates on Team Ontario as Austen Forbes will compete in the triathlon event. Hailing from Dundas, Forbes will vie against a newly minted Marauder as 2013 recruit Reid Burrows will represent his home province of New Brunswick in the Canada Games triathlon, before donning a Maroon singlet in September. Also named as an alternate to Ontario’s triathlon squad is Mac runner Blair Morgan, who will only compete if illness or injury takes out one of the top three triathletes in Sherbrooke.
The fact that four McMaster athletes, the swimmer Gillespie-Friesen and the runners Forbes, Morgan and Burrows, are all at the Canada Games as triathletes shows the strong bond between the Marauder swim and track teams and the impact both programs and their cooperative approach are having on the Canadian triathlon landscape.
Having multiple athletes from several provinces attend the Canada Games is extremely gratifying for McMaster Athletic Director Jeff Giles, who firmly believes in the Department’s mission of cultivating human potential.
“The Canada Games bring together the best and brightest of the country’s young athletes and we’re very proud of all the Marauders selected to represent their home provinces,” said Giles. “The fact we have athletes from across Canada bringing their talents to McMaster tells me we are doing something right and we plan to keep raising the bar to provide the best student-athlete experience available.”