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Saturday, Jun. 24, 2017
A stable of Sudbury athletes set for Summer Games
2016-06-24
by Randy Pascal

With just under two months to go, somewhere around half of the participants to the 2016 Ontario Summer Games (OSG) have been finalized, including a large local contingent, as Mississauga prepares to play host to more than 30 different sports.

More than 4000 athletes, coaches, officials and managers are expected to attend the Games, taking place from August 11th to the 14th. While more detailed coverage will ensue as the event draws nearer, it seemed like an appropriate time to touch base with some of the young men and women who will represent Sudbury and Northern Ontario in action later this summer.

Given that badminton is hosting a U19 competition for the Games, Team North features a cross-section of high-school and post-secondary talent, allowing the likes of Michelle Kozlowskyj and Cameron Duff to team up in mixed play, with soon-to-be Macdonald-Cartier graduate Sebastien Stefankow also named to the squad.

Coming off a very nice entry into OCAA competition and recognized as Female Athlete of the Year at Collège Boréal, Kozlowskyj acknowledged that her involvement with the OSG has tweaked her summer schedule, just a touch.

“Either way, I would have been playing once or twice a week,” she said. “But I wouldn’t be working out as much, going for runs, and I wouldn’t be getting quite as much court time. It’s more intense, but it’s good. I’ll be better prepared for September.”

Cracking the OCAA provincials as a freshman in the doubles event this past season, Kozlowskyj will likely be taking a long, hard look at trying to match that accomplishment as a singles player in her second year with the Vipères, the category of play for which she was far more well-known during her time with the Sacré-Coeur Griffons.

As such, she knows that continual improvement is a necessity, with singles play typically drawing the truly elite of the collegiate varsity crowd. “I want to get faster on the court,” she said. “I’ve been doing a lot of footwork drills, stuff like that. And instead of jogging, I’m doing more sprint intervals. When you’re faster on the court, you have so much more shot selection.”

Duff, for his part, is soaking this all in. Not expecting to compete much in singles play, the grade 11 NOSSA mixed doubles champion from Confederation Secondary simply wants to add the OSG to his current learning curve.

“This is probably going to be the best badminton I’ve ever played against,” said Duff. “I’m just going in for the experience. It will be pretty cool to be playing against these players.” Helping ease the transition is the likelihood that he will team with Kozlowskyj for a handful of mixed doubles matches, a pairing for which he has a definite comfort level.

“When me and Michelle play, we just kind of click and play really well together,” he said. “I’ve played a few tournaments with Michelle, and that helps.”

The Team North (Baseball) Pirates will also enjoy some familiarity, as local diamond guru Jean-Gilles Larocque guides the squad into action for his third set of Games. The majority of the locals named to the team have also crossed paths, several times over, at the Terry Fox Sports Complex in years gone by.

That grouping includes Chris Benoit, Cameron Docking, Braeden Dubé, Nicholas Durkac, Braedan Gobbo, Joe Guzzo, Tanner Morrison, Ben Phillips and Justin Vaillancourt. Some very familiar names, with about a gazillion competitions already under their collective belts, will represent our area in the karate venue, with the Benoit Martial Arts Studio quartet of Bradley Chaput, Marissa Meandro, Connor DiSalle and Juliana Meandro all named to the team.

Some exciting news this week for Lo-Ellen multi-sport athlete Kelly Thompson, who qualified for the Triathlon at the Summer Games via a wildcard race held last weekend in Guelph. In preparation for Mississauga, Thompson will be heading to North Bay for the Kiwanis Triathlon on July 3rd, making his way to the Heart of Gold Triathlon in Timmins the next weekend, before tackling a leg or two of the Beaton Classic a couple of weeks before the Games.

Although there is a heavy North Bay slant to both the boys and girls indoor volleyball teams (as well as the beach volleyball crew) that will represent Region 2, a few Sudburians did manage to work their way into a roster spot. The Northern Chill tandem of Kate Dugdale and Erin Gaffney will compete with North Bay coach John Jeffries, with assistant coach Kristen Sheffield of the Chill providing a helping hand along the sidelines.

Matthew Merrylees managed to ensure that Sudbury would not be shutout on the boys side, as the Greater Sudbury Volleyball Club his spot on the U14 boys team. In beach play, Marissa Beeson carries the local hopes, coming off a season in which she was recognized as MVP of her U16 team.

Graeme Stevens, a defensive anchor at linebacker for both the Sudbury Gladiators and Lo-Ellen Park Knights, will ditch the helmet and shoulder pads when he takes part in the weighlifting meet in Mississauga, while OFSAA silver medal winner Jasmine Tessier will be accompanied by grade 7 Macdonald-Cartier hot-shot Dziane Dillon, as both take part in the wrestling competition.

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