THUNDER BAY – SUDBURY – (Courtesy LU Nordic Skiing) Heading into the final day of competition the Lakehead University Men’s team sat a mere 3 points back in their quest to bring the OUA Championship back to Thunder Bay.
The Thunderwolves trailed only archrivals Carleton, who had captured the title the last two seasons and who again fielded a very deep team. “From the gun, the pace was fairly conservative”, said head coach Amanda Holdsworth. “The boys were packed in tight with the Carleton skiers and everybody seemed to be waiting for someone to make a move.”
Skiing at the front for Lakehead was double gold medalist Harry Seaton who controlled the race from the start. Bunched in behind were Greg Kilroy and Ben Jones, with Leif Lennie, who has been struggling with illness all weekend, maintaining solid contact. As the race wore on and as the pace increased, Carleton skiers began to drop off. With only 3 kilometers left, the lead pack had dwindled to 6 athletes: Seaton and his 3 teammates as well 2 athletes from Carleton.
With a kilometer to go, Seaton again proved that he is the class of the field, launching what has become his trademark sprint finish to easily capture his 3rd gold medal of this year’s championships. Seaton was joined on the podium by 2 athletes from Carleton. Lakehead’s Greg Kilroy again narrowly missed the podium, finishing a solid 4th place. Kilroy was followed by Ben Jones in 5th and Leif Lennie in 6th. Rookie Lucas Shewen also had a strong race, despite losing a pole in the early stages, matching his 16th place finish on the first day of competition.
“The boys all skied a great race today, said Program Coordinator Adam Kates. “They worked well as a team, knowing that everyone had to be near the front if we had any shot at the team title.”
When the dust had settled the Lakehead men came away with a slim 3-point victory to capture the Overall Men’s Nordic Skiing Title. “This is such a huge accomplishment for the men and for the University,” said Kates. “We knew that we were in for a fight but we believed in the team and focused on executing the plan that we set out for ourselves. The boys stepped up and skied for each other and the effort paid off huge.”
Greg Kilroy, last year’s overall MVP and the leader of the team was ecstatic about being part of an OUA Championship team for the first time: “I’ve been waiting for this for 3 years and it feels awesome to have it all come together when it mattered most”.
Head Coach Amanda Holdswroth credits fast skis as one of the keys to the men’s success. “Our wax team did an amazing job all weekend and gave our athletes by far the best skis in the field.” Greg Kilroy agreed that the technical advantage and support of the Wolve’s staff played a key role. “Our skis were amazing all weekend and that gave us a huge advantage going into every race.”
Lakehead’s technical support team consisted of Robin Crowley, Jim Bailey, and Jeff Jones.
On the women’s side, Andrea Lee claimed her 3rd gold of the weekend and her 6th consecutive victory as an OUA skier. Lee is now undefeated in both team and individual races at the OUA level in her 2 years with Lakehead. The Lady wolves again claimed the top 2 steps on the podium with freshman Alannah Maclean breaking away from a tight chase pack to claim silver. Daphne Haggary finished a strong 8th place to put three ladies in the top 10. Other results included Katherine Hall in 12, Moira Haggarty 13, Britt Bailey 14 and Amie Mathews in 16th.
With their strong results and a deep team effort, the Lakehead Women bested rivals Carleton by 14 points to capture their 8th Consecutive OUA Championship title. “Simply put, our women are amazing,” Said Holdsworth. “They continue to impress and continue to perform year after year. It is a privilege to be a part of”.
Harry Seaton and Andrea Lee were both named OUA MVP. Alannah Maclean, Daphne Haggarty, Greg Kilroy, Ben Jones and Leif Lennie all earned OUA AllStar hounours.
With victories in all three men’s and women’s races as well as overall titles in both the men’s and women’s team events, Lakehead completed a perfect weekend of competition and confirmed their status as the number 1 Nordic ski racing program in the province.
The Wolves will next travel to the National Championships in Mt. Ste. Anne where they will look to bring more championship banners back to the Thunderdome.