Going up against the best in the province can be nerve wracking for any athlete.
But the four members of the Muskie Nordic skiing team remained calm and put in great performances at the OFSAA championships held in Huntsville last Wednesday and Thursday as call came away with a top-40 finish in their respective divisions.
“The biggest takeaway was a feeling of accomplishment for our skiers,” Muskie coach Jordan Baird said.
“Considering how recently they got into the sport of skiing, and competing as they were against some national-calibre athletes, they performed remarkably well. "That being said, all of our skiers also walked away with an appreciation for the kind of training and preparation it will take to get to the next level,” he added.
Emma Toriseva had the top showing for the Muskies, cracking the top 10 in placing ninth out of 131 competitors in the junior girls' 3.7-K race with a time of 20:17.8.
That effort put her less than six seconds from an eighth-place ribbon and only 45 seconds from snaring a bronze-medal finish. It also was the best Muskie finish ever at the all-Ontarios.
In the senior girls' 4.5-K division, meanwhile, the Muskies had three representatives.
Kayli Machura had the top showing for the black-and-gold in winding up 24th out of 114 skiers with a time of 25:00.6
Tori Toriseva was just behind (25:08) while Angie Redford placed 38th (26:45.4) to round out the finishes for Fort High at the all-Ontarios.
“Each skier who went to OFSAA put forth a very strong performance of which they should be proud,” Baird enthused.
"Emma Toriseva skied to the best-ever finish of a Muskie Nordic skier at OFSAA, finishing ninth out of 131 finishers in the high school junior girls' category, less than six seconds from an eighth-place ribbon and only 45 seconds from bronze — a phenomenal effort!
“Tori Toriseva had a couple tough falls on a tricky course, but still managed to ski a very strong race and finish 25th out of 114 finishers in the high school senior girls, just eight seconds back from Kayli Machura, our top senior girl in 24th,” he noted.
“Kayli skied an excellent race and scored a huge personal best OFSAA performance even though she was at the bottom of her age category. Angie Redford, perhaps our most improved skier of the year, was only a minute-and-a-half back in 38th place, meaning all our senior girls finished in the top third of finishers. "Angie had a fantastic race, skiing as well or better than I have ever seen her ski at the highest pressure race of the season,” Baird lauded.
The conditions of the trails in Huntsville were great, according to Baird, while the weather for southern Ontario was a little cooler than normal but nothing the Muskies haven't been used to.
“Conditions were colder than normal for Southern Ontario (around -15C), but that didn't slow down the northerners,” Baird stressed.
"The trails were impeccably groomed on race day and the event ran as smoothly as it possibly could have. The course was a joy to ski, with a good mix of technical turns, hills, and flats to suit every kind of skier and make the time fly by.
“Our athletes took to the challenges of the course well, although a couple tricky corners at the bottom of hills presented some trouble,” he admitted.
“Our skiers aren't used to hills quite that big! Overall, Huntsville was an excellent choice to host OFSAA and the Muskies greatly enjoyed the experience of racing there.”
Moving forward, Baird said the team is looking forward to a period of growth and stepping up its game.
Next year, the Muskies' main objectives will be to train more, compete more, and persuade more new skiers to join the team and build the program.
“Returning OFSAA athletes Emma Toriseva and Kayli Machura will be well-positioned in 2021, after a year of solid training, to compete for OFSAA hardware,” Baird predicted.
"Graduating athletes Angie Redford and Tori Toriseva have expressed an interest in continuing with skiing. We have a few other returning athletes as well, and my hopes are high for them in 2021. Now, we just need to coax a few new skiers—particularly younger skiers and endurance athletes from other sports—to join the ski team.
“It's a fun, lifelong winter activity that can help build the fitness of any athlete, whether for the purpose of cross-training or skiing itself,” he assured.
“If we can get some more skiers out, things are looking very good for the future of the Muskie Nordic program!”