The bigger the stage and bigger the challenge, the more it seems the Muskie track-and-field team rises to the occasion.
The 10-member squad that Fort High sent to the OFSAA championships held last Thursday through Saturday at York University in Toronto achieved multiple personal bests.
Head coach John Dutton was thrilled with how his charges performed against some of the more skilled athletes in the province.
“There is no doubt that our OFSAA experience was a positive one,” he enthused.
“The experience gained from participating in a meet at this elite level is invaluable.”
Dutton believes that for his athletes to develop, whether that be physically, mentally, or socially, it is crucial they experience the kinds of challenges like they faced at the all-Ontarios.
“Competing in this year's OFSAA will help them become stronger athletes and individuals, and inspire them to work even harder next season,” he remarked.
“This year's competition in Toronto is only the first step in preparation for OFSAA next June.”
Grace Petsnick and Carson Noga were stellar among the Muskies' junior contingent at OFSAA last week.
Petsnick nabbed a personal best in girls' high jump—placing eighth with a height of 1.55m.
Noga, meanwhile, finished 15th in the junior boys' 200m race (23.81) and 20th in the 400m (53.96), both becoming his new personal bests.
Sean Huziak earned 15th spot in junior boys' discus (39.31m).
Aaron Scheibler placed 22nd in junior boys' shot put (12.53m) while Jill Calder was 24th among the girls (8.47m).
The Muskie girls' 4x100m relay team, comprised of Petsnick, Calder, Kamryn Sandelovich, and Jacy Gagne, finished 24th (56.39).
And the boys' 4x100m relay squad, consisting of Noga, Huziak, Caelin Mayhew, and Ben Olson, placed 21st (50.14).
“I was very pleased with how well the athletes performed in Toronto,” Dutton lauded.
“Both relay teams achieved best times for the season, and while other faster, more experienced teams were being disqualified for lane and transition infractions, we kept our cool and did what we had worked on in practice,” he noted.
“Carson Noga also posted personal records in his 200m and 400m races while Grace Petsnick rose to the challenge with a 'PB' in high jump that earned her an eighth-place finish.”
Sekina Scheibler tossed with all his might in the senior boys' discus, finishing 11th (40.55m) in his final OFSAA experience.
He also placed 17th in shot put (13.09m) and 23rd in long jump (5.83m).
Dutton believes that even with the Muskies' relative inexperience, as most of the squad were just juniors, they performed admirably against more experienced opponents.
“I think that one of our greatest challenges at OFSAA comes from inexperience,” he conceded.
"Our athletes are competing against the top competitors in Ontario, many who come from 'AAA' and 'AAAA' schools, train with club teams, and have a lot more meet experience in large venues.
“Most of these athletes know their competition and have encountered them at meets throughout the track season,” Dutton added.
"Some are even members of elite teams and junior national squads.
“To face these athletes in a huge stadium, often with hundreds of spectators looking on, can be intimidating to say the least,” he reasoned.
Dutton also noted it can be a challenge for his athletes to stay focused and calm, and stick to their training plan, when they're thrown into those types of situations.
“I think, in some cases, our athletes see the runs, jumps, and throws of their competitors and begin to focus on the numbers, the times, the heights, [and] the distances instead of the process and the technique, and some of the results have been disappointing for them,” he said.
"I think that, for the most part, our athletes were able to shut out these distractions and stay with the business at hand.
“I am very happy with our results,” he enthused.
Moving forward, the black-and-gold should be in good hands as they only will be losing two seniors to graduation.
Dutton believes all the experience his returning athletes gained this season will be invaluable down the road.
“I hope to keep the remainder of the team next season,” he remarked.
“I am also hopeful that we will have an influx of Grade 9s joining the team next spring, and I know there are some great young athletes in Grade 7 who will be entering Fort High in 2020,” he added.
Dutton also noted the addition of John Gibson as the Muskies' throwing coach has been really good for the team, and he anticipates Gibson's return next season to build on the excellent work he has done this year.
“I am also hopeful that Angela Petsnick will continue as part of our coaching staff,” he added.
“She plays a vital role at practice and on the road.”