Main photo: Grade 5-6 racers in the finishing stretch at the Arrowhead Elementary School Race (from left) Gabriel Nakamoto from Montessori, Samantha Beattie from Pine Glen and James Laughton from Tawingo (Brenda Liddle)
Registration numbers were down for the second Arrowhead Elementary School Race but enthusiasm remained high.
Arrowhead Nordic Ski Club hosted the second and final Elementary School Race of the season at Arrowhead Provincial Park on March 3. There were about 110 elementary students in grades 1-8 registered from 13 Muskoka schools. That’s even less than the 169 registered for the first elementary school classic ski race held in February.
The reduced enrolment is a byproduct of job action by the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario in response to the provincial government’s proposed increases in class sizes and other education cuts. Since Feb. 3, Trillium Lakelands District School Board’s elementary teachers have not been able to participate in extracurricular activities.
“We usually have about 400 elementary students from the same number of schools at each of the races every year,” said Cathie Raynor, president of Arrowhead Nordic Ski Club (ANSC), noting the drop in numbers for both races this year.
Private schools like Tawingo and Montessori brought their students to the race, while public school students had to rely on family or family friends to bring them.
“Many of the students are coming out for their first race, and some haven’t really done much skiing before,” said Raynor. For many of the elementary students who typically attend, even a kilometre is the longest distance they have ever skied, and many rent equipment to participate in the event. Still, it gives the students exposure to the sport, and perhaps a new activity to pursue. “It’s a volunteer-run day, and always such for the children.”
The dedicated volunteer crew worked diligently all morning, setting up the course, the start and finish lines, and the podium area before the freestyle races began at 11 a.m. During a freestyle race, skiers can choose to either use either skate or classic technique.
With the temperature hovering around the freezing mark, the racers were lucky enough to enjoy perfect skate skiing conditions, since the rain held off until much later in the afternoon. Many younger students at the event could be seen enthusiastically chasing each other up and down the small inclines near the Arrowhead Visitor Centre on their skis, and making up outdoor games all day long. Simply put, for many it was just a day of pure outdoor fun.
For other students, the day of competition was a chance to put their skills to the test, their sheer determination visible on their faces and in every stride as they glided down the finishing stretch.
There may have been fewer racers, but the crowd was no less supportive, cheering loudly as the students made their way off from the start and eventually towards the finish line.
Top place finishers in their respective grade categories included:
Grade 1/2 girls – Anika McKay from Riverside
Grade 1/2 boys – Gryffin Harris from Montessori
Grade 3/4 girls – Emily Parry from Montessori
Grade 3/4 boys – Ross Graham from Riverside
Grade 5/6 girls – Claire Parsons from Spruce Glen
Grade 5/6 boys – Owen McKay from Riverside
Grade 7/8 girls – Leah Richter from V.K. Greer
Grade 7/8 boys – Phoenix Varieur from Tawingo
Many of the participants were past and current athletes involved in the many levels of Arrowhead Nordic Ski Club (ANSC) programs. Bunnyrabbits and Jackrabbits, for kids ages four to nine, introduce skiing and develop skills in a fun way, while Track Attack and Lynx programs, for kids ages nine to 3, builds on these skills at a more advanced level. Programs run each year during January and February with eight weekly two-hour sessions on Saturdays or Sundays at Arrowhead Provincial Park. If needed, funding is available by application to the Children’s Foundation of Muskoka.
Find more results from the Elementary School Race here.
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