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When fall rolls around and school is back in session (hopefully), the Yukon will be well represented in the sports department. Ten athletes, so far, have signed on with universities and colleges to continue to their athletic pursuits at the varsity level.
Cross country skier Sasha Masson already has an impressive résumé. In January, Masson donned the Canadian colours at the Youth Olympic Games in Switzerland. Now, his journey brings him east to Quebec, where he will join the University of Laval Rouge et Or ski team.
“It’s the program I wanted in Canada,” said Masson. “They have ex-national team skiers and I’m excited to train with them.
“I’m also excited about Quebec. It will be a different lifestyle. I’ve never lived somewhere that speaks completely French.”
Masson said his new teammates and coaches can expect a dedicated athlete who conducts himself with professionalism. This, Masson said, will translate into results.
Training in the Yukon, Masson said, the athletes could sometimes get overlooked - he’s hoping to change that.
“The Yukon produces great athletes,” Masson said. “We can be the odd ones out but at competitions they will find out about us and see what we’re about.”
Biathlete Romeo Champagne will have an exciting opportunity ahead of him as he joins the Alpine Insurance World Cup Academy in Canmore - he will attend the University of Calgary while training.
It’s the first time the Academy will hold a biathlon program, and Champagne said he is excited to break in on the ground floor.
“It will be cool to be one of the first athletes on the team,” said Champagne. “I’ll get to help shape the program and bring lots of suggestions.”
Champagne said he’s had the opportunity to meet some of his teammates and coaches.
“I’ve already done a race weekend out there,” said Champagne. “It was an interesting experience. The team has some great athletes, and everyone is motivated. I’m excited to join that community and push myself and be pushed by others.”
Being born-and-raised in the Yukon, Champagne said, gives you gifts you don’t always realize at the moment.
“You learn grit, resilience and perseverance,” said Champagne.
“Especially now, you can just focus on what you can.”
Basketball player Maren Bilsky will be taking her on-court prowess to Victoria, as she will become the newest member of the Camosun College Chargers.
As the team’s new recruit, Bilsky said she’s ready to show her teammates and coaches that she’s ready to contribute.
“Being a rookie, I’m definitely going to have to prove myself,” said Bilsky. “I’m going to put everything into it, I’m going to do it for them and for the love of the game.
Bilsky said she’s excited to learn and play at the faster speed of the varsity level.
“I’ll have to gain strength and learn the plays,” said Bilsky. “I’ll have to learn to play against older players but I’ll keep pushing through.”
Bilsky said she will bring strong mental fortitude to the team in her rookie season. That’s something she learned playing in the Yukon.
“Growing up here, you are an underdog, but you know not to give up,” said Bilsky. “The Yukon definitely teaches you resilience and makes you believe you can take on anything.”
Soccer goalie Ole Heath is primed to join the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and battle for minutes in the team’s net.
“The coaches showed a lot of interest in me,” said Heath. “As a goalie, they teach a wide variety of technique, and I find it intriguing that they put so much effort into goalkeeping.”
Heath will be one of three goalies on the Huskies.
“That’s definitely a motivator,” said Heath. “I’d much rather have to work for my minutes rather than them be given to me.”
Anywhere he goes, Heath said, he gives maximum effort.
“I want to reach my highest potential, and I’m going to give 100 per cent to the team,” said Heath.
He said he’s had a lot of great coaches in the Yukon who have helped him learn to turn errors into learning experiences.
“I used to take mistakes as setbacks, but that’s the single way of improving,” said Heath. “You have to take those mistakes, and focus on what you did wrong and correct it.”
By joining Minot State University in North Dakota, Yukon golfer Aimery Barrault accomplished one goal: to play in the NCAA.
He will now turn his attention to the coming season, where he joins eight other golfers on the Minot team.
It will be a big step-up in competition for Barrault, but he’s been in contact with his coaches who have given him a training regimen to work on.
“They really want my wedges dialed in and also my short putts,” said Barrault. “It’s going to be real good competition. You have to be shooting low 70s or high 60s.”
Barrault said his teammates and coaches can expect an athlete who is ready to put the work in to get better.
By playing in the Yukon, Barrault said it’s taught him the importance of staying on the fairway.
Emma Boyd, a powerhouse on the volleyball court will be joining a talented Mount Royal University team.
“I am really impressed with the team,” said Boyd, who has been watching game tape in the offseason. “They have a national team player and they are always challenging each other.”
She doesn’t know which position she will be playing yet, but Boyd said wherever she’s needed, she will do her part to help the team succeed.
“I will do anything,” said Boyd. “I really just want to be the hardest-working player. In the Yukon, you don’t get as much gameplay; you can only control how hard you work.
“I want to be a real consistent player and prove that to myself, coaches and teammates.”
Having represented the Yukon at many multi-sport events, Boyd said, she hopes she can bring leadership and sportsmanship to the table.
Soccer player Rhys Faragher has always wanted to play at the highest level he could. He will be taking that next step this fall, when he joins the University of Calgary Dinos team.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve wanted to play at the highest level I could,” said Faragher. “This is just surreal.”
Faragher admits he doesn’t know what he’s gotten himself into, but he’s confident in his ability to contribute to the team.
“I hope I can bring a little bit on energy,” said Faragher. “The coaches see something in me. I will be playing against opponents bigger and stronger than me so I will have to catch up to the university level.”
Faragher said he’s been keeping an eye on the Dinos during their U SPORTS season and knows he’s joining a strong squad. He said he’s looking forward to learning from the seniors.
“I’ll learn a lot from then and over the next few years,” said Faragher.
“Then, by the end, I’ll be able to give back and teach the rookies coming in.”
Cross country skier Derek Deuling already has a strong résumé. In January, he represented Canada at the Youth Olympic Games in Switzerland.
Now, he will join the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves – one of the strongest teams in the NCAA.
“It was cool news when I got the email,” said Deuling. “They have a crazy-strong team with some world cup skiers.”
Deuling said this will be a big boost for his skiing career.
“This will be a big jump in competition,” said Deuling. “I’ll be racing against men for the first time. It’s going to be fun to have this challenge.”
Deuling said the Yukon has taught him to enjoy training.
“That will make sure the commitment level stays the same.”
Cross country skier Sonjaa Schmidt still hasn’t decided which school she’ll attend – the University of Calgary or the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.
No matter her decision, she will be part of the Alpine Insurance Alberta World Cup Academy.
“The academy has some of the best skiers in Canada,” said Schmidt.
“I’m excited to ski with them and work with the coaches.”
Schmidt said skiing is a huge part of her life, and her new teammates will see that commitment.
“They can expect a dedicated athlete who is hard-working and self-disciplined,” said Schmidt. “I love to work hard and better myself as a skier. “
Although skiing is an individual sport, Schmidt said, the Yukon has taught her to value the teamwork.
“Team Yukon taught me a lot about the team aspect,” said Schmidt.
“Although it’s an individual sport, you still need your team to succeed. You improve each other.”
Soccer player Andreas Lavanderos will be taking his talents across the pond to York St. John University in England.
In March, he had the opportunity to travel to York to meet the coaches and his new teammates.
“Everyone was really high-level,” said Lavanderos. “The coaches were high-level and will make sure I’m improving.”
Lavanderos said his versatility is one of the strongest aspects of his game.
“I’m versatile and can play any position; I believe in my ability,” said Lavanderos. “I’m always a good teammate and I’m looking to help with the team’s chemistry.
His preferred position is attacking midfielder, and he knows there will be competition for that spot.
“Most of the players are attacking,” said Lavanderos. “I’m very motivated and motivated to get that spot.”
He thanks his many Yukon coaches for pushing him to get better.
Now, with England looming, he’s excited to show everyone what the Yukon is all about.
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