Greg Kilroy and Jenn Jackson are at different stages of their cross-country skiing careers.
Kilroy, the recently crowned OUA champion, is skiing his last competitive event for Lakehead University when the men’s team lands in Corner Brook, N.L. for next weekend’s nationals.
Jackson, just 19, will take part in her first Canadian Colleges and University Championships, though she has been to nationals in the past.
Both have one thing on their minds – continuing Lakehead’s streak of excellence.
The Thunderwolves women are seeking a ninth straight title, while the men look to up their championship run to four straight titles.
Kilroy, who considered retiring before the season even began, says he’s got plenty of confidence heading into nationals.
“It was pretty sweet to win the OUA championships. It was really special for me,” he said on Thursday, before taking part in the Lappe team sprint relays.
It was a breakthrough year for the North Bay, Ont. native, who said he’s never skied so well before, edging teammate Harry Seaton to win the OUA individual title.
Kilroy said it was a combination of training and dedication in his final year – with an eye to earning his way into next year’s Ski Nationals being held at Lappe – that kept him going.
Kilroy said with class commitments, many of LU’s skiers are forced to train on their own outside of team practices, just to keep their performance levels up.
The results speak for themselves.
“Being competitive with guys that I was minutes behind years ago, it was nice to be actually duelling with them now. It’s pretty cool.”
For Jackson, nationals aren’t necessarily a new experience.
As a junior last year, she placed second to Quebec’s Sophie Carrier-Laforte, but skiing for her school is definitely a new experience, she said.
It’s a different dynamic, Jackson added.
“To be going and competing with the university team as well, it adds a little bit more dynamic to it, more of a team complex, which is pretty fun,” said Jackson, who like Kilroy took home OUA gold, a one-two-three finish for the Thunderwolves on the women’s side.
“The Lakehead team is such a great group of people for me and I think it will be an even better experience.
Jackson said she’s hoping for a podium finish in the junior women’s category, which comprises first and second-year university students.
The women’s team will send a five-skier squad to Corner Brook. Other members include Erin Tribe, Bryana Van Leeuwen, Allannah Maclean. The men’s side will include Kilroy, Seaton, Leif Lennie, Victor Hopper, rookie Sean Carter, Jack Carlyle, Scott Hill and Ben Wilkinson-Zan.
Co-coach Amanda Holdsworth said this is what the Thunderwolves have been training all year for. And while skiing is an individual sport, the added team aspect makes it unique and encourages everyone to give it their all regardless of where they’re at on the course.
“Each of those skiers is obviously going out there to win, but there’s obviously a huge component of team behind it. Every second counts. Even if you’re the fifth athlete to cross the finish as a team, you’re still displacing other members of other teams,” Holdsworth said.
“So even if you’re not having a good race, they can still think about the team aspect of the sport. That’s what’s really great about it.”
Nationals are scheduled to run from March 15-22 at Blow Me Down Trails.
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