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Thunderwolves ready to host OUA nordic skiing championships

The two-day competition begins Saturday morning at the Lappe Ski Centre.
Lakehead Thunderwolves teammates Johann Taylor-Gregg and Sophia Marshall took to the trails at the Lappe Ski Centre on Friday ahead of the 2024 Ontario University Athletics Nordic Skiing Championships.

KAMINISTIQUIA – The wait is almost over for the Lakehead Thunderwolves Nordic skiing program.

The team is serving as the hosts for the 2024 Ontario University Athletics Nordic Skiing Championships, which take place on Saturday and Sunday at the Lappe Ski Centre.

“I’m so excited,” Thunderwolves skier Sophia Marshall said during Friday’s training session. “It’s really nice to have the race at our home trail, which we know so well.”

“I’ve been hyped for this all year,” Thunderwolves skier Johann Taylor-Gregg said. “Everyone’s been pumping each other up and this is the best race for university athletes.”

In addition to the Thunderwolves, skiers from the Algoma Thunderbirds, Carleton Ravens, Guelph Gryphons, Laurentian Voyageurs, McMaster Marauders, Nipissing Lakers, Ottawa Gee-Gees and Waterloo Warriors are also competing.

The meet serves as a homecoming for Thunder Bay’s David Harris, who is in his freshman year at McMaster and is coming off of a fourth-place result at a meet in North Bay earlier this month.

“It definitely feels a little bit different to be coming here from out of town and it actually makes me a little bit nostalgic,” Harris said.

“It’s been fun showing the team around and being back on home turf, even though I’m not wearing the Thunder Bay colours.”

The Thunderwolves are coming off a strong 2022-23 season. The men’s team won the OUA banner in Huntsville 12 months ago and kept up their form last March at the Nordic Canada Ski Nationals at Lappe.

Erickson Moore was part of last year’s squad and said coaches Adam Kates and Steve Hart have done a great job getting everyone prepared for the biggest meet of the OUA season.

“I think no matter what race you are at or where you are competing, it all comes down to your preparation,” Moore said.

“Just because it’s a new event, that doesn’t mean you have to change everything with how you approach the race.”

Although there’s less snow than normal for this time of year in Thunder Bay, the Thunderwolves have been able to take to the trails.

That hasn’t been the case for every program, especially for those in southern Ontario.

“I think it’s been a tough year for everybody with the lack of snow,” Harris said.

“We’re trying to do whatever we can at McMaster. We’re roller skiing when we have time, we’re in the gym and we’re travelling to find snow to ski on.”

The toughest challenge for the skiers is expected to come at the end of their races as they navigate the big hills at Lappe.

“Those are some tough climbs when you are already very tired from pushing hard the entire time,” Marshall said.

The OUA championships begin at 9 a.m. Saturday with the 7.5-kilometre classic event, with the relay competition slated for 2 p.m.

The 15 km mass start freestyle race gets underway at 8:30 a.m. Sunday.

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