Muskie success staggering

It’s been so long since I’ve written a column, I had to go back and find the last one to make sure I didn’t repeat myself.
OK, my memory isn’t that bad (yet). But while I spend this week on holidays, I figured it was a good time to put forth some thoughts about sports life here in Rainy River District.
•Muskie season
Attending the Muskie athletic awards banquet two weeks ago, I’m surprised I didn’t get whiplash from the number of times I shook my head in amazement at what I’ll wholeheartedly venture may be the most successful year in Muskie history.
A bold statement, to be sure. But just look at the staggering list of accomplishments from those who proudly represented the black-and-gold this past season.
NorWOSSA championships have become almost the norm for Muskie individuals or teams in the last two years, and there was no shortage of those in 2014-15.
But what stands out even more was the number of athletes and teams who raised their game at the next levels and still came away victorious.
NWOSSAA champions in girls’ and boys’ volleyball, as well as track-and-field, showed Muskie athletes could hold their own at the regional level.
And if that’s not enough, how about the outstanding achievements at various OFSAA championships, where Fort High athletes and teams went head-to-head with the best this province has to offer and but excelled?
Sekina Scheibler in the Midget boys’ discus became just the third individual in Muskie history to capture gold.
The Muskie girls’ hockey team won the program’s first medal at the all-Ontarios (silver) in what sadly was the last hurrah for head coach Scott Clendenning as a heart attack took his life just four days later.
The Muskie boys’ soccer team won two games at the same OFSAA for the first time ever. And with two one-goal losses, they easily could have been a playoff team.
The Muskie senior girls’ volleyball team won just one match at the all-Ontarios, but did so against the only undefeated team in its pool.
Aaron Bujold, meanwhile, ignored the fact he was just in Grade 9 and went out and beat two older, more experienced opponents in senior boys’ singles badminton at OFSAA.
It will be very interesting to see whether next year brings a continuation of this high level of success or if, as is often the case in high school sports, the cyclical effect of losing many top athletes to graduation (or for other reasons) serves to close the championship window.
No matter what the future holds, though, this past year certainly was one that should be celebrated by this community for a long time to come.
•Best wishes to those trying to get a multi-use facility, complete with tennis courts, built along the fenceline bordering St. Francis School and Fort High.
With almost eight decades of history in the community, tennis is a recreational activity that has multiple benefits for those who participate and is one of those games which can be played by a very wide range of ages.
If the funding can be raised to construct the facility, tennis just might be the next sport that lends itself to Muskie greatness down the road.
With motivated and determined people like Bob Tkachuk and John Bagacki at the forefront of the project’s organizing committee, it’s a pretty good bet people will be making a racket with their rackets before too long.
Kudos to the Emo Walleye Classic organizing committee for another excellently-run tournament, and also for having the fortitude to not only evolve but also shift the responsibility of having a successful event at least somewhat onto the shoulders of local anglers.
Having the lowest number of teams in its 14-year history this year (just 29) inspired the committee to look for ways to improve the event to attract more competitors, rather than simply burying their heads in the sand and continuing a prolonged march to, without change, what will be the EWC’s eventual termination.
The consideration of three different launch sites for next year’s event in Fort Frances, Emo, and Rainy River certainly opens the door to anglers from within that broad geographic area.
And setting a Jan. 31 deadline to have a registered field of at least 30 teams, or risk having the tournament called off in 2016, also is a bold move—but an understandable one.
The volunteers who put in countless hours to pull off the EWC deserve to know if, by that point, they have enough support for their efforts or if it’s all just wasted energy.
Early indications are both moves are striking a positive chord with anglers.
Here’s hoping EWC chairman Lincoln Dunn and his tireless crew of directors and helpers see their perseverance pay off with a significant upswing in angler participation next year.