Local athletes home for the holidays

There’s no place like home for the holidays.
It’s not only a song, but a sentiment shared by four former Fort Frances athletes who have spent the past four months separated from family and friends at their far-flung university locations.
“As important as it is to go away, it’s important to come home, as well,” reflected Sarah Noonan, who’s making her way through her freshman year at the University of Minnesota-Duluth while carving a niche on the Bulldogs women’s soccer team.
“It’s always great to come back to see your parents and compare university stories with your friends,” she added. “You can’t beat having Christmas at home. You have to come home for Christmas.”
The time among loved ones is flying by for James Algie, who arrived home for the festive season two weeks ago after spending the fall at Ryerson University, with his freshman stint on the men’s soccer team taking up part of his time there.
“It seems like it’s been only a week,” said Algie. “I’ll be sorry when I have to leave again.”
For Christin Thomson, who starred this past fall as a freshman for the St. John’s Red Storm women’s golf team based out of Long Island, N.Y., the urge to come home was somewhat sidetracked by her busy schedule.
“It was easier at first, because I was constantly doing something, be it getting organized with my classes or golfing,” recalled Thomson. “But on American Thanksgiving, my mom and sister came to visit. When they left, I wanted to go home, too.
“But on the other hand, you learn more about yourself as a person when you’re on your own, and you don’t have people to rely on [close by] to do things for you,” she reasoned.
Jeff Plumridge, who’s making waves as a sophomore with the University of Guelph Gryphons swim team, said the desire to be back in familiar surroundings is strongest when the semester is dwindling down.
“There’s something that’s really in the back of your head, especially at exam time, when you can’t stop thinking, “When I’m done these tests, I can go home,’” said Plumridge.
Special Christmases of the past for the sporting quartet vary from younger childhood days, like Noonan’s family trip to Florida for the holidays, to just last year for Plumridge.
“I could hardly contain myself, just because I was getting to come home,” he recalled. “To know that I’d be back in Fort Frances finally, that was one of the happiest moments of my life.”
But Plumridge won’t be home for long. He’s leaving early on Boxing Day to return to Guelph to get ready for a two-week swimming excursion to Costa Rica early Friday morning with the rest of the Gryphons team.
While some had trouble pinning down a favourite gift from the past, Noonan’s eyes lit up like Christmas trees when remembering a present-opening experience nine years ago.
“I got this really cool Spirograph machine that you could make cool art on,” she recounted. “It’s pretty great when you’re a kid when you find out the biggest gift under the tree is yours.
“I think I made 30 pictures on that thing the first day. You could do the coolest designs. My sister was so jealous,” Noonan chuckled.