North vs. South: the sage lives on

Every now and then, I delve into my files and pull out something I call the “other notes.” These are things I ask my sources that don’t necessarily pertain to the subject at hand, but still ask in hopes of stumbling upon another angle—or perhaps another story entirely.
I never do anything underhanded or unethical. Well, except for that one time I was bending my questions in an attempt to get bass angler Al Lindner to guarantee a win prior to this year’s Fort Frances Canadian Bass Champ-ionship. Or at least bad mouth the competition and start some trouble—to no avail.
So as I took notes from my interview with Cliff Barry, Swim Ontario provincial coach and technical director, on what he thought about his seminar for members of Fort Frances and Kenora swim clubs earlier this month, I couldn’t help but bring up the magic debate for my “other notes”—Northern Ontario versus southern Ontario (the crowd moans)
Is it a case of the “haves” versus the “have-nots”—or just another example of communication problems within the province.
This debate is nothing new. I think the sparsely-populated north always has taken a backseat to southern Ontario in many aspects of life—the least of all being sports. For example, go to the front section of our issues this summer where the hot button topic was, and continues to be, travel costs of medical treatment for those residents in isolated areas.
Aquanaut president John Dutton said swim clubs in southern Ontario have up to 300 members and can compete at meets on a weekly basis. By contrast, the Aquanauts have 84 members and will compete in 10 meets over the next six months.
The average registration fee is $85 for clubs across Ontario. You do the math to see who’s getting more money.
It’s a position which Barry said hurts these clubs’ skill development.
“I think [swimmers from North-ern Ontario] suffer from [living far from southern Ontario],” said Barry. “They’re isolated and because they don’t swim against a lot of competition, it shows in their overall development.
“It’s too bad because I saw a lot of talent out there.”
To say “woe is us” and take the “us against them” mentality would be wrong. After all, we have to realize things in politics in the province start and end in southern Ontario. There are just more people (read votes) down there.
And that’s fine. But my question is: how do the smaller clubs get over that? For Dutton, coaching and generating interest among the beginners is key.
“We have some great coaches in the region. Having great coaching is the great equalizer,” he remarked. “There’s lots of opportunity to excel coming out of a small town. Aside from our club,there are a lot of kids who are pretty good swimmers and can be potential members.”
The Aquanauts and fellow clubs from small towns across Canada are going to continue working their hardest for those 10 meets. And as adults squabble over the politics of sports, and the debate over regionalism, their focus is to work on their strokes and to steadily improve on their personal bests times.
Some may have Olympic dre-ams dancing in their head. Some may just wonder what’s for supper that night.
For someone like myself who’s trained to look at the cynical side of things, it’s easy to lose sight of that.
So as they and other clubs begin their swim season, all I can say is good luck and have fun. While only a very few will take that next step in their swimming careers, it’s important for them to know—whether they finish first or 101st—that their development in the pool is not only contributing to the team but, most importantly, to themselves.
• • •
District runners competed in the annual Legion Mid-Canada Elementary Schools Cross-Cou-ntry meet at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay last Saturday.
Rachel Hettinga and Katie McTavish of Crossroads School in Devlin finished sixth and 10th, respectively, in the girls’ two-mile race. The Crossroads girls’ team finished seventh overall.
Meanwhile, the Sturgeon Creek boys’ team finished ninth overall.
About 630 runners overall competed in the day-long event.
• • •
The Sunset Country Ford Mustangs ‘AA’ Atom hockey team is gearing up for a pair of exhibition games here this weekend here—facing Kenora on Saturday and then Dryden on Sunday at 11 a.m.
So far the Mustangs are 1-0 in exhibition play, having beaten Dryden 8-2 back on Oct. 13. Jordan Davis led the way with three goals while Dayton Brown added two. Kyle Turgeon, Zack McCool, and Andrew Maki also scored.
The Atoms also are gearing up for playing in the local PeeWee house league this season.
• • •
There have been some delays in resurrecting the Emo curling rink this winter. Recreation council chairman Doug Hodge said they are waiting on the arrival of government grants.
The earliest the club will be ready will be sometime after Christmas—six weeks later than their planned November opening.

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