The Yukon is celebrating four athletes who have signed on to continue pursuing their sports at the university or college level.
Three Yukon swimmers enrolled to British Columbia universities and one biathlete traded in his skis for shoes after making a cross-country running roster.
Swimmers Thomas Bakica and Alex Petriw are on Simon Fraser University’s swim team and Mia Barrault is at the University of British Columbia.
Isidore Champagne is in Ontario at Loyalist College with a spot on its cross-country team.
“These athletes have dedicated countless hours to their sports to achieve this level of success,” said Tracey Bilsky, Sport Yukon executive director.
“Making a varsity team isn’t easy and Sport Yukon is proud to celebrate all the rookie athletes.”
Bakica is studying environmental sciences as he works to learn the ropes of varsity athletics at SFU. He recognizes it will be a packed schedule for him but thinks he can rise to the occasion.
“I’m looking to improve, and learn about how the varsity season and competitions work,” Bakica said.
“I’m looking to improve as a person and an athlete. The team has been really good at that. They are always encouraging and pushing each other hard.”
Petriw says he and Bakica are among a strong group of recruits SFU have brought to their team this year. He will be studying engineering sciences.
“I think strong leadership and new ideas are something I can bring to the team as a freshman,” said Petriw. “Adding depth to the team is a big part of swimming at the varsity level,” he said.
Opportunities for competition will be rich for Bakica and Petriw as SFU is the only Canadian university that is a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) which also organizes sports for many major universities in the United States.
Barrault, bound for UBC, says she fell in love with Vancouver on a recruiting trip to the city in 2019. She will study kinesiology along with joining the swim team, on which she thinks she will make a positive impact especially swimming breaststroke.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” Barrault said.
“It’s about how much effort you put in every day. Hard work beats all.”
She said she is eager to learn about being on a team much larger than the one she swam for in the Yukon.
Champagne found that Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario where he wanted to enrol in a photojournalism program did not have a program for his sport of choice, biathlon. Still wanting to compete in a sport, he made his way onto the school’s cross-country running team.
“Cross-country skiing and running aren’t that different,” he said. “You need general good fitness and it’s kind of a similar race format.”
He said he has received help from veteran teammates in adjusting to the parts of the sport that are different.
Champagne plans to get back on the snow when he is back home for the holidays.
2022 was a slower year for varsity recruiting out of the Yukon. According to Sport Yukon, 15 Yukon athletes joined varsity programs in 2021, and 10 athletes from the territory were selected in 2020.
Contact Jim Elliot at email@example.com