I was first introduced to squash when I was even years old. Both my parents played recreationally at a high level and I would spend many hours outside the squash court watching them play. I started taking lessons 3-4 times a week and really enjoyed the game. When I was 12 years old, I started playing in all the junior tournaments in North American and was involved in local adult leagues and tournaments.
I’ll never forget the look I received when an adult male found out he was playing a 12 year old girl in a competitive match!
My first national competition was the Under 13 Canadian Nationals in Calgary. My mom put a special “good luck” charm along with a sweet note in my bag. It was a squishy pink pig and I didn’t find it until I opened my bag. I’ll never forget how happy that made me!
The Canadian Nationals was a special tournament because I got to fly with my dad for the first time to a place outside of Ontario and play in a national team event against girls my age. Up to this point I had never been pushed by anyone my age and I came up against a girl from Victoria BC in the final who was equally as strong. There were so many spectators for the finals, including my dad and Ruth Ann McBride and it was the longest match I had ever played. In the end I managed to win my first national title.
Growing up in Kitchener, a the age of six Keely decided she wanted to follow in her older brother’s footsteps and play hockey but instead enrolled in ringette and has been playing ever since. When she was 13 there was an opening for a goalie on her high school boys’ hockey team. She set he mind to play on the hockey team and succeeded, becoming the first girl in central western Ontario to be allowed on a boys’ hockey team. She continued playing women’s hockey on the varsity team at the University of Toronto. While there she began playing inline hockey with friends and now plays in tournaments all over the world. She has meet people from Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Argentina, Namibia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Japan, China and many other locations around the world.
The highlights of her career to date are impressive but some moments that stand out include: the World Ringette Championship in 2002 when the Canadian team beat Finland in the finals in front of a home crowd; when in her first Ringette Nationals IN BC, her team was outshot 42-9 but won 3-2; and in 2005 on the Roller Hockey World Championships, when Canada defeated the United States 1-0 for the gold (where Keely didn’t allow a single goal in the entire tournament).
Off the ice, Keely is a full time lawyer and currently holds a job as the General Counsel and Director of Administration for the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Oil Kings (in the Western Hockey League) and the Edmonton Capitals (in the Golden Baseball League). She has an Honours BSc from the University of Toronto in Psychology and Criminology and a law degree from Osgoode Law School.
For me it all started when I was living in Moncton, NB and my parents came home with a punching bag and two sets of boxing gloves that they had bought in hopes that my brothers would stop fighting each other and start hitting the bag instead. But I happened to be the one who was drawn to it. I remember whenever I had nothing else to do, I would go downstairs and hit the bag just for fun. I always liked something about it even though I had not idea if there was a right or wrong way to hit the bag. This lasted a little while until my family and I moved to Kitchener.
Not long after moving my brother joined the Waterloo Regional Boxing Academy downtown. I remember he would always come home all excited about the new things he learned at the gym. I was so jealous, I would always ask him to take me with him but he didn’t want his little sister to go to the gym with him.
So I waited until one day when he started working full time and was too busy to go to the gym and I decided to give it a try. After about eight months of training I became more comfortable with the sport and I let some other boxers and trainers convince me that I should compete. I registered for a small tournament held in Brampton in 2005, I had no idea what I was about to get myself into… from the time I got up in the morning I was nervous. When I got to the venue that afternoon it seemed like there was so much tension between boxers. Never being involved in any sport community I was not used to this at all. One of my first memories of competing was when I was getting ready for this fight I was thinking, “This is crazy, I’m actually going to be able go in there and beat somebody up and this is legal.”
Heap is the little guy who piles on the yardage.
WATERLOO – Saturday afternoon’s shootout at University Stadium will unleash two of the nation’s best quarterbacks and two of the country’s finest receivers on the same turf. But the game-breaker who gave McMaster head coach Stefan Ptaszek the most sleepless nights this week is a skinny-as-a-twig Dillon Heap.
The owner of eight school records at Laurier, a conference record and a national record , Heap is a one of only three Canadian university punt returners in history to crack the 2,000 career yards barrier. Unassuming in physique and demeanor, Heap has so far been overlooked by CFL scouts who are quick to dismiss his below-average testing numbers. Folks around the Ontario University Athletics conference know better. “Dillon Heap is one of the best returners I’ve ever seen,” said Ptaszek, a former Hawk great and ex-CFL receiver/returner himself.
What makes the American born Heap so special? If you ask Ptaszek, his former offensive co-ordinator at Laurier, be prepared for a breathlessly long answer. “Dillon isn’t the biggest, the fastest or the strongest. But he is one of the most athletic kids you are ever going to see,” Ptaszek said. ”His body control and ability to change direction is second to none. I haven’t seen it before. The fact is he is absolutely scary in space. Any game plan against the Golden Hawks, you got to try to manage his touches. We have got to kick the ball away from him. We’ve got to kick the ball out of bounds. We’ve got to practise things we don’t practice because he is just so unique.”
“(Heap) catches everything,” Ptaszek continued. “He is tough as nails and accelerates into contact. The fact is he gets skinny and almost disappears. How he gets through some of the hits, I don’t know but no one ever seems to get a shot on him.” Ptaszek added.
Heap, who might play his final game at University Stadium on Saturday depending on Laurier’s playoff draw, is humbled by Ptaszek’s kind words. “My size and speed work against me,” said Heap whose family relocated to Waterloo from Provo, Utah when he was 11. “I’m 175 (pounds) on a good day and I don’t have a fifth gear. I don’t have ‘Shamawd’ speed. I realize I may not have the measurables (scouts are looking for) but in the field, I hope I’ve show I can make the plays.”
Heap, a valedictorian and a three-sport standout at Waterloo Collegiate is a top student at Laurier who posted a flashy 10.2 grade point average (out of 12) in his business administration studies last year. In 2010, he was named one of this country’s top eight academic All-Canadians and the only Canadian-based player named to ESPN’s Academic All-America football team.
If that’s not enough, he’s a Sunday school teacher and missed the 2006 and 2007 seasons at Laurier because he was on a church mission in Chile. Hawks head coach Gary Jeffries said Heap is everything his resume says – and more. Heap is “truly a character young man” (That is) something else the CFL should take into consideration when identifying prospects. “The biggest compliment I can give Dillon is I can use his name in the same breath as Stefan Ptaszek. The two of them are the best we’ve ever had.”
(Christine Rivet, The Record)
Jake Jagas’ wrestling season was thought to be over. The Kitchener resident and University of Guelph student suffered a complete dislocation of the right elbow less than five months ago and a rapid return to the mat seemed unlikely.
To everyone but Jagas that is.
The determined Matmen Wrestling Club member continued his remarkable comeback recently by winning the 74-kilogram junior division at the Canadian Wrestling championships in Edmonton. Jagas defeated Jasmit Phulka of British Columbia for the gold medal, not conceding a single point during the entire competition. “I wrestled well, but I went in expecting to win, so it wasn’t a big surprise or anything for me,” said the 19-year old Jagas.
“I knew I could make it back in time. I just wasn’t sure whether I’d be ready.”
Competing in Edmonton was the last thing on Jagas’ mind when he suffered the ugly elbow injury on Nov. 5 while competing in a tournament in British Columbia. The freak mishap occurred with just five seconds remaining in match he was winning by a large margin. At the time, all that he could think of was the agonizing pain he felt. “I heard a snap and let out a large yell. It hurt more than anything I had ever experienced,” he recalled.
With perseverance and therapy, Jagas was ready for his first tournament in late January and he captured gold at the junior provincials in Hamilton. He went on to defend his Ontario University Athletics title in early February and helped lead the Gryphons to their first Ontario Universities Athletics team title since 1983.
Jagas is a graduate of Sty. David Catholic Secondary School in Waterloo and the son of Ivan Jagas, a Kitchener doctor and Matmen coach. His younger brothers Sam and Matt are both outstanding wrestlers at St. David’s and both won medals at the recent Ontario high school championship in Sudbury.
Jagas, who is currently majoring in physics at Guelph, earned a trip to Europe with his Edmonton victory. He will represent Canada at the world junior championship that will take place in Bucharest, Romania.
(Mark Bryson, Record Staff)
I was asked recently who most influenced by sport career and my answer was quick and obvious – my Dad.
I was introduced to the sport through my Dad and brother. When I was four years old I would go to my brother’s games and sit on the side lines wanting to kick the ball. I wanted to do everything my big brother did. My Dad coached my brother and thought maybe I should get into soccer as well. So when I was four I began playing on a boy’s team wit my cousins, coached by my Dad and Uncle. The game was loved and played by my whole family so it was only natural that I participate as well.
My Dad formally coached me until the age of 18, and he gave me such a solid foundation not only in playing but also in treating players fairly, being respectful of coaches and referees and understanding my role in a team environment. But most of all, he made the game so much fun. As a kid growing up he made sure I was always playing soccer because I wanted to and because I loved it. He never pressured me into playing but once I said “Yes Dad, I want this!” he would do everything in his power to make me the best I could be. And because we were both doing something we love we would have so much fun doing it. Now, although my Dad is no longer my coach he still “sideline” coaches me wherever I am in the world.
And yes, I am still having lots of fun.
I often get asked, “What year were you drafted?” It’s a bit of a soft spot for me. While I did sign as a free agent in 2005, it still stings that I wasn’t drafted in 2004. Passed over by all eight CFL teams, I heard it all – too small, too weak, too slow. I was having success at Wilfrid Laurier University at the time; I was selected as an OUA All-Star and First Team Canadian All-Star. Still, not one team was interested.
After much debate, I decided to come back to Laurier for one more season, I’m very fortunate I did because the next season changed my life. In 2005, we won the National Championship and it gave me the opportunity to prove I could play at the next level. After watching the Vanier Cup, the Blue Bombers gave me a chance, signing me as a free agent. I went from unknown, undrafted in 2006, to CFL All-Star in 2011. I definitely remember how close I was to never playing a football game again, and I’ll always cherish the fact that I never gave up on my dreams.
“When I went to Nebraska, I didn’t realize how visible the volleyball players were throughout the state. A team activity that the Nebraska volleyball team participated in a few times a year was visits to children’s hospitals in Lincoln and the surrounding area. I really didn’t know what to expect on our first visit during my freshman year, but it changed my life forever. To see these young kids, some very, very sick, and to be able to put a smile on their face was one of the most emotional things I have ever experienced. I would leave the hospital with my team-mates and break down for hours at the plight of these children. We visited these hospitals for all of my four years at Nebraska and I was an emotional mess every time I went, but being able to put a smile of one of their faces made it all worth while. We sometimes fail to realize that a small gesture from us could have a positive impact on many people.
“Always believe in the power of your dreams”
For many winters the Rank family was swept up in the whirlwind of the vibrant hockey culture that is small town Elmira. The most recent message on their answer machine is quite telling; “WE have a life now. We’re out and about. We’re no longer at the arena.”
The three Rank kids have pretty much grown up and gone their separate ways now. Although their personalities differ, they share a few distinct similarities. Each loves hockey, excels in whatever the undertaking, and is pursuing a dream. Garrett’s older brother Kyle led the hometown Junior “B” Sugar Kings to the Sutherland Cup in 2001. Younger sister Caelen was a key member with Elmira District Secondary School’s Girls Hockey team. Garrett was a highly regarded winger on the 2008 Kings team, a finalist for the Sutherland Cup.
As the year 2011 approached, Garrett and his siblings were doing great, cheered on and supported by their congenial and enthusiastic parents Richard and Debbie. Garrett was a top student and economics major at the University of Waterloo, was earning lots of games as an OHL official, and had a golf game that was simply taking off. He was getting attention in golfing circles far beyond his home town and the Region of Waterloo. Garrett quietly reflects “I had the world in my hand. I was pursuing m dream.”
But seemingly in a brief moment, he world was turned upside down. Garrett was diagnosed with testicular cancer, something much bigger than hockey or golf. He says “I was caught dead in my tracks”. In January of 2011 he had successful surgery, part of the biggest hurdle he had met in his 23 years. With his family’s support he overcame the hurdle, and his check-ups have been encouraging.
Since then his golf accomplishments have been simply outstanding and he’s been promoted to an OHL referee, while taking courses at the U of W. But he’s looking at his successes and set-backs through quite a different prism, while still pursuing his dream. In the cozy kitchen of the Rank’s Elmira home, Garrett’s first advice to young aspirants is to be ready for a lot of sacrifices. Debbie whispers, “Don’t forget about the hard work and all the parties you’ve missed.”
Richard’s on his way out the door. He has his own game to ref.
Leah Robinson was only 14. That made her the youngest Canadian – able bodied or not – headed to the Olympics in Beijing.
“When I started running, it’s what I wanted,” she said of her Paralympics aspirations. ’Then when I got involved wirh the para-athletics side of it, it became even more real. That’s when I set my goal on London in 2012 because I would be 18-years-old. But I had the dream of Beijing secretly in the back of my head.”
It’s a good thing that she did. Because her speedy times on the track made her a natural selection for the “Rising Stars” category reserved for a select few athletes whose futures are bright.
Robinson, who lives in Mannheim, competes in the T37 category for athletes with cerebral palsy. The disability affects the muscles on the right side of her body, mostly in her leg. As a result, she walks with a limp. But it’s barely noticeable, if at all, when she runs the 100-metre and 200-metre dash.
The Rockway Mennonite Collegiate student started running long distances as a child but has since moved on to sprinting with great success. She won both her events at the recent Paralympics trials in Windsor, and holds three national records in the 400, 800 and 1,500M.
“She’s a fierce competitor,” said Canadian Paralympics Coach Dave Greig. “Now that the mental side has caught up with her natural graces, look out.”
Robinson says the Paralympics have changed her life for the better. She’s made countless friends, traveled to several cities and is getting closer to the Canadian record in the 100 and 200 metre sprints.
“I’m really happy because there is an organization like this,” she said. “It just lets people like me do stuff that people don’t always think is possible., That’s a really good thing because we can do stuff and we can overcome a disability.”
Brienne Stairs father Blake was heartbroken when his daughter gave up hockey, a sport she‘d played since she was in kindergarten. But any disappointment he felt has probably long since faded away. An Olympic run will do that to a parent
Stairs was in New Delhi, India recently, trying to help a team of young Canadian women win their last shot at the Summer Olympics in London. And she’s still playing hockey – but field hockey, the more ancient, outdoor version of the on-ice sport that has been played since the Middle Ages. Her parents, Blake and Julie Stairs, say they weren’t sure at first what to make of their daughter’s switch in high school away from ice hockey, a sport she excelled at. Field hockey was an obscure sport, with few followers in Canada and strange rules. “We didn’t even like it,” Julie admits. Her dad, a hockey and baseball coach, was puzzled by the appeal of his daughter’s new sport with its oversized field and short, rounded stick. “At first I thought, what is this funny little stick you play with?”, he said.
But neither parent could ignore what Stairs could do wit that little wooden stick. Playing forward for the Forest Height Trojans, she dominated score cards and lit up the high school field hockey circuit. She applied her natural athleticism that had served her in basketball, baseball, tennis badminton, hockey and swimming, and quickly became one of the province’s stand-out field hockey players.
After graduating from high school, Stairs went to the University of Guelph, where she kept scoring at a torrid pace, and was twice named field hockey player of the year by Canadian Interuniversity Sport. The big Stairs family, including he five siblings, realized she’d found her calling, “That’s sort of been her pattern. She’s always done well at every level,” Blake said. ”She can just score. That’s what she does.”
After getting her degree in biomedical sciences, Stairs was recruited by the national team. They knew she could rack up points, but it was her standout role at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara last fall that was the rookie’s real coming out party. Stairs notched six goals for Team Canada in her first international tournament. Not bad for a converted hockey player who plays the game in what purists dismiss as an unorthodox style. “I’ve been told many times that I don’t play field hockey properly,” she said. “I’m told I even hold the stick wrong. But it’s something other teams haven’t seen before, so maybe it give us an advantage.”
Stairs holds onto the ball longer that most players and charges at goalies, often relying on shorter wrist shots, rather than making hard shots from further out, her coach said. It’s a close-to-the-net style of play learned from ice hockey – which is foreign to many countries and works well when there re fewer defenders crowding the net, he said. That ice hockey background also gives Stairs team a grittier tougher key player, one who isn’t afraid to be physical and block shots, the coach said.
And she’s learning that she can’t win on skill alone, adapting to the more technical, fast-paced international game.
(Greg Mercer, The Record)
Bob McKillop, “The Major”, has dedicated his life to sport, community and the pursuit of excellence. His resume of achievement, involvement and commitment to sport is extensive, impressive and remarkable. Born in Toronto ON, Bob began his professional baseball career playing in the Chicago White Sox organization from 1960 – 1965. Following graduation from the University of Waterloo, he continued his athletic pursuits playing for and managing the Kitchener Panthers Baseball Team until 1977.
Bob’s awards include the U of W Athlete of the year (1968); four-time MVP of the Senior Inter-County Baseball League; OUAA Coach of the Year (1974); inductee into both the Waterloo County (Region) and University of Waterloo sports halls of fame.
Bob’s outstanding leadership, excellence and influence on the field continued off the field through his professional and volunteer endeavours. He has dedicated immeasurable time and energy as coach, executive, manager, chair and volunteer to numerous associations, teams and events including Panthers Baseball, Baseball Canada, Professional Baseball Players of America, Kitchener Minor Hockey, Waterloo Chipper Sports Club and the 2008 MasterCard Memorial Cup.
Sports for Special Athletes is a Waterloo region community-based sport and recreation organization which is opening new doors of integrated opportunities for people of all ages with special needs. SSA promotes participation in community fitness, leisure and recreational activities through training with qualified instructors.
The organization began in 2001 introducing three sports – bowling, 10 pin bowling and speed skating. Today, athletes ranging in age from 5 to 70 participate in multiple sporting venues and are living and experiencing the organization’s motto “We recognize the Ability not the Disability”.
Twin City Spinners Wheelchair Basketball Team was formed in 1976 and joined the Southern Ontario Wheelchair Basketball League in 1977, and the National Wheelchair Basketball Association in 1980, competing throughout Canada and the USA. Through hard work and determination, team members improved their ranking from top 25 in the 1990s to National League Division 2 Champions in 2009.
The program has produced Canadian National and Olympic Team athletes Bill Bowden, Billy Bridges, John Burns and Katie Harnock.