Young Manitoulin athletes fare well at Ontario Summer Games

Mya Balfe, front row, right, and her team the Daredevils won the overall beach competition day and were silver medalists in a two-day indoor tournament in the U14 division at the recent Ontario Summer Games.

MINDEMOYA—Manitoulin golfer Noah Thorpe and beach volleyballer Mya Balfe had amazing experiences recently with both competing at the Ontario Summer Games in Mississauga, July 21-24.

Noah, who is 14, received an invitation from Andre Lemieux to compete in the Northeastern Junior Golf Tour (NEJGT) this season. It is a regional not-for-profit golf tour available to junior golfers aged 10-19 (U19). Noah’s results from last year’s tournaments, which included three wins and one second place finish and two wins on the NEJGT, allowed him the opportunity to attend the Ontario Summer Games.

Noah arrived at the BraeBen golf course on July 21, where he took part in registration and an 18-hole practice round. “The very hilly, actually mountainous, course made for an interesting round with wind gusts of 60 kilometres per hour,” wrote Cheryl Seabrook, Noah’s grandmother.

From the practice round, the golf team from the North were taken by bus to their hotel and then to the opening ceremony for the games. The players were looked after, fed and bused back and forth to the course daily, she pointed out.

The tournament included 18 holes of golf each of the three days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday. “The heat was brutal (with heat warnings on two days) and then a dump of rain on Sunday,” said Ms. Seabrook. “Noah did well, finishing with scores of 83/83/86, competing against boys U19.”

It was an amazing experience for the young golfer, and a real challenge for his fans (his mother Sarah Seabrook and grandmother Cheryl Seabrook both managed to walk the course all four days).

For the rest of the summer, Noah plans to play in tournaments taking place in Parry Sound and Elliot Lake.

Mya Balfe had a memorable experience learning, training and participating in the Team Ontario Regional Program for volleyball. Players were selected through an online video application process which had them demonstrate their sport-specific skills, athletic movements, and included player statistics such as height and vertical jump.

A total of 96 players were selected from the U14 division to train and learn together at the University of Guelph for five days. Coaches were also selected as representatives from all regions across Ontario. Daily training components included classroom sessions, beach volleyball sessions and indoor court practice. Throughout the week Mya had a chance to meet new friends, learn from new coaches, play with new teammates and develop volleyball specific skills, explained her mother, Tina.

As Mya had never played beach volleyball, there was a huge learning curve and after a few practices she began to enjoy it, although she did have a few complaints about the heat last week on the beach courts and in the university dorms, explained Tina.

After the week at Guelph, the players were bused to Mississauga to participate in the three-day tournament at the Ontario Summer Games. This is an event held every two years and includes many different sports for youth to qualify and participate in.

The eight teams were pre-selected before the week began, to mix athletes from different regions and to try to make teams of equal ability in order to have evenly matched teams in the games, said Tina. The athletes competed in one day of beach volleyball competition and two days of indoor competition.

“Mya’s team, “Daredevils” won the overall beach competition day and were silver medalists in the two-day indoor tournament,” said Tina. “Mya was fortunate to have coaches Dan Bainard from Toronto’s Leaside Volleyball Club and Cassidy Nicholson-Clark from Durham College (alumni and assistant coach) to lead her team for the week.”

“It was a fantastic opportunity for Mya and is something other youth on Manitoulin should consider applying to in future years,” said Tina. “In COVID times, there are now many more opportunities that allow for online tryouts and video applications which allows for remote community athletes to try out for a team without having to travel.