Winnipeg SportsLife January/February 2018

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sportslife 2018 | Volume 5 | Issue 1

Winnipeg Edition

Winnipeg’s place to play The Sports Story of the Year: Carter Comeau Football Star

Manitoba’s Brigette Lacquette leads three Manitobans onto Canada’s Olympic women’s hockey team Winnipeg’s Akira Wojciechowski is a World Champion

Kieran Benson Named WHSFL Player of the Year Jennifer BaragarPetrash Finishes Second at National Junior Cross-Country Championships Meet Manitoba’s Pee Wee Lacrosse National Champions Olympic Women’s Hockey Page 15

Contents 4 / sportslife

12 Athletes/cross-country Jennie Baragar-Petrash

06 the starting line-up

Hottest News Stories

22 whsFL Football

in Manitoba Sports


10 manitoba lacrosse

Pee Wees Win B-Side Gold Twice in a Row

12 Athletics/cross-country

Jennie Baragar-Petrash

15 olympic hockey

MB Women Off to PyeongChang

18 ringette

Brandon Ringette Association Plays in WRL

20 wkc world championships

Akira Wojciechowski Brings Home Gold

Kieran Benson – Player of the Year

Carter Comeau

26 atoms football

Tavin Parani

28 University Men’s volleyball

U of M in the Canada West Playoff Hunt Photo Feature

29 university women’s basketball

U of W Off to Solid Start Photo Feature

30 junior hockey

MJHL Showcase Photo Feature

31 community billboard

Support Your Local Community

SportsLife is Manitoba’s amateur sports magazine. This is where sports fans will meet the Olympians of tomorrow and the medalists of today and they all compete right here in Manitoba. We exist to pay tribute to those who make sport so important to this province. Published by SportsLife Publications, it is edited by Scott Taylor and is designed and developed by Scott Taylor, Debbie Dunmall and OV Suvajac. SportsLife Magazine is printed by Quantum Graphics. Any opinions expressed belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily express the views of the magazine, or of the publishers. All published work is edited for accuracy, style, and clarity. We do accept unsolicited material as long as it refers to athletes, coaches, or volunteers involved in sport in Manitoba. For all information and advertising rates, we can be reached at 204-996-4146 or 204-296-GOAL (4625). PUBLISHER OV Suvajac #202B - 2621 Portage Avenue Winnipeg, Manitoba R3J 0P7 204-996-4146 EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Scott Taylor ART DIRECTOR Debbie Dunmall ADVERTISING Doug Touchette | doug@SportsLife.Life Angel Balichowski | COVER PHOTO Rusty Barton CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Jeff Miller, Tara Miller, James Carey Lauder, Rusty Barton, Laurie Anderson, Kelly Morton, Louisiana Tech University, University of Arizona, Skate Canada Manitoba, Mavis DeLaRonde,, Canadian Centre for Sport Manitoba, Jason Cyncora, Mike Lukyn, Ken Reid/Greystoke Photography, University of Calgary, Natasha Funk CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Scott Taylor, Fiona Rettie, Brandon Ringette

The Winter Olympics are Almost Upon Us Best of the season to everyone and all of us here at SportsLife hope you had a wonderful holiday. Now back to sports. Yes, I’m being a little facetious, but we really don’t have much time. The 2018 Winter Olympics are almost upon us and here at SportsLife, we’re set to go. The Canadian Centre for Sport Manitoba has partnered with us to bring the best stories of the best athletes Manitoba has to offer the world and three of them – Bailey Bram, Brigette Lacquette and Jocelyne Larocque will play for Team Canada in the women’s hockey tournament in PyeongChang. There will be more. Although we won’t have any curlers in Korea, we will have a male hockey player or two and we can hardly wait for that announcement. As well, Heather McLean is a member of Canada’s long track speed skating team and will, hopefully, compete in PyeongChang. The Olympics will take place from February 9-25, 2018, in PyeongChang, South Korea, about 126 kilometres due east of Seoul. The long track speedskating team will hold their tryouts this week at the Olympic Oval in Calgary, but here in Winnipeg, we’re obviously cheering for Heather to earn her spot in the 500 and 1,000-metre events. Besides our latest trio of Olympic athletes, we’ll also introduce you to Kieran Benson from Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, the Player of Year in the Winnipeg High School Football League; world champion martial artist Akira Wojciechowski; up and coming football star Tavin Parani and University of Arziona track and cross-country runner Jennie Baragar-Petrash. You’ll also learn about two special teams: baseball’s Winnipeg North Pirates and the provincial Pee Wee lacrosse team, both teams were champions in 2017. So sit back, relax and enjoy another edition of SportsLife Magazine. It’s an Olympic year and we’re all over it.

– SCOTT TAYLOR Editor-in-Chief SportsLife is published at least six times a year by SportsLife Publications. All sales are managed by SportsLife Publications. All design and layout is provided by Debbie Dunmall and SportsLife is printed by Quantum Graphics. sportslife / 5



Compiled by Scott Taylor, Photos by Jeff Miller, Tara Miller, Kelly Morton and James Carey Lauder


The Provincial Champion Winnipeg North Pirates

SportsLife Magazine brings you the hottest news stories in Manitoba sports. Once again, we’ll catch up with a number of the star athletes who were sensational in 2017 and are expected to continue along that bright pathway in 2018.


For the first time in the history of the Winnipeg North Pirates AAA Baseball Club this past summer, the U-13 Pee Wee boys team won the City Championship and a week later won the Provincials. “We were favored to win the Cities and we accomplished that goal,” said Eric Contreras, whose son Noah was a pitcher and centrefielder for the team.” But the boys didn’t take it lightly. They practiced hard and had a great work ethic throughout the summer. When provincials came we were ranked No. 3 and we lost to the team in our Pool that we would eventually play for the Provincial championship.” With the cross over, the Pirates played the No. 1-ranked team, South Central in the semis and with a surprising win in that game, it gave the youngsters a load of confidence heading into the Championship Game. “What a thrill for all the boys and parents, grandparents and friends,” said Contreras. “A large portion of this group won the provincials two years ago when they were only 10- and 11-years-old.” The Pirates went on to represent Manitoba at the Western Canadians in Spruce Grove, Alberta, and finished fourth. They did, however, win the team, skills competition and finished the season with a record of 32-12.

SERENA BUCHWALD SIGNS WITH PITT Manitoba diver Serena Buchwald has officially committed to to join the University of Pittsburgh Panthers’ NCAA Division 1 swimming and diving team for the 2018-19 season. The Revolution Diving athlete has been working with provincial diving coach and Canadian Sports Centre Manitoba staff member Dallas Ludwick for many years, and has seen podium success at many provincial and national events throughout her career. Formerly a gymnast, Buchwald has a natural aptitude for diving and earned herself a spot to compete in her first Olympic Trials on the 10-metre platform last year. Buchwald is currently in Grade 12 at Balmoral Hall and a former Canada Games participant.

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The Serena Buchwald announcement at Pitt

RAIZEL GUINTO MAKING NOISE WITH THE LADY TECHSTERS Winnipeg’s Raizel Guinto, a graduate of Sisler Collegiate, is having a tremendous freshman basketball season at Louisiana Tech University. Freshmen don’t usually get a lot of playing time, but the 5-foot-7 guard is averaging 13.4 minutes per game. She’s also averaging 3.2 points per game with 20 assists, eight steals and 17 rebounds. Head coach Brooke Stoehr expects big things from Guinto in Conference USA over the next four years.

Raizel Guinto. Louisiana Tech

AKOT OFF TO IMPRESSIVE START AT ARIZONA Emmanual Akot, No. 24 of the Arizona Wildcats

Winnipeg’s Emmanuel Akot, already projected to be a middle-first-round NBA pick in 2019, is a 6-foot-7, 200-pound guard at the University of Arizona and he’s already made an impression with the Wildcats coaching staff. He’s averaging 11.5 minutes per game in his first 11 games as a freshman and has 21 points (1.9 per game) with 15 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and two blocked shots. The former Winnipeg Wolves and Team Manitoba guard is also a member of Canada’s national team program.

FIGURE SKATERS SELECTED FOR MANITOBA GAMES Hartney’s Casey Bertholet, Portage’s Chanel and Ranae Cabak and Elkhorn’s Hailey Bird and Sara Chant have all been named to Skate Canada Manitoba’s 2018 Manitoba Winter Games team. The figure skating competition will take place in phase two (2) of the games March 7-10, 2018, in Thompson Manitoba. In total, 38 skaters were selected to participate in the Games:

2018 Skate Winnipeg Challenge Skaters

Juvenile Men: Emmet Dewar, Kolby Kosheluk, Wyatt James, David Howes, Keith Lau (Skate Winnipeg). Juvenile Women: Cali Boychuk (Skate Winnipeg), Jade Pilat, Hailey Bird (Elkhorn), Sara Chant (Elkhorn), Emma Puhach, Annika Roberts, Amy Sheir, Avery Arnold, Ella Young, Paige Dryden (Virden), Shanna Yaskow (Virden), Dana Hynes, Ranae Cabak (Portage). Pre-Novice Men: Yohnatan Elizarov (Skate Winnipeg). Pre-Novice Women: Olivia Orbanski (Arborg), Annika Duguay, Breken Brezden (Dauphin), Kylie Holmstrom (Brandon), Emily Elder (Skate Winnipeg), Olivia Sawatzky (Morden), Megan Szabo, Ceci Howes (Skate Winnipeg), Paige Kasian, Robyn Ward (Century FSC), Vanessa Navarro (Stony Mountain). Novice Women: Casey Bertholet (Hartney), Marijka Popadynetz, Chanel Cabak (Portage), Emma King (Skate Winnipeg), Charlotte Little (Birtle), Julia Patenaude, Abby Bestland. The 2018 Manitoba Winter Games are a competitive, developmental opportunity for selected sports to advance their Provincial Sport Organization’s long-term athlete and coach development plans.

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REGISTRATION OPEN FOR 2018 MANITOBA MARATHON If you’re ready to run, it’s time to sign up for the 40th Manitoba Marathon. The 2018 Marathon will be run on June 17 this year and registration is open. In fact, it opened on Dec. 1, and you can still sign up for one of the five tiered events: the full Manitoba Marathon, the Half Marathon, my personal favorite, the Relay, the 10-kilometre event or the Super Run. “The Manitoba Marathon’s 40th birthday means 2018 is going to be a really exciting year,” said executive director Rachel Munday. “We will be celebrating the successes of the past 39 years but also looking towards the future and accomplishments still to come. We have a number of exciting special activities planned to celebrate this landmark year.” The Manitoba Marathon

Austin Anderson

WALL JOINS ANDERSON AND NIELSEN AS NEWEST WESMEN The University of Winnipeg Wesmen now have three outstanding volleyball recruits for the 2018-19 Canada West season. Hudson Wall, a 6-foot-2 left side from River East Collegiate has announced his commitment to Larry McKay’s Winnipeg Wesmen men’s volleyball team as part of the 2018 recruiting class. Wall’s decision brings to three, the number committed to the Wesmen 2018 class, joining previous commitments Austin Anderson (Niverville) and Nigel Nielsen (Selkirk). Wall was the No. 2-ranked player in the Winnipeg Sun’s annual coaches poll of the top players in Manitoba, one spot below Nielsen, whose team Wall faced in the 4A provincial championship last month. Meanwhile, Anderson is a 6-foot-1 setter and libero from Niverville Collegiate. Currently the top AA team in the MHSAA varsity boys’ volleyball rankings, Niverville will compete at the 4A level for the provincials this season. Their current 4A ranking is estimated to be somewhere between fourth and sixth.

NKIASI-KUKU SIGNS WITH UNIVERSITY OF WINNIPEG Vincent Massey Collegiate basketball star, Deborah NkiasiKuku, a 6-foot forward who averaged 10 points, five rebounds and three steals per game last season under head coach Stacey Hawash, as agreed to play the 2018-19 season with the University of Winnipeg Wesmen. “Debbie is an athletic dynamic forward,” said Wesmen head coach Tanya McKay. “We are very excited that she is joining our Wesmen Women’s Basketball Team for 2018-19. She has the potential to step in and make an impact immediately next season.” Nkiasi-Kuku is also a member of Manitoba’s provincial women’s team.

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Deborah Nkiasi-Kuku signs with Winnipeg

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Manitoba’s Pee Wees Win National B-Side Lacrosse Title By Scott Taylor, Photos courtesy Mavis DeLaRonde For head coach Len Chabluk, he and his Team Manitoba assistants could not have recruited a better group of young players last summer. Fact is, the 2017 version of Manitoba’s provincial 11-12-year-old provincial lacrosse team was about as good as it gets. Of course, that team has a nice collection of gold medals to prove it. “We had a great group of kids this year and they all bought in,” said Chabluk, a former star hockey player with the MMJHL’s River East Royal Knights. “It was a big commitment for the kids and their families. It’s a financial commitment for one thing, but when we got a few weeks away from the national tournament, we got down to practicing four nights a week with exhibition games thrown in. It was a lot of work for these young players, but they were outstanding right from the start.” It was a tribute to the coaches and the players themselves when they went off to Whitby, Ont., last summer and defended Manitoba’s B-side national gold medal. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially for a small province like Manitoba, so the feat was truly remarkable. “This team won the gold medal for the B-side in 2016, but we only had four players back for 2017 – our captains, Logan Chabluk (who also Team Manitoba MVP and a member of the tournament All-Star team), Zach Tinley, Kai Garriock, (Returning) and our goalie, Manny Moose. Logan wore the C while Zach and Kai each wore the A and they were outstanding. Clearly, they were our leaders and they all

played very well. It’s great to have young guys who provide sound leadership and are excellent players at the same time.” Despite losing to Team Saskatchewan 4-3 in the round-robin portion of the tournament, Team Manitoba faced Saskatchewan again in the B-side semifinal on Aug. 11, and this time Manitoba prevailed 6-5 in a thriller to reach the national final. The next day, Manitoba played a brilliant game against Nova Scotia, another team that beat them in the round robin (4-1), but this Manitoba stepped up and upset Nova Scotia 6-4 to claim its second straight national B-side gold medal. “It’s really quite an accomplishment for a team from a small province like Manitoba to win B-side gold twice in a row,” said assistant coach Wade Garriock. “Manitoba has won four gold medals at the national lacrosse championship, two in the last two years. I really believe that the most important thing for us is recruiting new athletes. We need more young players and hopefully we can get the word out, especially to young hockey players, that lacrosse is great off-season training and can really help you become a better hockey player.” It is important to note that there are club teams in all areas of Winnipeg and the surrounding region and at all age groups. It’s never too early or too late to join a club and get involved. Lacrosse also has a reputation as a rough sport which can often hold parents back from registering their kids. Fact is, the game, when played well, is not rough and kids learn skills that will benefit them in any other sport they may choose. It is also a fact

Team Manitoba with coach Len Chabluk

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Team Manitoba that US Colleges actively recruit Canadian lacrosse players because of the skills these players learn. So if parents dream of their kids playing at a big US college, lacrosse is an avenue that they should definitely look at seriously. And who knows? The next group of young players here in Manitoba might find themselves standing on the podium at a national championship with brand new gold medals around their necks. l Team Manitoba Pee Wee Lacrosse 2017 Canadian B Champions 1. Manny Moose (G) Pine Falls 77. Kaylee Perry (G) Portage la Prairie 2. Samuel VanDerHart Winnipeg 7. Noah Foucault Winnipeg 8. Cole Kennedy Winnipeg 9. Logan Chabluk (C) Winnipeg 10. Liam Ostash Winnipeg 11. Jeremy Beaudry Winnipeg 13. Carter Rodrigue Winnipeg 14. Jonah Chaulk Winnipeg 15. Kobey Edwards Winnipeg 17. Taite Peterson Winnipeg 18. Parker DeLaRonde Winnipeg 19. Zach Tinley (A) Winnipeg 22. Ethan Fontaine Tyndall 71. Kai Garriock (A) Winnipeg 97. Benjamin Scrupa Winnipeg Head Coach: Assistant Coach: Assistant Coach: Assistant Coach: Manager: Manager:

Len Chabluk Wade Garriock Richard Delaronde Mark Kennedy Carla Chabluk Lisa Tinley




Or visit for registration information

For Jennie BaragarPetrash, there is No Limit

By Scott Taylor, Photos courtesy University of Arizona For Winnipeg’s Jennie Baragar-Petrash, running is life. Although she’s also a talented pianist, a great student and was once an accomplished soccer player, 19-year-old Baragar-Petrash is a runner first. The Grant Park High School graduate is now a sophomore star at the University of Arizona. She has just come off a wonderful cross-country season and is now set to embark on her Pac-12 conference indoor track campaign. Based on everything she’s done already this season, the sky’s the limit for the young woman who just finished second at the Canadian Junior Cross-Country Championship in Kingston, Ontario (November 27-28). And what a race that was. On a chilly November afternoon near the lake in Kingston, Baragar-Petrash dedicated her race to her mother and went out and got the job done, winning a silver medal and giving notice to Athletics Canada that she is already one of Canada’s top cross country runners. “I dedicated my second place finish at Canadian Nationals to my mom this year,” Baragar-Petrash said. “She is one of my biggest fans and I miss her while I am away at school. She is a very big supporter of my career so I wanted to run a great race at Nationals as well as dedicate it to my mom for always being there for me.” There is nothing better than being on the podium at a national championship after dedicating your race to your biggest fan, but both of Baragar-Petrash’s parents, Fletcher and Delia, have been a big part of her sporting life. “Yeah, I’ve played soccer all my life, and my dad Fletcher Baragar, was my coach with the Corydon Comets,” she said with a smile. “And he was a really good coach, too.” Baragar-Petrash is not just Canada’s No. 2 junior cross-country runner these

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days, she’s also an accomplished member of the Athletics team at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Born and raised in Winnipeg, she ran track at Grant Park High School for head coach Glenn Bruce and also with head coach Scott Radley at the Winnipeg Optimists Track Club. At 17, she was recognized as one of the top female cross country runners in the country. She finished 11th at the Pan American Cup junior women’s event in Colombia as a 16-year-old in the youth division and helped the Canadian squad capture the gold medal. She then placed 70th at the world championship in China at 17. On the track, she won a silver medal in the 3,000 women’s youth race at the 2014 Athletics Canada National Championships. Not bad for a young woman who didn’t even start training for track and field until Grade 9. Still, thanks to the support of her parents, her brother Matthew and her coaches, Radley and Bruce, she became the the MVP of her cross country and outdoor team all four years at Grant Park and was also the MVP in three of her four years for indoor track. She won the Manitoba distance award three consecutive years (2013-2015) and holds the school record for the 1,500 and 3,000-meter races. She competed for Team Canada’s cross country team in the 2015 Jennie Baragar-Petrash (middle) wins silver Pan-Am Cross Country Cup in at National Cross-Country Championships Colombia. An education student at Arizona, she does want to become a teacher Olympics, but I would love to one day one day, but she still eyes a shot at the qualify in track,” she said during a brief Olympic Games. stay back home in Winnipeg during “There is no cross country in the the holidays. “I’m ranked in the Top

Jennie Baragar-Petrash running second at Nationals

10 in Canada in cross-country, but I’m not ranked in my track events, but I’m working hard to get better.” Despite the fact cross-country is not

an Olympic sport, she loves the thrill of running outdoors through hills, mud and sand. “It gives you a freedom when you’re running,” she said. “The thing I really like about cross country is having those physical challenges on hills or bad weather in the races. I really like that. I feel like it does challenge me, and I’m up for that challenge.” Last year, in her freshman season at Arizona, Baragar-Petrash was an outstanding surprise in cross-country. She finished in the top-five among her teammates in all six events in which she competed. She had two Top-10 finishes – fifth at the Dave Murray Invitational and ninth at the George Kyte Classic. She was 68th at the Pac-12 Championships and in 98th at the NCAA West Regional. That was an impressive collegiate debut. “This year, I had a good cross-country season,” she said. “Last year, I surprised even myself and just took off. I’m starting to see now that my future in the sport is pretty bright. I do want to be a teacher at some point in my life, but right now my goal is to become a professional runner. The thing that really keeps me going is knowing that there will always be faster runners than me. Those are the people who push me, inspire me to be better. I look up to them, too. I have a great respect for the sport and the athletes I compete against.” After the Holiday Season, BaragarPetrash headed back to Tucson for Arizona’s indoor track season where she’ll run the mile, the 3,000-metre and the

Jennie Baragar-Petrash 5,000-metre events. This is, after all, a young woman who averages 50-55 miles of running per week. “I love track,” she said, “but I prefer cross-country. It’s just more interesting and challenging. And because I now train and go to school in Tucson, I have a lot of mountains around me. I’m using them to my advantage. I’m excited about what the New Year has to offer.” l

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Manitoba Women off to PyeongChang 2018 Hockey Tournament Back in late December, Hockey Canada officially pared down the Centralized Roster of the Canadian Women’s Hockey Team to the 23 players who will wear the Maple Leaf in PyeongChang, Korea from Feb, 9-25, 2018. At the end of the televised announcement, three Manitoba women were chosen – Mallard’s Brigette Lacquette, the first First Nation’s

Jocelyne Larocque

woman ever to play on a Canadian Olympic women’s hockey team; Ste. Anne’s Jocelyne Larocque, who was the first Metis woman to play hockey in the Olympics when she made the team and won gold in 2014 in Sochi; and Ste. Anne’s Bailey Bram, the veteran star of a number of Canadian world championship rosters who will

finally get her chance to play in the Olympics. These young women, all from small towns, will fight for Olympic gold in Korea in February. The Canadian Centre for Sport Manitoba presents their stories…

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Manitoba’s Lacquette, Bram and Larocque Headed to the Olympics By Fiona Rettie (Canadian Sport Centre Manitoba) with notes from Scott Taylor, Photos by Rusty Barton and courtesy Jocelyne Larocque from Ste. Anne, Manitoba, became the first Métis player to represent Canada in women’s hockey at the Olympic Games when she made the team in 2014. This year, Brigette Lacquette from Mallard, MB, will become the initial First Nation’s player to make the Olympic team. Larocque and Lacquette, along with longtime Canadian star forward Bailey Bram of Ste. Anne, Manitoba, have all been named to Canada’s Olympic women’s hockey team and will be on the ice when Canada opens the round-robin portion of the Games in PyeongChang, South Korea on February 11 against a team called Olympic athletes from Russia. Canada is expected to face the United States in the Gold Medal game once again with Finland, and Sweden considered contenders. Since being centralized back in May, the Canadian Women’s National Team has competed in several pre-Olympic games and tournaments, most recently a series of six matches against the United States. Four Manitoban women were named to the centralized 28-player roster and had been fighting for their chance to help Canada’s Women’s National Team in their quest for Olympic gold in 2018. All hailing from small towns, Bailey Bram, Brigette Lacquette and Jocelyne Larocque are the first Manitobans to book their tickets to February’s Olympic Games. While named to the team’s centralization roster, 22-year old

defenceman Halli Krzyzaniak of Neepawa, MB, will not be joining Canada’s Olympic team this time around. Defending Olympic Gold Medalist Larocque, along with first-time Olympians Bram and Lacquette, will be joined in PyeongChang by Assistant coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk of Winnipeg as part of the women’s hockey team. Jocelyne Larocque Age: 29 Position: Defense Markham (CWHL) Olympics: Sochi 2014, Gold Medal Hometown: Ste. Anne, Manitoba Jocelyne is a defenseman from Ste. Anne and was the first female player to play in the Winnipeg High School Boys Hockey League, while attending Collége Lorette Collegiate. A graduate of the University of Minnesota-Duluth where she was team captain, Jocelyne has been playing with the Canadian National Team since 2009. Larocque has won six World Championship medals with Canada, as well as an Olympic Gold Medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games.

The Brampton Thunder captain is likely to be one of Canada’s top blue-liners in PyeongChang.

Bailey Bram Age: 27 Position: Forward Calgary Inferno Hometown: Ste. Anne, Manitoba A graduate of Mercyhurst University where she was a star for the Lakers with her younger sister Shelby, Bailey has played for Team Canada at each of the last five Senior World Championships. Showing real dedication to the team and the sports, Bailey was one of the national team’s previous three payers cut leading up to the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014, where Canada struck gold. However, she came back stronger than ever this year, determined to reach the Olympics and had an excellent camp and pretournament series of games. Brigette Lacquette

Brigette Lacquette

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Currently, Bram is an assistant captain with a star-studded Calgary Inferno team in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Coincidentally, she was traded by the Brampton Thunder to the Inferno in exchange for Jocelyne Larocque. Although PyeongChang will be her first Olympic Games, Bram is a five-year veteran with Canada’s Senior National Team and has speed and a scoring touch that will undoubtedly help Canada on its quest for gold in PyeongChang.

Brigette Lacquette Age: 25 Position: Defence Calgary Inferno Hometown: Mallard, Manitoba A teammate of Bailey Bram’s on the Calgary Inferno, Brigette made her Senior National Team debut with Canada in 2015 and has won a medal with Canada at each of the last three World Championships. Lacquette, 25, is from the small Métis community of Mallard, Manitoba. Her dad, Terrance is Métis, and Brigette and her mother, Anita, are Treaty members of Saskatchewan’s Cote First Nation, making

her the initial First Nation’s woman to play for Canada’s Olympic women’s national hockey team. Formerly a star at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Brigette has been working to find herself a permanent spot on the senior national team for nearly four years. Another player who is completely dedicated to the game, she comes from a hockey family. Her younger brother Taran was an outstanding defenseman with the OCN Blizzard of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League while her older sister Tara was a goaltender at the University of Manitoba and the University of Calgary and was also part of Canada’s national team program when she was younger. The US women’s program has developed into possibly the world’s best over the last decade; winning eight of the last ten World Championships. However, the most significant prize in the sport has eluded them over that period as Canada has captured the last four Olympic titles. Canada has flipped the script to close out their pre-Olympic competition; going 4-0 in four December matchups with the Americans. Since a stinging defeat in Nagano in 1998, the Canadian team has looked unstoppable on the Olympic stage over the years, and are looking to clinch their fifth consecutive Olympic title in PyeongChang. l

Jocelyne Larocque

Jocelyne Larocque

Reference links: windspeaker/mallard-recognized-talentlacquette-sisters Jocelyne_Larocque default.aspx

Bailey Bram

Bailey Bram

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Brandon Ringette Association brings teams to play in the Winnipeg Ringette League

By Brandon Ringette

Brandon Ringette Association is a small, games but we didn’t have other teams tight knit association 2 hours west of in the area to play against. In the Winnipeg with a great group of players, spring of 2014, we approached the dedicated coaches and supportive Winnipeg Ringette League about parents. This year there are just under 50 playing within their league and players, ranging in age from 4 to 15 years spent the 2015/2016 season working old. The teams are in the U10, U12, U14, together to make it a possibility. U16 divisions – and a R4U group. The When the Winnipeg Ringette League association hosts a tournament in the fall advised us that we would be able with teams traveling from as far away as to enter teams for the 2016/2017 U10 players showing off Brandon Ringette’s Saskatoon. season, our players were ecstatic. new jerseys Ringette in Brandon and Westman was Brandon teams travel to Winnipeg very popular in the 1980’s, with teams in and surrounding areas 8 times a season the season and travel Brandon and almost every small town for double headers. Our players and to at least one out of town tournament. in the Brandon and Parkland families love playing As a result, the time between games was areas. During the 1990’s, and are more than a significant, sometimes as long as two ringette started to decline in willing to make months. Playing within the WRL has Brandon and Westman, but the trek, which is provided an opportunity for our coaches in the early 2000’s a group of usually about twice to identify learning needs and for our dedicated parents started to a month. So far we players to execute skills they have been bring it back. By 2009 there have been lucky practicing in actual games. were enough girls to form with weather for Our coaching and bench staff are one team of 5 to 12 year olds, travelling and hope a passionate and dedicated group of all practicing and playing our luck continues individuals, committed to promoting together. It continued to into this season the sport of ringette and helping build steadily grow until there were so our travel days confidence and leadership in our players. three age groups in 2012 – remain safe. U12 players before pa The success our girls show on the ice rticipating in the Brandon summe U8, U10 and U12. Brandon Last year Brandon speaks to the hours that each coach and r parade Ringette Ringette Association bench member spends with the players. Association has played in the WRL They are helping to foster leadership consistently for the first time and skills, commitment and the skills needed been able to have we saw tremendous on the ice. Parents and non-parents U10, U12 and growth with our volunteer their whole winter so these U14 teams, but players’ skills. In girls get the opportunity to play the game struggled to be the past, Brandon they love! able to roster a Ringette would This year Brandon has four teams whole U16 team. host one or two playing within the WRL – U10, U12, U14 helping out with U14 and U16 players Girls wanted tournaments during and U16 – last year only U12 and U14 17 20 gette event annual Come Try Rin were involved. This season is the first in many years the Brandon Ringette Association was able to field a U16 team, which we are so pleased about. Our U10 team especially is excited to be playing games with WRL, and we are looking forward to the growth that they will show with consistent games. We are looking forward to extending our season to participate in the WRL playoffs in the 2017/2018 season. It will provide our players with additional opportunities to U14 players during the 2014-2015 season play games and improve their skills. l

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Amber Penner Open Representative; liaison between the players of the Open division and the WRL. My goal is to encourage a league that works for all Open level players, coming from all levels of play and commitments. I still play in Open 1, and have played continuously since I was 3 years old. I am a hydrologist for the Province of Manitoba. • Acupuncture

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Winnipeg’s Akira Wojciechowski wins WKC World Championship By Scott Taylor, Photos by Jayson Cyncora Winnipeg’s Akira Wojciechowski is a world champion. Not bad for a 12-yearold. Recently, Wojciechowski and brought home the Gold Medal in the Free Style hand forms division and a Bronze medal in the Korean hand forms division at the WKC World Championships in Orlando, Florida. Students from Winnipeg’s own BAE’S Martial Arts represented Canada at the WKC World Championships and once again our young martial artists proved to the world that the best on the planet reside right here in Winnipeg. Akira is a 12-year-old young lady trains very hard,” said BAE’s Martial Arts Master Malcolm Edwards. “Sometimes I think she felt she doesn’t have much of a choice, because her father is an

instructor at our school and she always has to be there. But I can see the lion inside of her. When she steps out on the floor she pushes hard and that’s one of the reasons why she’s now a World champion.” Earlier this year, back on May, 6 Winnipeg students from BAE’S Martial Arts competed in Ottawa and earned a spot on the WKC Canadian National Team. Five of them accepted the challenge to enter in the WKC (World Karate and Kickboxing Commission) World Championships, a week-long competition that began on Nov. 4, in which they went head to head with some of the best in the world. In fact, athletes from 26 countries were in attendance, competing for a spot on the podium in Orlando.

Nico De Guzman, is an eight-yearold who captured everyone’s attention during his performances and won a silver medal in the Traditional Korean hand forms division and a bronze medal in the Musical Weapons division. “Nico is one of those kids that when they start to do something people look at them and say, ‘I don’t believe that.’” said Master Edwards. “Actually he was the youngest member of the National Team and this year was actually his second year as a member of the team. Last year Nico went to Ottawa competed and made the team but his family wasn’t prepared to go to the Worlds with him. This year he went back to Ottawa and made the team by winning two gold medals and three silver medals and went on to represent Canada, winning silver and bronze in Florida.”

Members of Team Canada from BAE’S Martial Arts. From left, Brandon Santos, Akira Wojciechowksi, Carson Cyncora, Haiyllee Santos and Nico Deguzman

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Brandon Santos, who is only 10, was both explosive and powerful and brought home a bronze in the Korean Hand Forms division. “Brandon has a bright future,” said Master Edwards. “He is BAE’s most improved student this year and he competes in the 10-and-under boys division. This was his first time seeing international competition and he did a good job earning a bronze medal in the Korean open forms competition.”

Haiyllee Santos The very talented Haiyllee Santos, 12, fought her way to a silver medal in the sparring division. “Brandon Santos’ older sister, Haiylee is another one of my 12-year-old female

athletes who is extremely competitive, works hard and doesn’t like to lose so she pushes herself so she never experiences losing,” said Master Edwards. “This is her second time on the National Team. She was a silver medalist in Ottawa and she also earned herself a silver at the Worlds this year. “We also had Carson Cyncora at the World Championships,” Nico Deguzman and his bronze medal said Master Edwards. “Carson is 16-years“All the instructors at Bae’s are proud. We old and won a bronze understand the sacrifice and dedication Metal in Ottawa at the 2017 National it takes to be a champion. For me Championships. He went on to the personally, to be able to train and teach worlds in Florida and made it through alongside the other Master instructors two rounds but couldn’t reach the final. especially my teacher and mentor, He also works very hard and now knows Master Malcolm Edwards, is an honour.” what it will take for him to become The 2018 WKC World Championships champion. He told me that he’s looking will be held in Dublin, Ireland from Oct. forward to the 2018 Worlds in Dublin.” 27-Nov. 2, 2018. We can expect BAE’s The star of the event, however, was Martial Arts’ champions to be back in 12-year-old Akira Wojciechowski who action, challenging for new-found glory. is now a World Champion. She not only “I’m extremely proud of all of my brought home the gold medal in the Free athletes,” said Master Edwards. “We have Style hand forms division, but also a many more kids at our school that are bronze medal in the Korean hand forms working hard and when some of them division. go out and represent their country and “As one of the team coaches at Bae’s, do so well like these young people did, it I have to say, it was very rewarding to gives all of them more incentive to work witness our athletes do as well as they harder.” l did,” said coach Gerald Wojciechoski.

Team Canada at the WKC World Championship in Orlando

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Benson Named WHSFL Player of the Year

By Scott Taylor, Photos by Mike Lukyn

If the opportunity presents itself, Kieran Benson would love to play Canadian University football. There are people who watched him play this season who are prepared to say that he might be good enough right now. At the end of the 2017 Winnipeg High School Football League season, Benson was named the winner of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Alumni Award for Most Outstanding Player in every division of the WHSFL. “It means,” said commissioner Rick Henkewich, “that Kieran is the best football player in the entire WHSFL. “To me he’s the best quarterback in the province and he’s still in Grade 11. He’s going to be a great one.” Benson had a remarkable year in 2017. He led the WHSFL’s Currie Division, completing 49 of 110 passes for 984 yards and 15 touchdowns. He

also led the Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute Maroons to an undefeated season and 30-0 victory in the Currie Division championship game against the East Kildonan Reivers. “When we got together last January for our pre-season workouts, we did not see this coming at all,” said Maroons head coach John St. Cyr. “With our 1-6 season last year, we thought and hoped we’d be at least an average team this year.” Thanks to Benson, they were a lot better than average. In Week 5 of the season, he threw five touchdown passes in a win over Churchill and then, in Week 6, threw four more in a big win over West Kildonan. He had 521 yards passing in those two games alone. Against Chruchill, he also carried four times for 43 yards and against the Maples and Kildonan East, he rushed for touchdowns. Combine Benson’s skill with a good defense and Daniel Mac went from 1-6 to 9-0 in a shocking comeback season. “I have great teammates and when I play, I just want to do the best I can to help our team win,” said the modest Benson. “Football is a team game. I can’t do this myself, but I had great receivers and backs and an outstanding offensive line. I was successful because our whole team was successful.” Historically, Canadian quarterbacks get to play in U Sports games, but have little chance to make it to the CFL. Often the best athletes play another

position in college to prepare for the pros. Not Benson. He believes that if he’s going to play football, he’s going to play quarterback and he’ll let the chips fall where they may. “I started playing football with the Valour Pariots and I’ve always been a quarterback,” he said. “I’d love to play university football and my goal is to play somewhere in Canada when I graduate from high school. But I’ve always played quarterback and that’s where I’m most comfortable on the field. So if I play at the university level, I’ll probably want to play quarterback.” Henkewich is convinced that with one more high school season under his belt, Benson will be ready to become a successful college QB. Amd maybe, just maybe, he’ll one day be as good as Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Canadian quarterback, Brandon Bridge, who played high school football in Toronto and went on to play college football at South Alabama. “Kieran’s football IQ is right off the charts,” said Henkewich. “Any time his team took a step backwards, Kieran put the entire team on his shoulders and took it forward. “He also has wonderful leadership skills. He has the ability to make his teammates believe in him and everything he does and that makes his teammates better. He’s also really down to earth, has virtually no ego and he’s always all about team first. “I’m really proud that Kieran Benson is our Bomber Alumni Award winner because I believe he is the best football player in the WHSFL.” l 22 / sportslife


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the best sports story of 2017 Former MJHL/MMJHL D-Man Comeau to Play U SPORT Football By Scott Taylor, Photos by Ken Reid/Greystoke Photography and courtesy the University of Calgary For Riverton’s Carter Comeau, a chance to officiate in the BC Junior Hockey League seemed like a good idea. Now that the former member of the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues, the MMJHL’s Stonewall Jets and the KJHL’s Arborg Ice Dawgs was through with his playing career, officiating was a good second choice. He had done house league games in the Interlake and some Triple A bantam and midget, but he wanted to do more. So Comeau signed up to go to a Referees and Linesmen camp in Port Alberni, B.C. in 2017. “At the camp, I was approached by the BC Junior Hockey League’s referee-

Carter Comeau Okanagan Sun

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in-chief and he said that if I moved to B.C., he’d give me work doing lines in the BCHL,” Comeau recalled. “I thought, that sounds great, so my girlfriend and I moved to Kelowna and I started doing lines and working security at the Kelowna General Hospital. “It’s kind of amazing what can happen.” Indeed, it is. But let’s go back a couple of years. Carter Comeau was born in Winnipeg and grew up playing hockey in Riverton. His grandmother was from Berens River First Nation and he just happened to be hockey legend Reggie Leach’s nephew. A good, big defenseman, he played for

the Interlake Lightning in the Manitoba Triple A Midget Carter Comeau with the MJHL’s League and Winnipeg Blues then in 2013-14, he played for the Winnipeg Blues, but was eventually traded to the OCN Blizzard and decided not to play in the north. He got his release and moved to the Stonewall Jets of the MMJHL and then the Arborg Ice Dawgs of the KJHL. After the 2015-16 season, he remained in hockey by becoming a linesman and moved to BC. Now, however, in one of the most incredible stories in the recent history of Canadian sports, Riverton, Manitoba’s 6-foot-6, 340-pound linesman will actually be a lineman (singular) and play Canada West football at the University of Calgary next season. That’s right, football. “I was doing lines in the BCHL and working in a security job at the Kelowna General Hospital when a guy I worked with asked if I’d ever played football,” Comeau said. “I said I’d always wanted to, but there wasn’t any opportunity living in Riverton, so he said, ‘Why don’t you call the football coach with the Okanagan Sun, the BC Junior Football League team here in town.’ “So I called the coach and he said the team’s rookie camp was ‘by invitation only,’ so I kind of gave up on it for a couple of days, but then thought, ‘I’m going to call him again and this time I’ll tell him how big I am.’ So I called back and left a message and told him I was 6-foot-6, 340, and then a few minutes later my phone rang. He said come down to the field tonight and meet the coaching staff. I don’t think they believed they had a guy my size in the community and they’d missed me.

“So I went down to the field, met the coaches and the ‘by invitation only’ thing went out the window. I went to camp, beat Carter Comeau with the out two MMJHL’s Stonewall Jets veterans for the starting O-line job and I never missed a snap all season.” He had a terrific year in his one and only season with the Sun. After starting out as a D-lineman in camp, he moved to O-line and became one of the best in the BCJFL. But the story didn’t end there. Far from it. During the season, more than 30 universities called the team, including a few from NCAA Division 1 schools. Seems they’d noticed this 6-foot-6, 340-pound athlete with outstanding strength and footwork. “I talked a lot with Coach Dobie at the U of M, but my girlfriend Carrigan and I thought it would be good to get away,” he said. “I liked what the U of M had to offer

and it would have been nice to stay in Manitoba, not far from home, but we agreed that it was time for us to move on. “So I narrowed my choice down to Calgary and Laval. I talked to a couple of U.S. schools but there was no full ride available and it was just too expensive. I would have loved to have played down there, but in the end, I just couldn’t afford it. Laval was great but it’s a French school and I don’t speak a lot of French, so Calgary just seemed like the right fit. “They had great coaches and one of them, Paul Carson, has a cabin near my cousin Jamie Leach’s cabin. It’s a small world sometimes.” On Dec. 17, Calgary head coach Wayne Harris Jr., announced that Carter Comeau from Riverton, Man., had agreed to play football for the Dinos next fall. “It’s kind of amazing, I guess,” Comeau said modestly. “If you’d asked me a year ago, I never would have imagined it. I

Carter Comeau with Calgary head coach Wayne Harris Jr. on signing day mean four years ago, I was a 320-pound defenseman who walked into Blues camp and caught (head coach) Don McGillivray’s kid with a big check when he had his head down. I rocked him and thought, ‘Well my days with the Blues are numbered.’ But I made the Blues and loved playing there. They treated me really well. I was really disappointed when I got traded to OCN. “But that seems like such a long time ago now. For a guy who always wanted to play football, I guess I’m a football player now.” l

Game On Photographer James Carey Lauder has 35 years of photography experience. He’s a member of the Professional Photographers of Canada and Manitoba and is accredited in Sports Photography. He is currently in his 10th year as Photography Instructor at Tec Voc High School.

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The Nomads’ nine-year-old next one By Scott Taylor, Photos courtesy Natasha Funk

At first, it appeared as if Tavin Parani was going to be a basketball player. In fact, he was so good, he was moved up an age group. Trouble was, the older kids didn’t want to pass him the ball. “I started off with kick boxing and then my dad (Calvin Parani) asked me if I wanted to play basketball,” Tavin said. “I really liked basketball but I was too good for my age group so they moved me up to the older age group. But they wouldn’t pass me the ball. So I went a few times and said, ‘Dad, I don’t want to do this anymore do you think there is another sport I could play,’ and right away, my dad said ‘Football.” So last year, when I was eight, I tried football and I really liked it.” So while Tavin would still like to find a spot on a basketball team that will pass him the ball from time to time, he has fallen madly in love with a game his mom and dad just happen to love, too. “His dad really likes football and so we signed him up with North Winnipeg Nomads Crunchers team and he fell in love with it,” said his mom, Natasha Funk.

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“His first year was amazing. For never having played the game of football before, he just soaked all the knowledge like a sponge and had an unbelievable year, even scoring eight touchdowns in a single game. “His Crunchers team went undefeated that year, so in the off-season he started training with former Blue Bombers’ receiver Kito Poblah at Finish First Football. Finish First Football provides different programs and workouts and I believe Tavin benefits from each session.” Now, committed to the game, Tavin got his mom and dad to sign him up for flag football and he played for the North End Turfcats. That team made it to the league semi-finals. There was no doubt that at this point, Tavin Parani was committed to football. “Following up flag football, Tavin signed up for his second season with the Nomads and joined the Atom A division team (ages 9-10),” explained his mom. “Tavin had his best season ever. He won several awards, including MVP during Alumni Weekend, where he scored seven touchdowns and rushed for over 400 yards against the East Side Eagles. “Following that game, his mentor Kito, posted a video of Tavin training in the off season with highlights of his seven touchdown performance on The Finish First Football social media platform and overnight it reached a million views. “He then won MVP at the championship game against the Transcona Nationals where the Nomads Atoms won their first championship since 2012. His performance that night was gut wrenching. He scored four touchdowns in a snowy, cold night against a hostile crowd and had the game-winning touchdown with two minutes left in regulation time.” To his credit, Tavin is a good student – in Grade 4 French Immersion at Ecole

Lansdowne School – and by his own admission, he likes school. But he also loves football and even at the age of nine, his future looks bright. “Tavin is a hard worker, humble and loves the game,” said his mom, who was the Nomads trainer this season. “People and coaches say you can see his hunger on the field. His determination and will to perform is really quite inspiring. He is one of those kids that eats, breathes, and lives for the game. “We plan on playing for a third season for the Nomads next year and hopefully we can defend the championship title. In the meantime, we have a few football winter camps to attend by Football Manitoba and we’re waiting for Finish First Football’s new programs.” Natasha sometimes wonders why young Tavin is so athletically gifted. However, she also knows that his kickboxing teacher Brian Kelly, at Ultimate Muay Thai, had a lot to do with it. “He started kickboxing at age six and then stopped at ago eight when we started football. He had a lot to do with Tavin’s abilities. “As well Tavin’s hard work is paying off. He recently just got sponsored by Out Hustle My Yesterday, a company that fabricates clothing for all different types of athletes. He’s worked hard at the game and it’s paying off.” No matter your age, if you love something and work hard at it, you will be rewarded. For young Tavin Parani, the decision to take up football was obviously a good one. Football fans and scouts can find Tavin on Instagram at @tavinator_20. l

A set by Owen Schwartz (13)

The 2017-18 U of M Bisons

Great dig by Kyle Martens (7)

U of M Men Still in the Canada West Playoff Hunt By Scott Taylor, Photos by Jeff Miller

Kevin Negus (15) with the serve

A big hit from Scott Vercaigne (5)

After the mythical first half of the season (up until the Christmas break), the University of Manitoba Bisons men’s volleyball, historically one of the strongest programs in the Canadian university game, find themselves in the Canada West playoff hunt. The Bisons are 5-7 through the first 12 matches and are seventh in the Canada West standings. Eight teams reach the post-season and this young Manitoba team will have a challenging run to the playoffs. SportsLife Magazine sent photographer Jeff Miller out to the Investors Group Centre on the U of M campus to show us the stars of this 2017-18 squad. l A big his by Adam DeJonckheere (8)

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Paige Davies leads the transition Robyn Boulanger looks for the entry pass

U of W Women Off to Solid Start

Easy layup for Faith Hezekiah

By Scott Taylor, Photos by Kelly Morton The talented University of Winnipeg Wesmen women’s basketball team was off to a solid start at the Christmas break. Led by their 2016-17 national defensive player of the year and All-Canadian, Antoinette Miller, the Wesmen are 12-8 overall at the break and 8-4 in the Canada West Conference. More impressively, they went into the Christmas holidays with a six-game conference winning streak after taking two at Fraser Valley and then two at home from UBC and two more at home from MacEwan. University of Winnipeg photographer Kelly Morton went out and brought back some highlights for SportsLife Magazine. l Paige Hastings Van with a big shot inside

Jessica Dyck heads to the basket

Skylar Boulanger goes to the hoop

Antoinette Miller battles her way to the hoop

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OCN star Anthony Keeper faces off against Portage’s Ty Barnstable Portage’s James McIsaac stopped by OCN goalie Emilien Boily

The Stars of the MJHL Meet at Bell MTS Iceplex By Scott Taylor, Photos by Laurie Anderson The Manitoba Junior Hockey League met in mid-December for the 2016 MJHL Showcase at Bell MTS Iceplex. As always, this year’s Showcase was played in front of plenty of NCAA, U Sport and Western Hockey League scouts and a number of players were recruited to the next level of the game. It was a tremendous three-day spectacle of the best in junior hockey and thanks goes out to Game On Magazine photographer, Laurie Anderson, who went out to the Bell MTS Iceplex and brought back highlights of the action for SportsLife Magazine. l

Winnipeg Blues’ captain Matt LeBlanc

Virden’s Tyler Kirkup

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Winkler’s Griffin Leonard avoids a collision

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