Sport Yukon celebrates athletes going onto varsity programs
This fall, four Yukon athletes took the next step in their athletic endeavors and joined university or college varsity teams.
The territory had three swimmers join varsity teams along with one biathlete making the transition to cross-country running.
“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.”
Biathlete Isidore Champagne traded in his rifle and skis for a pair of trail runners. His new school, Loyalist College in Belleville, Ontario, did not have a biathlon program, but Champagne still wanted to be involved in sport.
“I wanted to do photojournalism and this seemed like the best program in Canada to me,” said Champagne. “There’s no biathlon team here but I looked at cross country and it seemed like the closest thing.”
Champagne reached out to the coach who was enthusiastic about having him join the Lancers.
The transition to a new sport has been going smoothly for Champagne.
“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.”
The parts of the sport that are different, Champagne said he’s been able to lean on his veteran teammates for guidance.
“I’m learning lots about the general running world, and they taught me the benefits of stretching,” said Champagne, laughing. “There’s been a little bit of catch-up there.”
Now that he’s in Ontario, Champagne said being a Yukon athlete taught him all about race planning.
“With the races I did with biathlon and cross country, I really nailed down what types of food I can eat that make me feel fast, what to mentally think about, and how to know when I am warmed up,” said Champagne. “That’s a factor that really comes in handy right now.”
Champagne said he’s going to keep running in Ontario. When he is back for the holidays, that’s when he’s going to get back onto his skis and enjoy the snow.
The University of British Columbia Thunderbirds added swimmer Mia Barrault to their roster.
Barrault “fell in love” with Vancouver and the swim team after a recruiting trip in 2019, and now she’s a part of one of the “top-dog” swimming programs in Canada.
Studying kinesiology, Barrault said since she’s from the Yukon she can bring a new perspective to the team as well as bolster their breaststroke.
“It doesn’t matter where you come from,” said Barrault. “It’s about how much effort you put in every day. Hard work beats all.
“I also think I can bring more depth to the breaststroke, so I’m really excited about that.”
From her teammates and coaches, Barrault is eager to learn what it takes to be a part of a larger team.
“I’ve always been from a small team,” said Barrault. “I’m really excited to learn about big teams, and how to hype everyone up.”
In the pool, Barrault said she’s ready to focus on her detail.
“In swimming, once you get to the varsity level it’s very detail-oriented,” said Barrault. “I’m really excited for that, that’s where you get better.”
Swimmer Thomas Bakica has taken the plunge into varsity sports by joining the Simon Fraser University Red Leafs.
While at SFU, the only Canadian member institution of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), Bakica will be studying environmental sciences. It will be a busy schedule, but he said he’s fitting in nicely with his new team.
“Everyone on the team gave all the recruits an awesome warm welcome,” said Bakica. “It feels good, I’ve connected with a lot of people already.”
In his first season with the Red Leafs, Bakica said he wants to learn the ropes of becoming a varsity athlete.
“I’m looking to improve, and learn about how the varsity season and competitions work,” said Bakica. “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.”
Even though he’s a rookie, Bakica said he’s going to bring a positive attitude to the team.
“I think I bring a lot of enthusiasm and kindness,” said Bakica. “Overall, I just want to bring a good mood to practice.”
While training in the Yukon, Bakica said he became accustomed to a tight-knit team. That’s something he will bring forward to the varsity level.
“I want to bring that to the team,” said Bakica. “I like creating a good sense of community.”
Swimmer Alex Petriw has joined the Simon Fraser University Red Leafs. Petriw landed on SFU after talking with the coach and deciding it was a good fit for both.
He joins a team that he says added a lot of strong recruits.
“I’m really looking forward to what this year is going to bring,” said Petriw. “This team is turning into a really strong team and we’ve added a strong group of recruits so I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do.”
As a rookie, Petriw, who will be studying Engineering Sciences, said he’ll look to add leadership and depth.
“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.”
Learning to balance the student-athlete schedule is something Petriw said he learned in the Yukon.
“Time management is something I learned in the Yukon,” said Petriw. “And also having strong connections with everybody and maintaining those connections is really important to keep going.”
Simon Fraser will compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Petriw said he’ll need to learn from his teammates how to balance a busy schedule.
“On top of the course load there will be lots of travelling,” said Petriw. “Learning from my veteran teammates, how to keep up with school and stay on top of assignments is going to be really important.”