Team Spirit!!

Kelten Fawcett is a role model at the PotashCorp Civic Centre. He lifeguards, he teaches, he coaches. For the Sussex Swordfish, he trains and races. For the Sussex Regional High School Sonics, he wins medals! Kelten won two gold in the 50 and 100 breast-stroke and a bronze in the 100 individual medley at the recent high school championships. Kelten’s scores allowed the Sonics to place 7th for the varsity boys out of 15 teams and 11th out of 19 teams for overall varsity.

Both Kelten Fawcett and Abby McKinley represented New Brunswick in swimming at the 2017 Canada Games. Abby swims for the Fundy Tide and Saint John High School. Although I bet Kelten can run well too, Abby answered the bell in cross country this past fall for Saint John High. Abby and fellow top swimmer Maia Grant helped the junior girl greyhounds win the provincial title in cross country.

Maia Grant and Abby McKinley seamlessly blended their swimming and running to transition right into swim meet mode. At the provincial championships, Saint John High School won both the men’s and women’s varsity titles. Maia and Abby were on the gold medal medley relay team. Abby won the 50 and 100 butterfly and the 100 meter individual medley. Abby’s time in the 100 butterfly was a new high school record. Maia won gold in the 50 breast-stroke and silver in the 100 breast-stroke.

It is a huge individual achievement to break a high school event record but I am sure Abby took as much pride in the top performance of her team. Abby is arguably the top swimmer on the Greyhounds but her team spirit drove her to support the cross country team as well where she was the 5th ranked runner. 
In fact, if you look at the top 5 runners on the 2018 Saint John High junior girls provincial champion squad, you see incredible devotion to more than one sport. #1 Erin Vringer is a star soccer player. #2 Maia Grant is a star swimmer. #3 Ella Rocca is a star soccer player. #4 Claire Oliver is a star speedskater. #5 is Abby. All five are Canada Games calibre in their other sport from cross country.

Last spring, Kelten Fawcett participated in a swim-run relay with college cross country champion Hannah Arsenault. Maybe this spring, Abby and Maia push him to try both disciplines!

Building Confidence!

The SeaDogs have not won many games this year but I was lucky enough to witness a recent victory over Val D’Or. They were able to recover from a 3-1 deficit in the 3rd period and won 4-3 in overtime. You can see the extra intensity as soon as they made the score 3-2. What gave them the extra boost? Was the other team just tired? It definitely looked like their energy level had picked up.

As a track & field coach, you will see an improvement just from doing a workout twice without any training in between. Knowledge of the effort helps and confidence is gained. Expectation of success also helps since the workout is not seen as unattainable anymore.

When the SeaDogs were mired in their long losing streak, you could see a low expectation of winning in their play. Most hard-core fans have a reasonable expectation of that sense of futility fading away. You can see the skill sets that the players possess. There will be some definite additions to the SeaDogs alumni playing in the NHL.  As they gain knowledge and confidence, they will surely be a top team.

Hopefully the kids realize they are on the right path. It is easy to get discouraged with early failures. When the Sea Dogs beat Val D’Or, the team and crowd exploded with the celebration! I have seen this same reaction at the Marathon by the Sea. Persevering with a tough start, many people have worked hard to get to that 26.2 mile mark. You learn from the runs along the way. On the day, it is not a question of will you? It is just a statement of how long it takes you.

Even if it takes longer than you think it should have, the feeling at the finish line is just a good. The crowd will cheer hard. Early bird fees end for the Marathon by the Sea on March 30th. Just like we have confidence in the current Sea Dogs growing bigger and faster, a purchased race entry for family or friends can show your faith in their ability. Of course I am biased but I think a marathon should be on everyone’s bucket list. Walk it if you need. Push your wheelchair if that is your situation.  Show yourself and others what can be possible with determination.

You can even wear a Sea Dogs jersey for the final stretch.

Legacy

I went for two runs on Thanksgiving Monday and they were both extra special. My first run was in Rockwood Park and the fall colours were amazing. I literally had to run around a deer. Could they get any tamer? My daughter Lily and I then went on a trail run at Bonshaw Hills Park near Charlottetown on the way back to the University of Prince Edward Island. It is a fantastic set of trails if you like to walk, run or mountain bike.


The best set of colours though on Thanksgiving weekend were predominantly purple. On a beautiful Saturday morning, the Sweet Caroline Run event was again supported by a huge group of participants. I spotted many people who I knew outside of running. They were supporting on Saturday because of the intent of the run. We were all there to spread awareness about allergies and anaphylaxis. In honouring the tragic death of Caroline Lorrette, the Sweet Caroline Foundation “continues her legacy while helping to create a safer place for those living with allergies”. Caroline’s favourite colour was purple and the walkers and runners on Saturday all wore purple in her memory.


Bill Anderson passed away more recently on September 27. Bill and his sister Gail would attend any group runs I organized. He had issues with his breathing so he could not usually start quickly but he always finished fast. In 2015, Bill finished fast in 21 races! He ran the Sweet Caroline Run that year with me and won the Run NB Superseries Award for runners aged 70 years and above.


The New Brunswick Superseries that year was not an easy task for a Saint John area runner. Bill raced everyone from the northwest in St Francois to the northeast in Tracadie-Sheila. He travelled to Bathurst, Bouctouche, Caraquet, Chipman, Fredericton, Grand-Digue, Miramichi, Moncton, Saint-Isidore, Shediac, St Andrews and Woodstock. He started the season off with a win for his age in Lorneville and never looked back. Amanda Coakley from Saint John was the only other runner that year to attempt the same feat.


Bill was always game to do different types of runs. He would run fast around the Rothesay commons, the track at UNBSJ, the dirt trails at Odell Park in Fredericton and the snowmobile trails around Saint John. When I stopped leading runs from KenVal Rehab due to my job in Sussex, I immediately missed seeing Bill and Gail regularly. Bill started running late in life but he became very passionate about it. If there is an award for running every RUN NB Superseries event, I hope they rename it in Bill’s honour and the Superseries always includes the Sweet Caroline Run.

Mental Health Awareness Dessert Social

We are holding our Mental Health Awareness Dessert Social Thursday night for the LEAP program at the PotashCorp Civic Centre. The event takes place at the All Seasons Restaurant at 6:30pm and the tickets are $25. The entertainment will be stellar with Gary Morris taking centre stage. Unknown entity Rusty Diamond is on the guest list.

The LEAP program helps sponsor memberships and swim lessons for those in need in the Sussex area. Many top athletes have accessed this sort of help in the past. Some of the names would shock you. Basketball star Lebron James moved in with his football coach at age 9. Tennis star Novak Djokovic was raised with civil war all around him in Serbia.

On the flip side, it is inspiring to see athletes give back to programs like LEAP. Basketball star Michael Jordan founded a Boys & Girls club in Chicago. One of the most famous Montreal Expos was catcher Gary Carter and he created a charity to improve the lives of children. Recently, Lebron James funded a public school in his hometown of Akron where children receive free bikes, meals and free college tuition after graduating. Wow!

Locally, former hockey and track & field star Mark Webster is a sponsor of the LEAP program in the Sussex area. Mark was also a strong influence in keeping the 8th Hussars Sports Centre open for figure skating and hockey when there were funding issues to be resolved 6 years ago.

Mental health awareness is the focus of the evening for our featured speakers of course. Martha Chown will be there on behalf of the Canadian Mental Health Association and Megan Miner will be there on behalf of the Sussex and Area Wellness Network.

Top sports athletes have been more forthcoming about mental health issues in the recent past. Demar Derozan was traded from the Toronto Raptors to the San Antonio Spurs this past summer but his leadership on mental health will be still felt in Canada. Last February, Demar opened up about his struggle with depression after Cleveland Cavaliers’ star Kevin Love had admitted to his own issues. Not only did Demar’s words help support Kevin Love but he was able to expand on his role model leadership in Canada.  

Demar and Kevin had the power of celebrity. Martha has spoken out about her own issues and has followed a less glamorous path of helping those in need. I am sure she has been more impactful for this area than famous athletes. Her published articles have been a beacon of light for many. On Thursday night, I hope you make her feel like a celebrity just like Demar!

SWEET CAROLINE!!

Sweet Caroline is on the schedule for both our local kids and adults!!

 

First up is the LEAP Dessert Social at the All Seasons Restaurant on September 20. Leisure Enjoyment for All People (LEAP) is a program to subsidize those in financial need so they can use the PotashCorp Civic Centre in Sussex. This is especially important for families with children. LEAP also helps subsidize swim lessons for local grade 4 children so they can access the facility during school time.

 

Our September Social is an important fundraiser for LEAP but also brings awareness to mental health issues and is featuring Gary Morris & his band for entertainment. A Neil Diamond impersonator is joining Gary and I am sure Sweet Caroline will be on the playlist. Any jokes will be farm and family friendly. I hear that Coach Coffin has a great cow joke!

 

Also featured at the LEAP Dessert Social will be speakers Martha Chown and Megan Miner. Martha works with CMHA and is on the board of the Sussex & Area Activity Centre. Megan is the family support coordinator for the Centre and also is the coordinator for the local Dial-A-Ride program. Tickets for this event are $25 and can be purchased through the PotashCorp Civic Centre.

 

Sweet Caroline also refers to Caroline Lorette who died tragically due to an allergic reaction. An awareness and fundraising run event is being held on October 6 in her memory. This is a huge event for all ages with different distances of 2.5, 5 and 10 kilometers. Many of participants wear purple which was Caroline’s favourite colour.

 

As coach of the Sussex High School cross country team, I have many great team events to choose from. The Sir James Dunn event in St George on September 13 has a long legacy. The Hampton Cross Country Classic on September 15 is a big boost to that area’s recent surge in runners. The Saint John High Invitational on September 20 holds many great memories for me as well. I am highlighting October 6 however as our most important event before the next week’s regionals. I hope you consider joining us either as a participant or as a volunteer. I am sure you will be recovered from the late night out on September 20th by then.