I love the Olympics. The energy, intensity and competition of the Games often evoke strong emotions for us and serve as a great metaphor for life. It takes commitment, hard work and grit to be an Olympian just as it does to succeed in school and in life. So, two weeks ago when I welcomed our 54th grade 8 class to Sentinel, I had the Olympics on my mind.
At the end of my talk, I thought of 16-year-old Penny Oleksiak, Canada’s latest Olympic champion, who was heading back to high school in Toronto at the same moment the students in front of me were embarking on their secondary school journey. I wondered aloud about Sentinel athletes who had travelled the Olympic trail. At that moment I recalled world champion ice dancer Victor Kraatz and 2010 Olympic gold medal snowboarder Maelle Ricker.
I soon learned I had low-balled the count. One person in the audience that morning was English teacher and track coach Hugh Wilson who is also a Sentinel graduate. Sure enough, he sent me an email the next day. “Mike, I was thinking about your comments on Sentinel’s Olympians,” he wrote. “It’s actually quite a rich history.” Hugh listed eight Sentinel grads who competed in the Olympics and another who qualified for the boycotted 1980 Olympics. That’s nine Olympians from our school. Three of them won medals. “I may have missed someone from over the years, but that’s an impressive record for any Canadian high school. Not a bad batting average, eh?” Hugh said. I completely agree.
Most of those medals came from our swimmers. That makes sense; check out the Provincial banners in the gym. Hugh recalls that three members of his graduating class competed the next year at the Montreal Olympics – and they had all swum for the Sentinel swim team the year before! But our Olympians also include skaters, snowboarders and cyclists. I know that Sentinel can’t claim to have created these amazing athletes, but they walked these halls, studied in our classrooms, and most competed as Spartans; I’d guess that many of them would say an important part of their journey was their time here.
Certainly, Olympians are a rare breed, but every student who attends Sentinel is on their own demanding journey, which will involve ups, down and a lot of effort. For me, the Olympic Games is a special event and I am proud that so many of our alumni have been part of them. They may serve as roles models for other Sentinel students. But whatever roads you travel along as you make your way through high school and beyond, it will be a special journey.
Welcome to Sentinel and have a great year!
Here are the members of Sentinel’s Olympic Hall of Fame.
1. 1972 Debbie Bengston Swimming
2. 1976, 1980 Gail Amundrud Swimming Bronze medal (1976)
3. 1976, 1980 George Nagy Swimming
4. 1976, 1980 Steve Pickell Swimming Silver medal (1976)
5. 1980 Wade Flemmons Swimming
6. 1994, 1998, 2002 Victor Kraatz Ice Dancing
7. 2000 Lesley Tomlinson Mountain Biking
8. 1998, 2006, 2010, 2014 Maelle Ricker Snowboarding Gold Medal (2010)
9. 2014 Liam Firus Ice skating
For anyone that may be going through some Olympic withdrawal, like myself, or if you just want to see some wonderful memories, check out the link below.