By Manotick Messenger Staff
In just their first year competing, the St. Mark High School Junior Reach for the Top Team has won a silver medal at the Canadian Reach for the Top championships.
The team of Isaac Bogle, Calvin Cherkewich, Milo Cheung, Declan Faloon, Will Howson, Aden McIsaac and Sophia Tang went on an incredible run to win the Ontario junior title to earn a spot in the nationals. They went unbeaten before losing to the champion team from Alberta.
“The entire year was an incredible journey for the students,” said St. Mark teacher Britney Castleman, who put the team together and coached them throughout the year.
Castleman is in her first year at St. Mark and was happy to start the new program.
“St. Mark has a lot of great extra curricular programs, especially for a smaller school,” she said. “When I found out there was no Reach for the Top team, I thought it was an opportunity to put a team together and create something special for the students.”
Castleman put the word out at the school that they were looking for students interesting in joining the club and forming a team. She was surprised with the reaction.
“There was no interest at all from the high school students,” she said. “All of the students interested were from Grades 7 and 8.”
While Reach for the Top at the provincial and national levels has Junior (Gr. 7-8), Intermediate (Gr. 9-10) and Senior (Gr. 11-12) divisions, St. Mark was the only school in the city to put together a Junior team. They spent the year competing against Grade 9 and 10 students. Most of the students on the St. Mark team are in Grade 7.
“In the beginning, we were beaten a lot,” Castleman said. “But the students worked hard and they learned, and they got better and better as the year went on.”
Not only did the team improve, but they started winning. They got good enough to finish third in the city’s Intermediate division. However, getting to the provincial championships was not easy.
“We were the only Intermediate team in Ottawa, but they didn’t just automatically put us in,” Castleman said. “We had to beat five of the best teams in Toronto to qualify before they let us in.”
St. Mark got in the provincials and won, earning a spot in the nationals.
“At the provincials, the students were playing against students who were older,” Castleman said. “They asked me why it seemed so easy, and I explained to them that they were used to competing at the Intermediate level.”
At the Nationals, St. Mark had an exceptional showing and earned silver medals.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” she said. “It’s about a lot more than just winning. I am proud of them because they were so gracious in losing. We were beaten by a better team that deserved to win, and the students handled it extremely well.”
Of the seven students that were on the silver medal team, all but one is in Grade 7 and will be back for next year.
“Even the student who is moving up to Grade 9 can be a part of the team in the Intermediate Division,” Castleman said. “He won’t be able to take part in the provincials and nationals, but he can be a part of the team throughout the year.”
Casselman added that the support of the school and the Principal, Michael Curry, was invaluable.
“The tournaments were all virtual this year,” Castleman said. “When the provincials and nationals were held on weekends, Mr. Curry made sure that the school was open and we could all be together as a team.”
The St. Mark team will be receiving their national silver medals in the upcoming weeks.
Featured Image: The St. Mark Reach for the Top team, made up of Grade 7-8 students, were the only Junior team in Ottawa. As a result, they competed against Grade 9-10 students throughout the year.