As the end of another semester draws near, the UTM Eagles get ready to wrap up their athletic season. From hockey championships to badminton provincial qualifications, this year the Eagles have celebrated many great accomplishments across all levels of sport. In an interview with The Medium, Kenneth Duncliffe, athletic director; David Clancy, assistant athletic director; and Cameron Walker, program coordinator, sat down to recap the highlights of the 2016/17 athletic year.

The D-League level teams offer students who may not be able to fully commit to the OCAA Varsity teams an opportunity to participate in high-level competition. After a successful year, some of the D-League teams brought home coveted championship titles. The men’s D-League hockey team, led by coach Michael Keaveney, won the championship for the second year straight.

Coached by Salee Johnson Edwards and Shannon Bartley, the women’s D-League basketball team dominated the court to win the championship against UTSG, notably their first time at that level since the 2002-3 inaugural year of the Tri-Campus program.

With coaches Patrick Persuad and Bryan Calucag, the men’s D-league volleyball team spiked and set their way to the league final, but unfortunately couldn’t capture the championship title.

But the UTM victories don’t stop there. At the OCAA Varsity level, a program that started only three years ago, Eagles athletes reached success at both provincial and national competitions. Holly Wong and Kate Huang, women’s badminton doubles, alongside Gary Tin and Thanh Lam, men’s badminton doubles, qualified for provincials, where both teams finished fourth, losing close matches in the medal rounds. Cross-country runners Haseeb Malik and Kale Heino qualified for nationals, where they placed 36th and 49th respectively. The men’s Varsity indoor soccer team qualified for provincials, and will compete at Redeemer in Ancaster on March 23–25.

“We have had some really good success (even though we are in our infancy of joining this league), with some students getting to the national level, which is quite an accomplishment,” says Duncliffe of the Varsity-level triumphs.

Reflecting on the year, Duncliffe says his favourite thing to see is the number of students who participate and get involved with athletics.

“It’s not only the athletes and students participating as athletes, but we have a lot of students involved in refereeing, scorekeeping, and organizing. There’s ways to get involved beyond being an actual athlete on the field,” he says. “There’s really something for everyone here at UTM. If you’ve never participated in sport, you can come out and learn. But if you have experience and you want to play at the highest level and you can commit, there’s those opportunities to do that here too.”

Clancy explains that some of the student associations on campus hold their own tournaments, like basketball and badminton events, independent from the department which help to increase student involvement. The residence community also uses the facilities on the weekends for the Colman Cup. “It’s something independent from us, and we encourage it,” Clancy says.

For Walker, his highlight of the year was witnessing the passion for sport at UTM. “You really see the passion of the UTM population as they participate in all the levels. Even drop-in! People are intense and lots of fun,” Walker laughs.

Duncliffe believes the ultimate key to a successful sports season is commitment and passion. Duncliffe emphasizes the commitment demonstrated not only by the athletes, but by the coaches as well. Whether they’re coaching as a volunteer or as a varsity coach, they all share the common goal—helping the athletes develop and succeed.

So where are the UTM Eagles teams headed moving forward? In the 2017-18 athletic year, men’s and women’s basketball will be offered as a OCAA Varsity League sport. Walker explains that many UTM students express an interest in playing a high-level sport, but are not able to make the three-hour trek downtown to practice every day. Introducing more OCAA Varsity league sports is one way that they can provide chances for UTM students to balance their academics and athletics.

“The commitment of offering tons of different levels of opportunities for various sports, I think that’s our main direction. To make sure we’re not only offering the high level of commitment and competitiveness, but maintaining what we have going on now, which is a very large breadth of opportunity,” Walker says.

With another successful year now behind the Eagles athletes, and an exciting year ahead of them, Duncliffe hopes that the efforts and passions of the staff and athletes will help to promote student engagement.

“I think when we have games in the gym, when we see the stands filled with students watching and the spirit that is developed around that, that would be a highlight. We’re doing it for those who want to participate, but we’re also doing it to hopefully build school spirit and have pride in UTM,” Duncliffe says.

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