Volleyball player Emily Hacker has competed at the Ontario Summer Games once before. She canâ€™t wait to go again.
Her first experience was at the last Games in 2010 in Sudbury.
â€śWhen I went to Sudbury it was really fun interacting with everyone else in all the different sports,â€ť Hacker said. â€śOpening ceremonies is absolutely amazing. Seeing all these different athletes from all the different regions that made it to go for their one sport, itâ€™s kind of like a mini-Olympics.â€ť
This yearâ€™s Ontario Summer Games â€” for athletes 16-and-under â€” are being hosted by Toronto and run from Thursday through Sunday. The opening ceremonies are Thursday night at the University of Torontoâ€™s Varsity Stadium and the lineup includes entertainment from acrobatic trampoliners Circus Orange and five-time international cheerleading champions Power Cheer as well as a musical finale from Toronto band Neverest.
Hacker, who from Cobourg, remembers the competition â€śwas really toughâ€ť in Sudbury.
â€śI didnâ€™t go into it expecting to win,â€ť she added. â€śI just wanted to have fun and try my best. This time Iâ€™m going in with more of a mindset that I want to win.â€ť
Partnering with Hacker is Jayden Duquesne Kennedy from the Durham Attack. They have been together for about three weeks, but have already achieved some outstanding results.
They recently won bronze at the Ontario Volleyball Association Provincial Beach Championships in the 16U Premier Division â€” which is the top level. They have also won gold medals in two other tournaments; one 16U as well as one 18U.
â€śIt was challenging at first (to get a new partner) but I think weâ€™re adapting to it pretty well,â€ť Hacker said.
Hacker previously played with Northumberland Breakers teammate Kennedy McMahon and they won a pair of silver medals together. When players tried out for, and ultimately made, the Region 4 team, the coaches put athletes together for what they thought would be the best pairings.
This new pairing provides a bit of a role reversal for Hacker, who is used to being a blocker.
â€śJayden does all the blocking and I just do all the digging, so itâ€™s the complete opposite of the couple years before,â€ť she said. â€śIt was a big change for me. It was a little hard at first but then you just get used to it. I like digging because you get more touches and itâ€™s challenging.â€ť
Meanwhile, McMahon is paired with Megan Romain from the Durham Attack. Also together are Jessica Kernan and Breanne Scheerhorn from the Breakers as well as Mark Wikkerink from the Breakers and Jared Harris from the Durham Attack.
While they donâ€™t know each other very well, McMahon said the key for her and Romain is â€śjust communicating with each other and working together as a team.
â€śIâ€™m expecting it to be challenging because most of the teams I’ve played in Premier or have seen them play, so Iâ€™m expecting it to be really hard.â€ť
In a sense, having a new partner falls in line with what McMahon is hoping to take from the experience of a participant in the Ontario Summer Games.
â€śJust meeting new people and having the experience because only a certain amount of people get to do this and itâ€™s basically once or twice in a lifetime,â€ť she said.
Of the Cobourg girls (with Hacker and McMahon, both 16, the others), Kernan is the youngest. She and Scheerhorn are both 15 and they will be taking on some older opponents. They have been partners for a year and a half and Kernan is encouraged about the way they have played up in some 16U tournaments.
â€śWe do pretty good under pressure,â€ť Kernan said. â€śWeâ€™re really strong because we know how we play together. Weâ€™re pretty good with communicating.â€ť
Thursday night will be a great start to the Games, she added.
â€śWe get to go to the Opening Ceremonies, so Iâ€™m really excited about that.â€ť
Story by Jeff Gard for the Northumberland Today Website | NorthumberlandToday.ca