Sunday, June 9, 2024

Gieni’s happy place is track and field track

Masters athlete has set Canadian records at least 60 times

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Muriel Gieni is an all-time great masters athlete in track and field.
Muriel Gieni discovered a whole new life when she followed her son into a sport.

About 23 years ago, Gieni’s son, Morgan, joined the Riversdale Athletics Club. At first, Gieni would drive Morgan to practice and watch him take part in the sport.

One day, Morgan’s coach, Doug Boyd, invited the parents to come out and take part in training. That led to Gieni at the time in her early 40s becoming a regular participant in practice sessions and eventually to taking part in masters athletics competitions.

In over two decades, Gieni is now 66-years-old and still going strong in the sport. Over her career, she has traveled all over and broken Canadian masters records in track and field on at least 60 occasions.

That included earning 3,852 points in the pentathlon at the Alberta Indoor Games on Edmonton this past February 4. Gieni’s point total set a new Canadian masters women’s indoor record for those aged 65 to 69.

“Your life has a journey, and you are rolling along here,” said Gieni. “What I learned is find what you love to do and do it.

“The second I walk on to a track I’m in my happy place. This is where I belong. This is where I should be.”

Before joining the Riversdale Athletics Club, Gieri had an athletic background. She grew up in a small town and in high school she took part in basketball, volleyball, badminton and track and field. Like small town athletes in the current day, Gieri moved from one sport to another as the year went along.

She remembers back then taking a liking to track and field.

“Our track season was four or five weeks long whatever it was,” said Gieni, who stands 5-foot-6. “I loved it.

“I loved track and field. It just was very limited to the time. I didn’t really get proper counselling to further my pursuit in track and field.

Muriel Gieni has set a number of records in triple jump.
“I was married with children for 20 years after that and then joined track again.”

Following high school, Gieni played volleyball in her post-secondary years as a student. After her post-secondary school was complete, Gieni continued to stay in shape doing workouts in the gym.

Upon getting back into track and field with the Riversdale Athletics Club, Gieni felt a new motivation in her pursuit to stay fit forming friendships with the athletes at the club. She enjoyed the youthful energy of the young members who were in junior high school or high school.

At first, Gieni saw herself being in the background as the person that was working to stay in shape and offer words of encouragement to the young athletes in the club. To her surprise, she received coaching, and she loved it.

“Right away, every single coach I’ve ever had has treated me like an athlete, and they talk to me like they would anybody in the group coaching specific technique, coaching specific to me what I need to do,” said Gieni. “It has been, ‘OK. I’ll ride this wave.’”

Gieni said the coaching she has received over the years from the Riversdale Athletic Club and the track and field community as a whole in Saskatoon has been outstanding. She added the track and field coaches in Saskatoon genuinely want to see the athletes they work with do well.

As for track events themselves, Gieni’s favourite is hurdles. Her main disciplines are hurdles, triple jump and long jump. Over the years, Gieni has picked up shot put, high jump, the 200-metre race, 800-metre race and javelin in order compete in pentathlons and heptathlons.

The pentathlon in masters women’s competitions includes 60-metre hurdles, 800-metre race, high jump, long jump and shot put. The heptathlon for masters women’s competitions is made up of the 80-metre hurdles, 200-metre race, 800-metre race, high jump, long jump, shot put and javelin.

When Gieni picked up new track disciplines over the years, she usually encounters a local coach who is an expert in that discipline, and the instruction she receives helps her performance immensely.

“I’ve always believed a champion is made by the athlete who buys into the coach,” said Gieni. “If you can coordinate that where your believing what he or she is saying you have magic.

Muriel Gieni takes part in Saskatchewan provincial in July of 2023.
“Sometimes I have a regular coach say just in high jump or some other coach and it could be from another club. It could be a senior coach that has come back to visit. I’ll just hear one thing, and I’ll say, ‘OK,’ because you hear it different. Then that works.”

As a bonus, the Canadian records started to come. Gieni’s first Canadian record was set in Calgary in the women’s 80-metre hurdles at age 45 in the 45-49 masters age class.

“I was absolutely over the moon, because it means I’m the first Canadian woman at this age that has ever run this fast,” said Gieni, who also sometimes has to chuckle when she sets a record. “Then I got into jumping, and I found out I could set Canadian records in the triple jump and long jump.

“I’ve been very successful in shotput as well. I’ve been very successful in high jump lately for some reason in my 60s. I’ve over 65.

“I’m jumping higher than I ever did in my 40s. What’s with that? The things that coaches challenge me with then I ask my body to try it, and I have actually no idea where this is going to go but sometimes it has been extremely successful and kind of laughable.”

Over the years, Gieni has cherished the friendships she has made through track and field. Last year, she did regular training sessions in the morning with the elite group on the Track and Field Track on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds that includes Michelle Harrison, Nicole Ostertag, Savannah Sutherland and Madisson Lawrence.

For one morning session last year, Gieni brought a camera to get photos of herself going through her events. She decided to get a photo of herself together with Harrison, Ostertag, Sutherland and Lawrence for a keepsake.

“My relationship with the other athletes is just the joy I carry around with me,” said Gieni. “I’m taking a picture, because this is who I am out here training with.

“They like me, but I like them way more. I love these kids. They treat me really, really well.”

Muriel Gieni picked up shot put to enter pentathlons and heptathlons.
With the track and field track being her happy place, Gieni plans to competing in the sport for as long as possible. Due to the fact masters records are classified via five year age groups, Gieni has a new set of records to go after the older she gets. At the moment, she his just at the beginning of going after the records in the women’s 65-69 age group.

While she enjoys pursuing Canadian records, Gieni stays in track and field, because she flat out loves it.

“It is absolutely my thing,” said Gieni.“I don’t do it to inspire others, but I do it to charge myself up, and my family loves it.

“They get a big kick out of it. It brings happiness all around. Fitness brings happiness. You got this where you are feeling good everyday.”

Berries home debut highlights busy photo roundup

By Gordie Howe Sports Complex staff
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Oakland Flodell, right, meets some young baseball players.
It was a night where Cairns Field felt like the big leagues on a miniature scale.

On May 28, the Western Canadian Baseball League made its return to Saskatoon’s fabled baseball park when the first-year Saskatoon Berries held their home opener against the Regina Red Sox, who have traditionally been one of the WCBL’s best teams. A sellout crowd of 2,200 spectators packed the park to take in great baseball action and enjoy a number of cool promotions that went on throughout the contest.

The concessions had unique menu options and there was a special beverage choice tailored to Saskatoon’s new baseball team. Those that are young or young at heart also enjoyed the upbeat nature of team mascot Barry the Bear.

It seemed a natural fit that the lead items for this latest Howe Happenings photo roundup came from the Berries first home game in team history.

Ryan Olchoway unloads a pitch to home plate.
Our lead photo sees Berries outfielder Oakland Flodell heading to the field during pre-game introductions being greeted by players from the Saskatoon Royals female baseball program. Flodell is a graduate of the Saskatoon Giants under-18 AAA program, and he just finished playing his first season with the Arizona Western College Matadors.

The second photo of the roundup sees Berries pitcher Ryan Olchoway firing a toss to a batter. Olchoway ultimately took the loss on the mound.

The third photo of the roundup comes post-game with a trio fans getting their photo taken with mascot Barry at home plate. The Berries trailed 5-4 heading into the ninth inning before falling 8-4 that night, but they make their games at Cairns Field the place to be in Saskatoon over the spring and summer months.

A trio of fans are pictured with Berries mascot Barry the Bear.
With the spring season well underway, it has been busy on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds. 

The grounds have hosted the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Green and White Day, Saskatoon Valkyries football, the SHSAA’s Track and Field Provincial Championships and all sorts of baseball and softball action.

The pictures in this photo roundup capture some of the memories that are made on our grounds. In this photo roundup, all of these pictures were taken by our Communications Coordinator in Darren Steinke.

Without further ado, here is a selection of 19 shots we hope you enjoy.

Set to let it rip

Saskatchewan Roughriders quarterback Trevor Harris gets set to fire a pass downfield working scrimmage and modified game type drills during the team’s Green and White Day at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on May 18. The Roughriders use the event as a way to give Rider Nation a small preview of the upcoming season.

Fun with the fans

Members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders visit with Rider Nation after going through scrimmage and modified game type drills during the team’s Green and White Day at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on May 18. The Roughriders use the event as a way to connect with their fans.

Goal-line stretch

Saskatoon Valkyries receiver Reed Thorstad battles through a couple of Regina Riot defenders to break the plane of the goal-line for a touchdown during a WWCFL regular season contest at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on May 18. The Valkyries downed the Riot 41-7 on this night.

Get that out of here

The Saskatoon Valkyries zone defence rejects a Regina Riot pass attempt in a WWCFL regular season game at Saskatoon Minor Football field on May 18. Defending on the play were Jaimyn Mantyka (#26), Skyler Smith (#23) and Kaylin O’Neill. The Saskatoon side claimed a 41-7 victory on the night.

Hot liner

A hitter drives a hot liner to the outfield at Glenn Reeve Field #3 on May 19 during the identification camp for Softball Canada’s Under-18 Women’s National Team. The camp attracted a healthy gathering of players from all over.

Bringing the heat

A Saskatoon Hustlers pitcher unloads a pitch at Glenn Reeve Field #7 on May 26 during game action at the SMSL’s President’s Tournament. The tourney drew in numerous teams for action in U13 A, U15 A, U17 A and U19 A age groups.

A Berrie good sight

A look at a packed Cairns Field for the Saskatoon Berries first WCBL home game on May 28. A sellout crowd of 2,200 spectators saw the Berries fall to the visiting Regina Red Sox 8-4.

Grateful first pitch honour

Bryan Kosteroski, our Board of Directors Chair, and Johnny Marciniuk, our Operations Manager, took part in throwing the ceremonial first pitches for the Saskatoon Berries first home game on May 28 at Cairns Field. Kosteroski, who is on the left, and Marciniuk, who is on the right, were honoured to take part in the Berries opening game festivities.

Excited for the opener

One Saskatoon Berries fan decided to rise above the crowd in showing his excitement for the team’s WCBL home opener on May 28 at Cairns Field. A sellout crowd of 2,200 spectators came out to this contest.

Beauty big screen


The new big video board located behind the outfield fence at Cairns Field shows off all sorts of great displays including this one in the late innings of the team’s home opener on May 28. The video scoreboard is one of many things that improves the game day experience at Berries home games.

Going for broke

Alaina Reid of Bedford Road Collegiate and Morgan McCleary of St. Joseph High School fly over their hurdles during a race at the Track and Field Track on May 30 during action at the SSSAD’s Bob Adams City Championships for track and field. Athletes from all over the city put in a top effort in competing for the chance to go to the SHSAA’s Track and Field Provincial Championships.

Cornered

A shifty ball carrier from a Falcons team gets trapped by a trio of defenders from a Bengals team during NFL 5on5 Youth Flag Football action on June 1 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The NFL 5on5 Youth Flag Football program is one of many great programs run by Saskatoon Minor Football.

Got it!

A Saskatoon Phantoms infielder settles under an infield fly to secure an out at Joe Gallagher Field on June 1 in action at the Saskatoon Hustlers Softball Tournament. The softball diamonds at the Complex host many local tournaments as well as two or three nationals during the annual spring and summer seasons.

Off to the races

Receiver Gage Prodaehl carried the ball on a jet sweep for Team Gold in Saskatoon Minor Football’s Varsity Academy Final on June 5 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Prodaehl helped Team Gold down Team Green 24-10.

Let the celebration begin

Players from Team Gold raise the championship trophy after winning Saskatoon Minor Football’s Varsity Academy Final on June 5 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Team Gold downed Team Green 24-10 for the championship in a game that was played in tough windy conditions.

Let it fly

Maddox Thibodeau launches a shot during shot put junior boy’s tetrathlon action on June 7 at the SHSAA Track and Field Provincial Championships held at the Track and Field Track. When the SHSAA Track and Field Provincial Championships are hosted at the Complex, it makes for usually the busiest days of the year for the Track and Field Track and the K+S Potash Canada Multi-Sports Centre.

Taking flight

Happy Oluwasikun flies over a hurdle during the senior girls’ 80-metre hurdles championship race on June 7 at the SHSAA Track and Field Provincial Championships held at the Track and Field Track. Oluwasikun captured the gold medal winning the race in a time of 12.21 seconds.

Up and over

Kaileah Ulmer-Lutudromu lifts her way over the bar in the intermediate girls’ high jump on June 8 at the SHSAA Track and Field Provincial Championships held at the Track and Field Track. She just missed the medals finishing in fourth place as one of competition’s younger competitors.

Sweet victory

Will Sawchuk raises his hands in victory after taking the intermediate boys’ 3,000-metre race on June 8 at the SHSAA Track and Field Provincial Championships held at the Track and Field Track. He completed the run in a time of nine minutes and 51.72 seconds.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Hus holds Gordie Howe Sports Complex in heart

Now Honorary Chair of “Sharing Sport Together” campaign

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Jorgen Hus coaches players at Playground To Pros in April.
Jorgen Hus keeps getting pulled back into the Gordie Howe Sports Complex, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

The 34-year-old Saskatoon product is the veteran long snapper for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, and he has a lengthy history with city’s storied sports park. Hus played for the football program at St. Joseph’s High School taking part in games at Saskatoon Minor Football Field from 2003 to 2006.

He moved on to play three seasons with the CJFL’s powerhouse Saskatoon Hilltops from 2007 to 2009. The Hilltops have played their home games at SMF Field since 1960. After becoming a member of the Roughriders in 2015, Hus kept returning to SMF Field as the CFL squad began to regularly hold its annual “Green and White Day” there starting in 2016.

Making a career away from football as a mortgage broker in his hometown, Hus does all his off-season training in Saskatoon. Once the Indoor Training Centre opened on March 1, 2019 on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds, Hus was able to work on his long snapping on the field turf field and do conditioning training at Ignite Athletics.

“This park in general has been a huge part of my life,” said Hus, who helped the Hilltops win a CJFL title in 2007. “It has supported my career and being able to come here in the winters has just helped my career out in so many ways.

“It is pretty incredible what we have here. I just think I wish I had something like this when I was starting high school. I’m curious to see how things would have gone, and if they would have gone any different.

“It is a state-of-the-art facility, and these kids that get to come now they have no idea how good they have it. This is one of the top places in Canada, if not the best as far as I’m concerned. I have a lot of memories here, and a lot of opportunity.”

Knowing the impact the Complex has made on his football career, Hus thought it was natural to take on the role as Honorary Campaign Chair for the “Sharing Sport Together” campaign. That campaign overseen by Friends of the Bowl has a goal of raising $10-million to compete the final upgrades for the Complex grounds. Hus was honoured when he was presented with the opportunity to be the Honorary Campaign Chair.

Jorgen Hus works on long snapping at the Indoor Training Centre.
“This place it obviously has a place in my heart,” said Hus. “It has done so much for me.

“It continues to do even more. With the opportunities that are right there, anything that I can do to help that come to fruition is going to help the dreams of the next kid, the next generation be fulfilled. It is all possible.

“It was a no brainer for me.”

Johnny Marciniuk, who is the Operations Manager for the Gordie Howe Sports Complex Management Incorporated, was excited that Hus came on board to be the Honorary Campaign Chair for the “Sharing Sport Together” campaign. Marciniuk was pleased Hus took up the role, because of the positive history he has in Saskatoon’s sports scene.

“It is awesome to have Jorgen as our Honourary Campaign Chair as he is a successful local boy who played sports in our high school and junior system in the province,” said Marciniuk. “He is a role model for professional football players as well as young boys and girls and adults to strive to achieve their goals.

“What is even better is all of our clients young and old can end up walking side by side with him in our facilities as he uses them on a daily basis, which brings a sense of community to everyone. Lastly, Jorgen is a business man, husband, father and gentleman. We couldn’t be prouder to have him associated with our campaign.”

Hus said some of his earliest memories of playing football in Grade 9 was being able to get out of class early to catch the bus to come down to SMF Field. From there, he built more memories playing against buddies from elementary school who suited up for Evan Hardy Collegiate. The high school post-season inevitably seemed to lead to a showdown with Holy Cross High School.

Playing for either St. Joseph’s or the Hilltops, recollections piled up of playing on the old grass surface at SMF Field when it would eventually become a mud bowl often late in the season.

“There are definitely a few games there where you can’t even tell anybody’s number,” said Hus. “There are just so many games that have been like that.

“I can’t even like pick one out. There was definitely a lot of them. Those were the most fun games.

Jorgen Hus works with youngsters at a clinic in February.
“You’re sliding around in the mud. You feel bad for the folks who have to do the laundry, because that wouldn’t have been easy. That was all part of it playing in all the elements.”

Since 2014, the mud bowl became a thing of the past as a field turf field was installed. With the turf field that exists at the Indoor Training Centre, Hus has been impressed with the number of different camps and programs Saskatoon Minor Football offers thanks to the increased field time. He is a regular when it comes to coaching with SMF’s Playground To Pros Camp.

“All the camps and stuff that are going on now, obviously, they weren’t around when I was coming out of college,” said Hus, who helps coach long snappers at various levels of the game in Saskatoon. “I don’t even know if the CFL combine had lasers when I came out.

“There is definitely more opportunity. Now even with the indoor facilities that we have, we can go throughout the winter. There are no excuses.

“There is a time all year round. We don’t have to wait for the good weather.”

Hus said he has improved quite a bit working on the craft of his position since the Indoor Training Centre opened.

“I’ve had two all-star seasons since being able to work in this place and having the winters to do this,” said Hus. “It is no coincidence.

“I’ve been able to practice on good turf all year round essentially all winter. It has been huge for my career, massive.”

Along with improving for his sport, Hus has enjoyed meeting the numerous athletes that come to the Complex to train and improve in various other sports. He has found those athletes have developed a feeling of attachment to the Complex like he has. Hus said seeing the drive of the other athletes helps his drive.

Jorgen Hus speaks at the Hilltops End Zone Dinner on Sept. 30, 2023.
“You are seeing people come here and working their tail off chasing their dreams, and it is not hard to get motivated by that,” said Hus. “You can be walking in here on your worst day, and you’ll find plenty of reasons to get motivated and fired up.

“That is why I love coming here. I’ll be a client forever after the football career is done. It is pretty special.

“There are not a lot of places where you can see that and get that out of people.”

Valkyries grow into institution in Saskatoon

Female football sees big growth since club’s birth in 2011

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

The Valkyries raise the WWCFL championship trophy in 2022.
The meteoric rise of the Saskatoon Valkyries has given Saskatoon a vibrant female football landscape.

Back in the fall of 2010, Football Saskatchewan held a women’s tackle football clinic in Saskatoon to gauge the interest of women for the sport. Roughly around 45 women ranging in ages and athletic backgrounds from Regina, Saskatoon, Prince Albert and surrounding areas came out to give the sport a shot.

From that initial gathering, Football Saskatchewan backed the start of two 12-player women’s tackle football teams with one in Regina and one in Saskatoon. In the spring of 2011, the Regina Riot and Saskatoon Valkyries began play in the inaugural season of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League.

The Valkyries won the first four straight league titles and eight league championships overall in the circuit’s history. Since the Valkyries start, numerous players from the team have gone on to coach or take on administrative and supporting roles in the sport.

Female flag football ballooned in “The Bridge City” since the Valkyries creation. The Rush High School Female Football Flag League was born around 2014. The Saskatoon F.A.T.E. (Female Athletes Tackling Excellence) program was created last fall to allow high school aged female players to play games in the six-person version of the sport.

More female players began to show up on high school rosters. Saskatchewan began sending provincial teams to national competitions and Valkyries players have represented Canada on the international scene.

Michelle Duchene, who has been the Valkyries general manager since the team’s inception, marvels looking at what has transpired in Saskatoon since the Valkyries played their first game back on May 22, 2011 downing the Riot 56-6 at historic Taylor Field in Regina.

“The best thing has been watching the sport grow in both flag and tackle for girls, and that we have created the space for females to have a place in football,” said Duchene, whose team hosts the Riot at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 18 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. “More and more of our players are moving on to coaching tackle and flag football or finding other ways to be involved in the sport once they retire.

“Hearing athletes coming from other sports talk about how they are treated like elite athletes in our community by being part of the Valkyries is a pretty special feeling. We get calls from groups asking our player to come talk to them or teach them about being an elite athlete and our sport, which is a pretty cool ask. It is amazing hearing young athletes talk to us about how excited they are to play for the Valkyries one day.”

Valkyries MLB Emmarae Dale (#45) chases Riot QB Aimee Kowalski.
Over the years, Duchene has recruited a number of players to come play for the Valkyries. Sometimes, the sales pitch comes from planting the idea in a female athlete’s mind that she should give football a try, and she might discover she likes the game.

One of those players Duchene planted a seed with was star middle linebacker Emmarae Dale. Before Dale joined the Valkyries in 2016, she played flag football and Duchene was her coach. Duchene passed on some friendly nudges that Dale would probably like playing for the Valkyries, if she joined the team.

Dale has since become one of the Valkyries most recognizable players. She helped the Valkyries win four WWCFL titles coming in 2016, 2019, 2022 and 2023.

Along with playing for the Valkyries, Dale was recruited to play for the Saskatoon Hilltops and joined the storied powerhouse CJFL club for the 2021 season. She became the first female ever named to the Hilltops roster, and she was also the first female to play in the CJFL regular season.

Dale also suited up for Canada’s National Women’s Team that played in the International Federation of American Football’s Women’s World Championship, which ran from July 28 to August 8, 2022 in Vantaa, Finland. She was one of 12 Valkyries players that was on Canada’s main roster.

Now at age 26, Dale has always loved being a member of the Valkyries and has gained a new appreciation being a veteran player of the team.

“It has been really cool to see kind of where the team has grown throughout the years,” said Dale. “It has been interesting even to just like witness my own transition from being a new player to a veteran.

“It is really awesome just to see all the rookies and new people that we’re getting out. It has been a pretty incredible career so far. I’m just really thankful for the years I’ve been able to have and will hopefully continue to have for a little bit.”

Alex Eyolfson (#15) calls a play in the Valkyries huddle.
Dale has also been active in coaching the female game in various capacities in Saskatoon. She has seen the number of female flag teams grow over the years and said it was cool to see the F.A.T.E. program debut last fall.

“It is definitely an interesting dynamic, but it is really cool being able to see both sides of the ball,” said Dale. “Us veterans that are starting to coach more, I think it has been helping our own play to able to coach as well.

“It is really honestly good to be on the coaching side and kind of get those friendships and memories too. It is kind of interesting to still be coach and an athlete for a lot of us. It has been going really, really well, and I think we all really enjoy it.”

Like Dale, receiver Ricki Obed joined the Valkyries in 2016 too. She was a member of their last four WWCFL championship teams and suited up for Canada’s National Women’s Team for worlds in 2022.

The 32-year-old enjoyed coaching in the F.A.T.E. program last year and the new realizations that continues to bring.

“Starting the F.A.T.E. league and coaching that was just such a great experience,” said Obed. “We coached it with a full female coaching team as well with most of those being Valks players and retired Valks players as well.

“It was just so cool to watch these girls get to experience tackle football and see them start to pick it up, see them start to learn it and love it was very exciting. Now, we actually have some girls on our roster that came from F.A.T.E. just last year. It is this whole big circle, and I’m just loving being a part of it.”

During her time with the Valkyries, Obed has enjoyed seeing former players become members of the club’s coaching staff including some of her former teammates.

“Obviously, the goal of the program is just to get more women involved in football,” said Obed. “To kind of watch that progression of some of our players from the earlier years becoming coaches now, we have Marci (Halseth) and Beth (Thompson), obviously, on our coaching staff.

Ricki Obed breaks downfield after making a catch for the Valkyries.
“Rienna Rueve and Beth Lalonde are out helping coach this year as well. To see that kind of shift watching them go though their career and then into coaching now is really cool. Obviously, it opens my eyes to those opportunities as well.”

Obed said all the former Valkyries players that she knows always have positive things to say about the team. She remembers being a rookie looking up to the veteran players. Obed enjoys that memory and all the memories she has made with the squad.

“It is like a family, honestly,” said Obed. “The girls in the locker room are like some of the closest people in my life.

“To have that and to meet people that way is pretty incredible. Obviously when you go to battle together, it creates a very close bond.”

Pat Barry, who has been the Valkyries head coach since 2017 and been with the club’s coaching staff since 2014, said it has been special working with the team’s players over the years and is pumped every time a new season comes around.

“I’m a long-time coach, obviously, even before this,” said Barry, whose team has regularly played their home games at SMF Field since 2015. “It is just something I’m super excited about every season.

“When you work with adults, life sometimes gets in the way, and I understand that. So many of our athletes, they come from different sports. They come from different backgrounds.

“Now some of them, football is their first sport. That is something that didn’t happen in the early years of the club, but you had players who played flag football for many, many years or now have played tackle football in the new F.A.T.E. league or on their high school teams as well.”

Of course, being able to win eight WWCFL championships has been special as well for the Valkyries over the years. Duchene said winning titles is a nice reward for the team, but when all is said and done, she wants the players to come away feeling being a part of the Valkyries was a great and special thing in their lives.

“I love watching our player reach their goals, get better each year, some go on to play for the national team, and I am so proud of them all for reaching whatever their goal is, even if it is just trying the sport for one year,” said Duchene. “The hope is that their experience with our team will help them all succeed in life after they are done their playing careers.

The Valkyries raise their helmets for a win on June 18, 2023. 
“The number of players who have come through this program is getting bigger, and it is super fun to have them come back and see the impact that they have made and relive the glory days.”

For more information on the Saskatoon Valkyries, feel free to check their website saskatoonvalkyries.com.

Business picks up for baseball, football, softball in photo roundup

By Gordie Howe Sports Complex staff
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Rachel Siwak drives the ball of a tee at the Indoor Training Centre.
The excitement and momentum for the spring season kept building and kept going when it finally came.

For the Gordie Howe Sports Complex, the arrival of May starts a period lasting about six to seven months where all the facilities on the Complex grounds are in operation. Baseball and softball begin regular season play.

Football gets going with numerous flag leagues, Saskatoon Minor Football’s North Sask Academy league and the Saskatoon Valkyries, who venture on a quest to capture another WWCFL title. The Track and Field Track gets swamped with various meets in May, June and July.

Of course, there is big excitement for the return of Western Canadian Baseball League to Saskatoon. The Saskatoon Berries will play their home opener on May 28 at 7 p.m. at Cairns Field against the Regina Red Sox. That contest will mark the first time Cairns Field has hosted a game in Canada’s premier collegiate summer wood bat league since the Saskatoon Yellow Jackets ceased operation following the 2014 season.

Activity was still busy inside the Indoor Training Centre as athletes in all these sports were peaking their training throughout April in anticipation of the calendar turning to May. One group looking further down the road in this calendar year was the University of Saskatchewan Women’s Softball Program. They held a tryout camp inside the Indoor Training Centre from April 13 to 14.

Samantha Moore runs down a ball hit into the outfield.
Our lead picture for our photo roundup comes from that camp and sees veteran centerfielder Rachel Siwak working on her sweet swing in a batting cage on April 13. The second picture sees veteran right-fielder Samantha Moore running down a ball hit into the outfield.

The tryout camp allowed the U of S players to get in some work before joining various club teams at the start of May and playing with those squads in spring and summer. The U of S squad usually begins play in late August.

The pictures in this photo roundup capture some of the memories that are made on our grounds. In this photo roundup, all of these pictures were taken by our Communications Coordinator in Darren Steinke.

Without further ado, here is a selection of 11 shots we hope you enjoy.

Focus on tackle form

A player with the Saskatoon Wild Oats Rugby Club concentrates on perfecting a tackling technique on a teammate during a practice session hosted by the program on April 10 at the Indoor Training Centre. The Wild Oats men’s and women’s clubs get in regular indoor training sessions as their respective seasons approach.

Lineout catch looks good

Members of the Saskatoon Wild Oats Rugby Club work at making sure the ball is caught in a lineout on April 10 at the Indoor Training Centre. Members of both the Wild Oats men’s and women’s programs were gearing up for their upcoming campaigns.

Securing the flyout

An outfielder with a Saskatoon Selects under-18 team gets under and secures a catch in the outfield during a training session on April 10 at the Indoor Training Centre. The Selects players were getting in as many defensive repetitions as possible with the season around the corner.

Tracking in top form

A catcher follows the ball into her glove during a tryout session hosted by the University of Saskatchewan Women’s Softball Program on April 13 at the Indoor Training Centre. The coaches with the U of S club were evaluating players before they departed to their club teams in May that play in spring and summer.

Take down

A young player flattens a tackle wheel during a drill on April 16 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Saskatoon Minor Football was holding an ID camp for its North Sask Academy in the under-16 age group on this day.

Running with power

A ball carrier powers through a couple of tacklers during a kick return drill on April 16 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The drill was part of the activities overseen by Saskatoon Minor Football as part of an ID camp for its North Sask Academy in the under-16 age group.

Winter reminder

Just when it looked like the weather outside was cleared up, winter sent a reminder that it could come back at any time. Saskatoon Minor Football Field is pictured here after a snow dump on April 18.

Sweet touch throw

A quarterback makes a perfect throw during a Rush Female High School Flag Football mass practice on April 22 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Players taking part in the Rush program develop a strong love for the game.

Well-timed juke

A ball carrier puts on a juke move to fake out a defender during a Rush Female High School Flag Football mass practice on April 22 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Rush program is outstanding when it comes to delivering fun and competitiveness.

All in the release

A young pitcher focuses on making a good release working on her craft at a Saskatoon Phantoms under-15 team practice at the Indoor Training Centre on April 28. The Phantoms coaches had pitchers working on their release before going into a full pitch wind up.

Turning on the jets

A base runner finds her top gear turning a well-placed hit into a triple during a modified scrimmage between a pair of Saskatoon Selects teams on April 28 at the Indoor Training Centre. The turf field at the Indoor Training Centre provides a perfect spot to conduct simulated game situations.

Safe at home

Saskatoon Giants base runner Tristin Tetreault Yaremko slides in safe at home during a Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League game in under-18 AAA play against the Saskatoon Diamondbacks on May 8 at Leakos Field. The Diamondbacks ultimately squeaked out a 4-3 win.

Special delivery

Saskatoon Diamondbacks pitcher Casey Rauckman finesses a pitch to the plate during a Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League game in under-18 AAA play against the Saskatoon Giants on May 8 at Leakos Field. The Diamond slipped past the Giants 4-3.

He could go all the way

Samuel Lafreniere from Team Green runs a punt a long way back to a touchdown during North Sask Academy league action on May 8 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Team Green took this contest over Team White 41-2.

Making it look routine

A Cardinals men’s team baseball player settles under a fly ball during a training session on May 8 at the Indoor Training Centre. A smaller group of Cardinals players were out getting lots repetitions in the outfield.

A beauty site

The K+S Potash Canada Multi-Sports Centre sits overlooking the Track and Field Track on May 9 waiting to be used for that evening’s twilight meet. It makes for a great site on a sweet sunny day.