Thursday, June 9, 2022

Harrison, Ostertag tackle busy outdoor track season

Pair gets chance to represent Canada internationally

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Michelle Harrison and Nicole Ostertag are track and field standouts.
Michelle Harrison and Nicole Ostertag are continuing to keep Saskatoon’s great track and field tradition on the map.

Harrison and Ostertag are part of the current generation of a long line of athletes that have come from Saskatoon and excelled in the track and field world. Harrison, who is 29-years-old, won the women’s 100-metre hurdles final at the Canadian Olympic track and field trials that doubled as the Canadian nationals in June of 2021, and Ostertag, who is 22-years-old, is a national standout in the women’s heptathlon.

Both will compete in the Canadian Track and Field Championships that run later this month from June 22 to 26 in Langley, B.C. Both have represented Canada on the international stage and aim to continue representing Canada in future internationals events.

“It is definitely a privilege to work with athletes of their calibre,” said Jason Reindl, who is the head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Track and Field teams and is a high-performance track and field coach in Saskatoon. “It is just always fun to see where they go, where they can compete and the opportunities that kind of present themselves at the highest levels of the sport.”

Harrison, who is an alumna of the Huskies track program, represented Canada at the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, where she finished in a tie for 15th overall in the women’s 60-metre hurdles. In April, Harrison took part in a training camp in California and won the 100-metre women’s hurdles title in the Bryan Clay Invitational, the Beach Invitational and the Steve Scott Invitational, which were all held in that state.

Also in April, Harrison traveled to Eugene, Oregon, and took the women’s 100-metre hurdles title at the Oregon Relays.

Michelle Harrison competed at indoor worlds in March.
On May 21, Harrison took the 100-metre women’s hurdles final at the Johnny Loaring Classic in Windsor, Ont., and on June 5, she topped the 100-metre women’s hurdles field at La Classique d’AthlĂ©tisme de MontrĂ©al in Montreal, Quebec.

“The indoor season started out well,” said Harrison, who stands 5-foot-6. “I was able to make the world indoor team, which was my standard for the indoor season, so I was able to achieve that goal.

“I’m hoping to just use that momentum and move forward into outdoors and hopefully be able to make the world outdoor team as well. My hope is to run the world standard this year, which is 12.84 (seconds).”

She did indeed run the world standard. On June 8 at the Royal City Inferno Track and Field Festival in Guelph, Ont., Harrison ran a personal best time twice with her fastest run in the 100-metre hurdles coming in at 12.80 seconds. Her second fastest time at that event of 12.83 seconds also bested the world standard.

Harrison aims to compete in the World Athletics Championships that run July 15 and 24 in Eugene, Oregon. Following worlds, she would like to take part in the Commonwealth Games, which run July 28 to August 8 in Birmingham, England.

After the Commonwealth Games, Harrison would like to compete at the North American, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) Senior Championships slated for August 19 to 21 in Grand Bahama, Bahamas.

Harrison has enjoyed getting back into a steady competition schedule after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that gripped the world caused numerous cancellations in 2020 and 2021.

“I think the best part is just getting out and having some consistency, where as the past two years you never really knew what was going on more than like a couple of days ahead of time,” said Harrison. “I really like having a plan and being able to like have relative certainty these X-amount of meets are going to happen and be able to get in consecutive workouts as well especially because I dealt with lots of injuries during COVID.

Nicole Ostertag is quickly putting up good results in the heptathlon.
“It was just nice getting in some consistent training and having a plan moving forward.”

Ostertag is still a relative newcomer to track and field having taken up the sport in her Grade 12 year at Holy Cross High School in 2017-18. She is currently a member of the Huskies track team.

A lower leg injury sidelined her for the 2021-22 U Sports season with the Huskies, and she got back more in the swing of things around the time she joined Harrison in California for that training camp in April. Ostertag returned to full training about a week before she left for the training camp in California.

Taking part in the Bryan Clay Invitational, she placed second among 25 competitors in her division in the women’s heptathlon.

The women’s heptathlon includes the 200-metre race, the 800-metre race, the 100-metre hurdles, high jump, long jump, shot put and javelin throw.

Ostertag’s result at the Bryan Clay Invitational allowed her to earn a spot to represent Canada at the at the NACAC Combined Events Championship that ran May 14 and 15 in Ottawa, Ont. At that event, Ostertag, who was representing Canada for the first time in her track and field career, placed second in the women’s heptathlon setting personal bests in the 200-metre race, the 800-metre race, the 100-metre hurdles, high jump, long jump and javelin throw.

Due to lost training time because of her injury troubles, Ostertag is still looking to round into top form.

“I haven’t done as much training as I would have liked, but it is coming along quickly,” said Ostertag, who stands 5-foot-8. “I’m surprising myself I guess.

Michelle Harrison has her sights set on making worlds in July.
“I have been able to work on my endurance and my strength and kind of working out some imbalances in my body, so that is serving me well. I’ve been a bit rusty with the technical side of things, but we’ve been able to do a lot more work. It is not ideal preparation, but it is how it has to be.

“You’ve always got to be adaptable with combined events too. There is a little more wiggle room.”

Ostertag will join Harrison at the Canadian Track and Field Champions. Following that event, Ostertag has her sights set on competing at the Canada Games that will run August 6 to 21 in Niagara, Ont., before returning to the U of S to rejoin the Huskies and continue her academic studies in kinesiology.

“Winning nationals would be the ultimate goal for this season,” said Ostertag. “Canada Games is in August, and I would also love to win that one as well.

“I’m actually happy to be able to compete in Canada and have a little bit more of a low-key summer.”

Reindl expects Harrison and Ostertag to make noise in the track and field world for some time to come. He said their ability to zero in and complete what they need to do in training on a day to day basis helps them excel in track and field at an elite level. 

When they are in Saskatoon, Reindl said it has been big for them to train at the Track and Field Track and Indoor Training Centre at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.

Nicole Ostertag is aiming for first at nationals and Canada Games.
“Their mindset and just ability to focus and get the work that they need to get in is a testament to them and their characters as strong women,” said Reindl. “Having facilities like the Gordie Howe Sports Complex here and the Indoor Training Centre and Ignite Athletics are really the other pieces of the puzzle.

“You can have all the determination in the world, but you need to have somewhere to go and somewhere to train and somewhere to work. This is why on a Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. we’re able to come out here and have a focused high-quality training environment, which is truly world class for what we are trying to achieve.”

Sweet happenings in photos sees more memories get made

By Gordie Howe Sports Complex staff
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Team North celebrates their win in the Senior Bowl.
The Gordie Howe Sports Complex is still the place memories are made just like it has been for decades.

With the spring and summer season in full swing, all the facilities on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds have been filled seemingly with non-stop action in the sports of baseball, football, softball and track and field. A couple of championship trophies were handed out in football and medals were won at track and field meets and tournaments in baseball and softball.

Events that weren’t able to happen the past two years due to world pandemic related factors have returned to our grounds this spring. That includes Football Saskatchewan’s Ed Henick Senior Bowl, which was played at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on May 29.

The lead photo of this post shows an image of Team North’s victory celebration after winning the Senior Bowl, which is the annual high school football all-star game for Grade 12 players in the province. Team North downed Team South 28-17 in a solid contest.

Other events that returned to action after a two-year hiatus included the Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate City Track and Field Championships, the Quinn Stevenson Memorial Under-18 AA Baseball Tournament and Saskatoon Minor Softball League’s President’s Tournament.

The activity that happens on our grounds continues to provide great material for our continuing photo roundups.

These photos capture some of the memories that are made on our grounds. In this photo roundup, most of these pictures were taken by our Communications Coordinator in Darren Steinke. A long-time friend of the Complex checked in with a cool night photo too.

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

Throwing the javelin is fun

An athlete has a big smile on her face throwing the javelin during warmups on the first day of the SSSAD’s City Track and Field Championships on May 25 at the Track and Field Track. The scene of someone having fun participating in sports is always priceless.

Feeling the need for speed

A sprinter from the St. Joseph High School Guardians jets down the final straightaway to the finish line during a relay race on the first day of the SSSAD’s City Track and Field Championships at the Track and Field Track. The track and field athletes from Saskatoon and area can sure put up strong results.

“Friday Night Lights” at Bob Van Impe Stadium

“Friday Night Lights” can expand beyond football venues. During the first day of Saskatoon Minor Softball League’s President’s Tournament, Jon Equina took this beauty picture from a night game held at Bob Van Impe Stadium. Equina has made a second home at the Complex over the years as a player and coach and has an eye for the beauty pictures on the diamonds.

“Green and White” going to the house

Receiver Kian Schaffer-Baker (#89) races into the end zone for a touchdown during the Saskatchewan Roughriders Green and White Game on May 28 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. On top of playing the Green and White Game at SMF Field, the Roughriders held their Green and White Day activities that same day on our grounds.

Roughriders meet Rider Nation

Following the Green and White Game held at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on May 28, members of the Saskatchewan Roughriders met the fans or more accurately members of Rider Nation that came out to support the team. The interactions between the players and fans are always sweet to see.

Beating the throw to home

A base runner from the Regina White Sox slides home safe in a game against the Parkland Expos on May 28 at Leakos Field. The contest was part of the Quinn Stevenson Memorial Under-18 AA Baseball Tournament. The Expos ultimately took the tournament title.

Valkyries roll to 4-0

Sarah Wright (#88) had a big night on May 28 as her Saskatoon Valkyries downed the Regina Riot 46-7 in a WWCFL regular season game at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Wright carried the ball 10 times for 84 yards and two touchdowns. She also caught seven passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns. The Valkyries finished first in the WWCFL’s Western Conference with a 4-0 record and could host as many has three post-season games over the rest of June including the WWCFL title game on June 25.

Wrapping up in the Academy Final

A tackler from Team Black wraps up to tackle a receiver from Team Green in the North Sask Academy Championship game on June 3 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Team Black just edged out Team Green 26-23 in an exciting final.

Cubs drive clears the bases

Infielder Kalen Parent drives in three runs with this triple hit for the Saskatoon Cubs in a Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League under-18 AAA game on June 4 at Cairns Field. Parent’s hit allowed the Cubs to down the Regina Athletics 6-3 and sweep a doubleheader.

Flat out effort

A Regina Athletic outfielder makes a diving catch in a Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League under-18 AAA game on June 5 at Cairns Field against the Saskatoon Giants. The Athletics and Giants split a doubleheader.

An off-speed challenge

A Saskatoon Shock pitcher throws an off-speed pitch during a Saskatoon Amateur Softball Association game at Glenn Reeve Field #3 on June 7. The Shock downed the Saskatoon Sabres 11-4 in a battle of under-23 teams.

Monday, May 9, 2022

Home is where the heart is for Neufeld

O-lineman finds stomping grounds in Sask. and the ’Peg

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Patrick Neufeld, left, shares a chuckle with Evan Johnson.
Patrick Neufeld proved a good old Saskatchewan boy can be a proud Winnipegger too.

Neufeld grew up in Regina and graduated from Luther College High School in 2006. Following high school, he suited up as offensive lineman for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Football team from 2006 to 2010.

Following his time with the Huskies, Neufeld cracked into the CFL in 2011 with his hometown Saskatchewan Roughriders, but was traded to the rival Winnipeg Blue Bombers in October of 2013.

With the Blue Bombers, Neufeld has become a Winnipeg hero after helping the team win two Grey Cups.

“It is a pretty special place that I’ve grown quite fond of, and (I’ve met) a lot of really cool people there that are important people in my life,” said Neufeld, who stands 6-foot-6 and weighs 311 pounds. “I’m glad I’ve gotten a chance to know them and form those relationships.”

Neufeld spends his CFL off-seasons in Saskatoon, where he trains for the upcoming campaign at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex. He regularly helps out as a guest coach at the annual Playground to Pros camp run by Saskatoon Minor Football. The camp helps develop skills and fundamentals at the grassroots level.

During his years at the U of S, Neufeld carved out his place in Huskies lore. He was a red shirt in 2006, when the Huskies fell as the host team in the U Sports title game - the Vanier Cup - 13-8 to the Universite Laval Rouge et Or at Griffiths Stadium.

Neufeld was on the active roster from 2007 to 2010, and he was named a U Sports first team all-Canadian all-star at tackle in 2010.

That run with the Huskies ensured Neufeld always had roots in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan.

When he arrived in Winnipeg in October of 2013, Neufeld developed roots that would ensure he was always identified with Manitoba’s capital city. 

Patrick Neufeld (#53) blocks for the Bombers in 2018.
He ultimately became a starter for the Bombers and helped them win the Grey Cup in consecutive seasons in 2019 and 2021.

The 2020 CFL season was lost due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that gripped the world.

On top of winning a second straight Grey Cup in 2021, Neufeld had a stellar personal campaign making starts at right guard and right tackle being named a West Division all-star and a CFL all-star at offensive guard. He was also given the Bombers prestigious Cal Murphy ‘Heart of a Legend’ Award for sportsmanship and dedication to the CFL and the community.

Neufeld has felt the dedication of the Bombers’ fans and is impressed how they seemingly know everything about the team’s history including the club’s 10 previous Grey Cup wins before he joined the squad. He has seen Bombers fans keep past players close to their hearts.

“They are the best fans in the CFL,” said Neufeld. “They’re passionate.

“They’re knowledgeable. They care about the team. They care to a point where they have expectations, which is great, because it forces us as players to match those expectations.

“We want to put on a great show for our fans. They’re extremely loud, and they make playing in IGF (Field) really, really hostile. It is a great community, and I’m really proud to represent those fans and that community every week.”

Before joining the Bombers, Neufeld was selected in the fifth round and 33rd overall in the 2010 CFL Draft by the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Neufeld started playing for his hometown CFL team in 2011.

A trade on October 6, 2013 saw the Roughriders send Neufeld and a fourth round selection in the 2015 CFL Draft to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers for defensive end Alex Hall and a second round selection in the 2014 CFL Draft.

Patrick Neufeld demonstrates offensive line hand positioning.
Hall helped the Roughriders win the Grey Cup at home in 2013, but his professional football career came to an end a couple of seasons later.

Neufeld is still continuing to build on his status as an all-time Bombers great. Even with that said, he enjoys returning to Saskatoon in the off-season and looks forward to helping with the Playground to Pros camp.

“It is awesome,” said Neufeld. “Saskatoon has been home for a long time now, and SMF does a phenomenal job of putting these camps on.

“I think I’ve done every single playground to pros camp that they’ve ever put on. It is just a cool camp to see kids come out get to learn all these different positions from really great Huskie players and pro players across the CFL. They do a great job of bringing in all sorts of people to this camp and give everyone a chance to learn this great game of football.”

Neufeld naturally coaches offensive line skills at the camps and enjoys seeing the spark kids get, when they realize they can do what they are being shown.

“That is the coolest part is when you see a kid kind of like click into the things you’re trying to teach them, and then they go do it in a drill or in a game,” said Neufeld. “Their eyes light up when you’re congratulating them.

“They get super excited, and they are motivated. It is just those little sparks of joy that make coaching this game really fun and really special. It is the best game in the world, and camps like this is why it is.”

On January 11, Neufeld signed a contract extension with the Bombers to remain with the team through the end of the upcoming 2022 campaign. He has studied the history of the Bombers, which includes watching highlight videos of the team’s Grey Cup championship years in 1988 and 1990 on YouTube.

Patrick Neufeld, centre, chats with coaches at the Playground to Pros camp.
At age 33, Neufeld could potentially play a few more seasons before hanging up the cleats. When he does retire as a player, Neufeld knows he could potentially face an opportunity to make Winnipeg home due to his now storied history with the Bombers.

With that noted, he tries to not look too far ahead.

“I take it year by year now,” said Neufeld. “I’ve said that for a while.

“I’m going to play this season and see how the body feels and see how the year goes and make a decision with family after that.”

Spring season off and running in Sweet happenings in photos

By Gordie Howe Sports Complex staff
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Cubs pitcher Brady Wouters fires home a split-finger throw.
The spring season is off and running at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.

The sports of baseball, football, softball and track and field took off during the first nine days of May in a big way. The baseball and softball diamonds, Saskatoon Minor Football Field and the Track and Field Track were sites filled with familiar activity.

From league and tournament games in baseball and softball, to academy contests in football and the first Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate track and field meet held since 2019, there was a tonne of action waiting to be captured on photos.

The lead photo of this post sees Saskatoon Cubs pitcher Brady Wouters unloading a split-finger hurl at Cairns Field on May 5 in an under-18 AAA contest in the Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League.

As April came to a close, the Indoor Training Centre still was a centre of attention for activity. Besides baseball and softball teams gearing up for their season, Saskatoon Minor Football held its annual Playground to Pros camp just after the Easter weekend and some rugby teams stopped in to work on sharpening skills in their sport.

The activity that happens on our grounds continues to provide great material for our continuing photo roundups.

These photos 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.

All in technique

A tackler ensures his form is correct as he closes in to take down a ball carrier during a drill at the Playground to Pros camp session on April 19 at the Indoor Training Centre. The camp run by Saskatoon Minor Football held around Easter time helps develop skills and fundamentals at the grassroots level.

Picture perfect Playground to Pros coaches

The coaches for Saskatoon Minor Football’s Playground to Pros camp pose for a coaches team picture on the event’s final day on April 21 at the Indoor Training Centre. The coaches included some current CFL players and coaches who have helped a number of minor teams locally in the city.

Looking for an escape

A ball carrier looks to elude a defender during a Wild Oats Rugby Club practice session on April 24 at the Indoor Training Centre. Rugby teams made a few more visits to the Indoor Training Centre in April as their seasons closed in.

Ready to tee off

A hitter from the Going Yard Training Centre is set to unload on a hit during a training session on April 25, 2022. The Going Yard players were getting in some final work before taking the field with various teams for the spring season.

Focused on the open field

After an interception, a player from the Marion M. Graham Collegiate Falcons focuses on jetting downfield on a long return at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on April 25. This game between the Falcons and Evan Hardy Collegiate Souls was one of many that took place that day in the Rush High School Female Flag Football League overseen by Saskatoon Minor Football.

Valkyries great in prime form

Saskatoon Valkyries all-time great running back Sam Matheson breaks a tackle on a run to the end zone at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on May 1. Matheson and the Valkyries open their WWCFL regular season schedule with a 43-14 win over the Manitoba Fearless.

Up and over

A pole vaulter takes to the sky to clear the bar during a Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate meet on May 4 at the Track and Field Track. That May 4 meet marked the first SSSAD meet held at the track since 2019.

Spectators out in droves

A large group of spectators came out to support the athletes competing at a Saskatoon Secondary School Athletic Directorate meet on May 4 at the Track and Field Track. It was great to see the supporters filling the stands in front of the K+S Potash Canada Multi-Sports Centre.

Airing it out

Quarterback Quinn Hofer fires a pass deep downfield for Team Gold during a North Sask Academy game on May 6 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The North Sask Academy is another great program operated by Saskatoon Minor Football.

Raiders pitcher brings the heat

A Saskatoon Raiders pitcher fires in a throw during a game at a Glenn Reeve Fields diamond on May 7 at a game played in a tournament hosted by the Raiders zone. The Raiders zone tournament was the first big softball tournament held at the Complex in the 2022 season.

Drive to impress

A hitter drives the ball into the outfield during a Softball Canada Women’s National Team Identification Camp at Bob Van Impe Stadium on May 9. Bob Van Impe Stadium will be the site of a July 1 doubleheader between Canada’s Women’s National Team and the Czech Republic with game start times set for 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. locally. The contests are part of the Women’s National Team Celebration Tour that celebrates the team’s historic Olympic Bronze Medal win at the Toyko 2020 Olympic Games. Ticket information and streaming details for the Saskatoon stop of the tour will be announced at a later date on the Women’s National Team Celebration Tour website.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Sawi makes surprise burst on to football scene

Running back thankful friends prompted him to try sport

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Charles Sawi burst on to the football scene as a Crusaders star.
Charles Sawi will never underestimate the value of good friends when it comes to the world of sports.

For the majority of his life, Sawi’s main sport was soccer, and he established himself as a high-level player in that game. Going into his Grade 10 school year at Holy Cross High School, a couple of his long time friends and Grade 10 classmates said Sawi should try his hand a football.

“I discovered football because of Ethan Laing,” said Sawi, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 170 pounds. “He has been requesting me to come out for years for me to play and Tyrus Flory.

“I find them really special, and I’m very grateful that they told me to come and play football. It really helped a lot. If it wasn’t for my friends, I wouldn’t know how to play the sport and how sign up and everything.”

Laing and Flory had already been playing football for some time and had already committed to joining the Holy Cross High School Crusaders football program.

In the fall of 2019, Sawi joined the Crusaders junior program. When the Crusaders senior team qualified for the Saskatchewan High School Athletics Association (SHSAA) 6A provincial final against Regina’s Dr. Martin LeBoldus High School Golden Suns, Sawi was called up to help the senior squad.

“We knew about Charles (Sawi) and his abilities to be an athlete both on the track and field circuit and the soccer pitch,” said Scott Hundseth, who is the Head Coach of the Crusaders senior team. “We knew nothing about him really with regards to football.

“All of a sudden, we were going to provincials three years ago, and we called him up. We wanted him to just kind of run scout team for us. We were actually trying to kind of prepare for (Regina’s Dr. Martin) LeBoldus (High School Golden Suns).

“All of a sudden, he started ripping through our guys and our players like Seth Hundeby who plays (for the University of Saskatchewan) Huskies (Football team). Seth is looking at us going, ‘Who is this kid?’”

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that had gripped the world, the 2020 high school football season in Saskatoon and ultimately the province was cancelled. 

Charles Sawi (#29) broke off many huge runs as the Crusaders tailback.
As a result, Sawi wasn’t able to play for the senior Crusaders on a full-time basis in his Grade 11 year.

In Grade 10, Sawi discovered he loved the game of football so much that he was determined to play for the senior Crusaders whenever high school football was given the green light to resume. He quit soccer and continued to train with the players on the Crusaders senior team through his Grade 11 year.

High school football ultimately got the green light to go in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan for the fall of 2021. Almost immediately at the start of his Grade 12 year, Sawi was breaking off big runs and having big games with the Crusaders senior team wearing his number 29 uniform.

Very quickly, those who watched high school football in Saskatoon were asking, “Who is this guy?”

“He is a very talented kid, but he is quiet,” said Hundseth. “He hadn’t done anything, because of the COVID year he was off his Grade 11 year.

“Coming into this year, he even surprised us. He ran the ball with just absolute passion, and it was hard to bring him down. He is fast and a tough runner.

“He is just a great human being. He ended up being one of our captains and one of our leaders.”

Sawi said his Grade 12 year playing for the Crusaders was like a dream. Most importantly, he hoped he left a positive impact on his teammates that will be returning to the Crusaders next season.

Sawi wanted his teammates to come away pumped up from the love he showed for the game and the realization of what can happen on the field when you put the work in to be a better player. 

When he graduated from the Crusaders, Sawi could see he left that type of impact on his teammates that are going to return to the Crusaders and seeing that was important to him.

“It (his season) was very inspirational and motivational to others that are going to be playing next season with Holy Cross,” said Sawi. “I’m just very grateful that I played with that team, and we made a lot of memories on there.”

Charles Sawi (#29) can run with speed and power.
One of those memories was a bittersweet one. On November 13, 2021, the Crusaders took on Regina’s Miller Comprehensive Catholic High School Marauders in the 6A SHSAA provincial football final at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.

The Marauders jumped out to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Crusaders rallied scoring three touchdowns to even the score 21-21 by halftime.

Sawi scored the first major of the Crusaders surge on a one-yard plunge. He capped the scoring run with a 13-yard touchdown run that tied the game with 16 seconds remaining in the first half.

In one of the all-time classic high school games ever played at SMF Field, the Marauders ultimately prevailed 28-24. Miller got a touchdown in the third quarter. Holy Cross answered back with a field goal in the fourth quarter but was unable to get a go-ahead score.

“I just think about it all the time,” said Sawi about that contest. “I just think that we should have won it, because I felt like we were the better ones and we were more supported.

“It was just very unlucky. I just keep thinking about it all the time, and I wish we could go back to that classic final.”

While that provincial final brought an end to Sawi’s days with the Crusaders, it didn’t end his football career. He was offered the chance to join the CJFL’s storied Saskatoon Hilltops and jumped at it.

Sawi has participated in training sessions and rookie practices with the team. He said the players on the team have been welcoming and has enjoyed the enthusiasm of Hilltops legendary head coach Tom Sargeant.

“The atmosphere and everything has been very exciting,” said Sawi. “I’m very grateful to play with them.

“It feels like I am already on the team. It brings me so much confidence that all the guys like me and everything.”

Charles Sawi runs the ball during a Hilltops rookie practice.
Sawi said plans to put in the effort to play football for as long as he can and try to make it to the CFL or even the NFL. He is aware that Saskatchewan has produced players that have gone on to play in the NFL.

Hundseth believes the young tailback can accomplish big things in the game of football.

“He has the swagger and the personality to go a long ways on and off the field,” said Hundseth. “When he sets his mind to doing something, he just goes, and he does it with vigour and passion.

“He is a pretty special kid. The Hilltops have a good one in him. He will do some really good things.”

Sweet happenings in photos sees training for spring heat up

By Gordie Howe Sports Complex staff
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

A hitter drive the ball during a zone baseball tryout session.
Business has picked up at the Indoor Training Centre as the spring season nears.

Over the course of the last month, various baseball and softball groups have been polishing their skills as the Indoor Training Centre in preparation for the upcoming spring season. Team type practices have become more common as clubs start the process of bonding on and off the field for the upcoming campaign.

Over the past week, minor baseball has been holding zone tryouts for younger age group teams for the upcoming season. The lead photo of this post shows a batter showing off his swing at a tryout session on Tuesday, April 5.

We got to see off players who headed down to the United States continuing careers in professional baseball. We hope they bring back great stories to tell, when they return home usually in early November.

Football squads like the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Football Team continued with preparations for their seasons, so they can hit the ground running in training camps in August.

The activity that happens on our grounds continues to provide great material for our continuing photo round ups.

These photos 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 10 shots we hope you enjoy.

Final throwing day for Albers

Veteran left-handed pitcher Andrew Albers took part in one last throwing session at the Indoor Training Centre on March 10 before departing to the United States. He threw last year in AAA baseball and the MLB ranks. He signed minor league contract with the MLB’s Seattle Mariners about 11 days later.

Set for the perfect bunt

A hitter squares up for a perfect bunt at a Saskatoon Hustlers softball program training session on March 15. The Hustlers were refining various skills at the plate during this session.

Driving a hot grounder to the outfield

The same Saskatoon Hustlers hitter that was squaring up to bunt in the previous photo shows she can drive hot shots into the outfield as well during a training session on March 15. The Hustlers hitters want to be able to give multiple looks from the plate when it comes time to play regular season games.

Laser focused throw

A Saskatoon Lasers pitcher fires home a pitch during a training session on March 17. The pitcher was throwing during a team practice with the Lasers squad she will be playing with this coming season.

Tearing up the base paths

A base runner hits top flight rounding first to get to second base during a Saskatoon Royals female baseball program evaluations session on March 17. The Royals were evaluating players in numerous age groups on this day.

Off to the races

Two members of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Football Team take off in a chase drill during a conditioning workout session on March 22 overseen by Ignite Athletes. In football, the work put in during the off-season is key to having success during the season itself.

Mastering the art of the slap bunt

A member of the Saskatoon Cubs baseball program lays down a slap bunt during a hitting focused practice on March 24. The Cubs and other baseball teams will soon be taking part in practices and games at Leakos Field and Cairns Field.

Securing a grounder

A member of the Saskatoon Giants baseball program sets to secure a ground ball during a fielding focused practice on March 24. Baseball players do repetitive fielding drills so the skills become second nature during game time.

Bringing the heat for a live at bat

A hurler follows through with a pitch during a live at bat season run by the Going Yard Training Centre on March 31. On top of throwing to an actual hitter, Going Yard sets up a full infield for these sessions.

Throwing to impress

A young hurler fires off a pitch during a minor baseball zone tryouts session on April 5. The session saw players put through numerous drills in order to be evaluated on their various skills when it comes to playing the game.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

User groups pumped to use K+S Potash Canada Multi-sport Centre

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

The K+S Potash Canada Multi-sport Centre.
The K+S Potash Canada Multi-sport Centre is bringing in good reviews.

The newest building on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds first started earnestly housing user groups inside its doors during the start of this past winter’s skating season. The Saskatoon Lions Speed Skating Club was the first user group that got to take advantage of the new structure.

Lions President Chris Veeman said the storied speed skating club enjoyed settling into the new stomping grounds.

“We’re getting used to this new home, and so far, so good,” said Veeman. “The upstairs viewing area and the timing rooms are really fantastic.

“We’ve been able to run some meets pretty easily, because it is has been easy for us to set up electronic timing. It has meant that our kids can have some races where we don’t have to have a whole army of volunteers, so that has been really good. The change rooms and all of that are nice and new and functional.

“That has worked out well.”

The Multi-sport Centre replaces the old grandstand at Cairns Field, which was torn down in April of 2018. The old grandstand was used by both the baseball and the speed skating communities.

The new building, which has 20,000 square feet of space on its two floors, will be used by the baseball and speed skating communities along with the track and field community. The Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval that is located to the west of the Multi-sport Centre during the winter months converts into the Track and Field Track during the summer months.

The Track and Field Track was first used in 2019.

A timing and announcer booth overlooks the Oval.
The Lions were the initial group to use the new dressing rooms in the Multi-sport Centre along with the features on the building’s west side that included the outdoor stands, the second floor indoor spectator viewing area, and the timing and announcer booths.

Along with those features, the Lions and those that came out for public skating were able to use an indoor sitting area that was made to allow people to change into skates.

For the maintenance staff, they made great use of the comforts of a new Zamboni garage located on the building’s south side.

On the ice, the Lions usually held practices four nights a week from December to February and often hosted club speed skating meets on Saturday mornings. Challenges with the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic didn’t allow the club to host any competitive meets this past season.

During speed skating and track and field meets, the west side of the Multi-sport Centre can seat 1,850 spectators and can be expanded to seat 3,500 spectators with temporary seating.

The Lions put the new electronic timing booths to good use at club meets, and that was a feature the club couldn’t believe it went without in the past.

“It is a lot easier to run an event,” said Veeman. “In the past, we had a couple of huts that were outside, and that is where our timers would be.

“They would be crowded into a little kind of a wooden hut. It was challenging to set up the electronic timing equipment, because you basically had to haul it between the two huts for different distances. It is hard on the equipment, and it just slows things down.

The official’s lounge at the Multi-sport Centre.
“This going to be a lot more time efficient when we have a big competition plus the volunteers don’t have to be outside and running around outside during the day, so it will be easier on the volunteers too.”

Jason Reindl, who is the Head Coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Track and Field teams, said the track and field community is looking forward to using the Multi-sport Centre.

“It is just a huge addition to how we are able to kind of orientate our practices and our track meets,” said Reindl, who is the Head Coach for Athletics Canada’s under-20 team along with holding a number of other elite coaching positions. “Any time you can offer meeting rooms and officials spaces and a timing booth that can withstand inclement weather, they are all benefits to just kind of increase the professionalism of hosting a track meet in Saskatoon at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.”

Reindl was pleased to hear the speed skating community was happy with the timing booths, and he said the track and field community is looking forward to using that feature of the Multi-sport Centre.

“It really just provides a stable environment for our timers,” said Reindl. “So much of track meets operates on very tight schedules, and when they can just sit in a nice warm room and don’t have to worry about rain or wind or any of those things, it just goes a long way to providing a great environment.”

The east side of the Multi-sport Centre serves the Cairns Field baseball park. By the end of the 2021 baseball season, user groups were able to utilize the new stands that ran along the Cairns Field baselines and inserted on the second level of the Multi-sport Centre behind home plate.

The east side of the Multi-sport Centre also contains a new scorers and statistics booth, a new media booth and an events office to serve users of Cairns Field. There is also an official’s lounge on the second floor that can be used by all sports groups.

“It is going to be great knowing that fans have a place to sit,” said Greg Brons, who is the High Performance Director for Baseball Sask. “The dressing rooms are going to be nice.

An area to change into skates at the Multi-sport Centre.
“The kids won’t have to dress in the parking lot. The umpires had to dress in the parking lot. It is going to be nice to have a clean bathroom as opposed to the porta potties.

“We’re really looking forward to those facilities for sure.”

The new Multi-sport Centre will allow the baseball, speed skating and track and field communities to hold bigger competitions and potentially nationals.

Reindl said the new building will be a huge benefit in going after national track and field championship meets.

“That is going to be the primary reason why that will happen,” said Reindl. “The bid process to secure championships is quite competitive across the country.

“With this venue, we’re now able to actually able to put our name in the hat and try and secure some of these larger scale events and bring hundreds and thousands of people to Saskatoon and bring tourism dollars and let them know that we have a great city, and especially in the summer, you definitely want to take advantage of all that the city has to offer.”

Brons said the Multi-sport Centre makes it more possible to bring the Baseball Canada Cup and potentially other national events to Saskatoon.

“It will help quite a bit, especially because we need meeting space,” said Brons. “We need areas for fans to sit.

“I think it will be an ideal spot for the Canada Summer Games in the future or any national tournament maybe another Baseball Canada Cup, because we hosted it back in 2015. I think the most important thing is just a good playing surface is one of the most important things when it comes to hosting a nationals or a Canada Games more than anything.

“It is going to be a real nice bonus to have a good building.”

A look at the Multi-sport Centre from Cairns Field.
Veeman said the COVID-19 pandemic is still causing difficulties in scheduling for speed skating. He said the local club will have a good chance to get some of those bigger events, but he was cautious about the wheels going in motion on that front.

“Having this new facility, I think it would be attractive to the people that are awarding those competitions,” said Veeman. “The big competition that we have is a brand new indoor oval in Quebec City that was just finished.

“Once there are more meets, because COVID has still cancelled almost all the meets this year, I think we will have a good chance to host some of those big ones again for sure.”