Sisters, Olivia and Violet Humphries, were only two when parents, Joleen Thomas and Stuart Humphries, put them on cross country skis for the first time.

Now, Olivia, in Gr. 11, and Violet, in Gr. 9, are members of the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS) Nordic team that is off to the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) Feb. 22-24 at Lakefield College School.

Olivia came in second in her category at COSSA high school, finishing a mere .8 of a second behind the winner, a club skier. She completed the seven-kilometre course in slightly over 24 minutes. Violet was also a silver medalist in her category, also losing out to a club skier. She completed a fivekilometre circuit in just over 17 minutes.

Neither knows what to expect this coming week as they have not raced at the provincial level before. Olivia thinks the schools from further north are probably a lot more into it due to weather and trail conditions.

Neither is intimidated, though. Violet has run cross-country at OFSAA. “I don’t really mind because I’m used to races from crosscounty running. To me, it’s just another race.”

Haliburton captured the COSSA junior girls team title. Violet, along with teammates Erika Hoare (fourth), Ella Gervais (fifth) and Olivia Gruppe (sixth) earned gold medals in this category supported by Grace Allder (eighth), who is the official alternate for the team. Hannah Sharp (ninth), and Teagan Hamilton (11th) also qualified for OFSAA in the junior girls division with their strongest ski of the season. Erika was 11th in the overall junior results.

Along with Olivia’s second in senior girls, Haiden Bird was sixth in junior boys.

Gervais said looking at the overall results from COSSA, among all 42 junior level skiers across the three associations and both genders, Violet had the fourth fastest time, “which is pretty impressive.

“And all eight of our junior skiers finished in the top three-quarters of the finishers. It should also be noted that the junior girls sprint relay team of Violet, Erika, Ella and Olivia had the top finishing time at the meet from all the junior teams, including the boys. This was a 4x900m course,” Gervais said.

The coach said last season was cancelled due to the pandemic, and Sharp, Hamilton and Bird all learned to cross country ski just this year.

“They had been competing previously in the 3km Novice division as new skiers, but all chose to make the leap to the competitive 5km race and vie for an OFSAA qualifying spot, which is no easy feat to complete this distance. All nine skiers have qualified for OFSAA.”

Coach Gervais is feeling “great” about their chances.

“I think our junior girls’ team is looking really strong along with our top individual skiers.”

Mike Rieger is co-coach and Joleen Thomas and Kevin Hoare have also helped coach and support the athletes throughout the season.

Gervais said it’s been years since they’ve had such a large Nordic team and sent so many athletes to OFSAA.

“These athletes have all worked really hard and each has improved so much individually.”

She added even better news is they will all be returning next year, and will be joined by some strong elementary school skiers.