The Red Hawk Nordic ski team had a successful OFSAA championship at Lakefield College School Feb. 22-23, with Violet Humphries earning bronze and three relay sprint teams finishing in the top five.

Coach Karen Gervais said the team nearly doubled in numbers this year, 15 athletes up from eight.

Skiers were forced to contend with rapidly changing snow conditions and early starts each day, as race times were bumped up to 8 a.m. to avoid the warmest parts of the afternoon. Despite less-than-ideal ski conditions, HHSS athletes came home with fists full of ribbons.

In Feb. 22 interval distance races, Violet Humphries met her goal of a podium finish, skiing the 5km course under slick conditions to a bronze in the high school category. At the OFSAA level, skiers can compete in either the high school or open categories, with high school skiers competing and training exclusively with their school team, and open skiers training with a club and competing on the Ontario Cup circuit.

Teammate Olivia Gruppe followed Humphries with a personal best ski and 15th place finish. Ella Gervais was 24th; Sadie Kelly 34th and Grace Allder 67th in a field of 114 high school trained skiers. This earned the junior girls team a fifth-place finish overall.

Gervais said, “a lot of our skiers’ success can be attributed to the strong foundations built in our local Jackrabbit program organized by volunteers and the Haliburton Highlands Nordic Trails Association. Many of our athletes continue to act as junior instructors in this program and spend their Saturday afternoons teaching the next generation of Nordic skiers.”

In the highly competitive junior boys’ category, the Backus twins made their OFSAA Nordic debut, returning to the sport after several years. Graham Backus finished 14th, closely followed by Evan in 16th. Ninth-grade skier Winston Ramsdale finished 33rd; Brechin Johnston 47th; Owen Megrah-Poppe 61st and Carter McKnight-Sisco 80th. There were 122 skiers in the category. Johnston and Megrah-Poppe donned cross-country skis for the first time ever this year and “continue to make excellent progress in the sport,” Gervais said. As a team, the junior boys finished ninth in the interval races, one place short of taking home an OFSAA ribbon.

On the senior girls 7km course, Olivia Humphries skied to a strong 10th place finish; Erika Hoare was 14th; Hannah Sharp 44th and Teagan Hamilton 50th. Sharp and Hamilton are only in their second year of Nordic skiing. This team earned a sixth-place finish and a burgundy OFSAA ribbon to bring home.

Feb. 23’s sprint relays held a lot of drama and intensity, Gervais said.

The junior girls’ team of Gruppe, Kelly, Gervais and Humphries finished fourth. The junior boys’ team of the Backus’, Ramsdale and Johnston excelled with their strength and grit in the slushy snow on the 900m loop to ski to a fifth-place finish.

The senior girls’ team of Sharp, Hamilton, Hoare and Humphries secured fourth-place in a commendable team effort.

“The Haliburton Highlands Nordic team stood strong against big skiing schools with many club skiers such as Huntsville, Collingwood, Glebe and Nepean in Ottawa and Sudbury’s Lo Ellen Park and one of few schools to field three teams in the sprint relay finals,” Gervais said.