Three of Haliburton County’s most impressive up-and-coming sporting stars will have their day in the sun later this month.

Owen Nicholls, Cheyenne Degeer, and Evan Backus are the inaugural recipients of the Haliburton Highlands Sports Hall of Fame’s Rising Star award. The gong acknowledges athletic excellence in youth and is meant to inspire future generations to chase their sporting dreams.

Roger Trull, chair of the Hall of Fame selection committee, said the trio will be honoured May 25, at an induction ceremony for the class of 2024.

“One of the things we hope the Hall of Fame will do is inspire young people to be the very best they can be. To understand that if they work hard and commit themselves to excellence, they too might be in this Hall of Fame one day,” Trull said.

He added, “we are very excited to recognize three young people who are exactly the type of athletes we imagined would receive this award: hard-working, dedicated, and a real testament to their communities.”

Nicholls’ curling exploits have been well-documented in recent years. Getting his start through the Haliburton Youth Curling program, Nicholls has earned multiple accolades at the high school and junior club level.

In 2020, he played lead for the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School curling team, which won a gold medal at the provincial championships. He won gold at the U18 Ontario junior championships in 2023, also winning bronze at the Canadian Winter Games that year.

“When I got the email, I was pretty thrilled. A little swept off my feet… it’s pretty cool to be recognized by your home town for your accomplishments in sport,” Nicholls said. “I think the Hall of Fame is a great addition to our community. It’s a very prestigious thing that recognizes all the amazing talented individuals we have in Haliburton.”

Degeer has made quite the name for herself as an aspiring professional hockey player. Practically born with a stick in her hand, the teenager spent the majority of her youth playing on boys teams in the Central Ontario Wolves AAA system. She would go on to lead the Peterborough Ice Kats to a provincial championship in 2022, and for the past two seasons has skated with the U22 Central York Junior Panthers, becoming the team’s leading scorer. Degeer also represented Team Ontario at the Canadian National U18 championships in November.

Still only in Grade 11, Degeer has already committed to playing NCAA hockey in 2025. She has earned a scholarship at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, which plays high-level Division 1 hockey.

“I’m honoured to be receiving this award alongside Owen and Evan. I’m excited and grateful to be recognized by my home town,” Degeer said, thanking her friends and family for all their support.

Backus burst onto Haliburton’s sporting scene last year, becoming the first local track and field athlete to record a podium finish at OFSAA in a generation. He won silver in the 300-metre hurdle, running an impressive 42.01 seconds.

The 15-year-old also competed in volleyball, badminton, cross-country running, and Nordic skiing – where he also competed in OFSAA this year. He was recognized as HHHS’ junior male athlete of the year in 2023.

“When I first got the call, I was in shock. I had never heard about the Hall of Fame, but was very excited to be getting an award. It’s felt even more special since it has come from my home town,” Backus said. “I think the Hall of Fame is great. I really like how even in this smaller town we can recognize the people who have truly done great things.”

The Hall of Fame ceremony will be held at A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton May 25, starting at 2 p.m.