By Darren Lum
Published June 21 2016
On a night of goodbyes for graduating student athletes and retiring coaches a poignant hello took centre stage.
Nordic ski team and girls’ rugby coach Jennifer Paton put this year’s Haliburton Highlands Secondary School Athletic Banquet into perspective.
“First of all I’m very glad to be here” she said receiving raucous applause.
The significance of her statement wasn’t lost on the audience. Paton has not worked at the school since she was involved in a violent collision while driving her Nordic team this past winter. It left her in the hospital in critical condition.
Paton recovered and has recently returned home after several weeks of challenging rehabilitation. She continues her work. She did not talk about the collision but noted how jubilant the team was following the pre-race practice session at the all-provincials.
“It was snowing hard. Our faces were encrusted with snow. It was very slow because of all the snow. We took a lot of selfies. It was really special” she said smiling.
Brynn Meyers and Christine Bishop who were travelling with her at the time hugged Paton on the stage.
After a combined 60 years coaches and teachers Bruce Griffith and Tim Davies are saying goodbye to the school and the Red Hawks.
Both will retire after this year and were recipients of the Impact Award which was presented by students Kenndal Marsden this year’s Athlete of the Year and Ryan Hill.
Hill acknowledged the influence Griffith has had in his 31 years.
“You need to know your efforts weren’t lost on us. You made our high school life better. You helped make memories that will last the rest of our lives. You made a difference. So on behalf of everyone here I thank you. I present to you this award. Retirement will treat you well and may you catch many fish” he said.
Griffith spent more than three decades guiding young people as a teacher coach and friend with his knowledge on the ice the field and the track. He’s already set to fish more and has a trip planned for Alaska with his wife Eva who is also retiring from teaching at J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School.
Principal Dan Marsden presented them with special school hockey jerseys with their names and the start and finish years on the back.
Marsden spoke glowingly about their dedication to producing great athletes and people.
“Applause for these two gentlemen for all the efforts they’ve done for you and the school and the athletic program as part of Hal High” he said.
The two retiring teachers sat in chairs on the stage as they were honoured with a 60 second applause representing every year the two have served. Nearing the end the students in the audience gave a standing ovation mixed with shouts of support.
“Hopefully it gives you some idea the amount of time and the involvement these guys have put in throughout their years. It’s been a complete pleasure for me to be involved with these guys” HHSS athletic director Ron Yake said. “On behalf of all the athletes throughout the years it is a huge thanks to these guys for their inspiration and involvement with them. Thank you both coach Davies and coach Griff.”
Earlier during the presentation of the junior football team’s MVPs Derek Little praised his friend and co-coach Tim Davies.
“The gentleman to my left has been a mentor” he said pausing for a breath holding back tears. “A good friend and he’s taught me a lot about being a good person. He’s taught a lot of people in this building about being a good person. His integrity bar none is one of his strongest attributes. It’s not just football. He commits his time whether it be track and field showing up 7 a.m. to open the weight room for students to improve in all sports. So I think we should show some appreciation for a gentleman again who is a pretty special person. We’re going to miss him at Hal High.”
Davies spent 29 years at the school and said after the event he will be taking it easy helping his son with his hockey aspirations in Belleville.
This year’s male athlete of the year is Caleb Schmidt who was presented this award by his senior basketball coach Dave Waito.
Waito said humility is one of Schmidt’s greatest strengths and he possesses a quiet confidence that makes him a “dream to coach.” He was clutch for his basketball team as a composed scorer down the stretch. One example was when Schmidt scored on a running leaner to beat Fenelon Falls Secondary School with a buzzer beater. It was the first win in more than five years over Fenelon. Two weeks later he helped his team beat I.E. Weldon to clinch the Kawartha League title with 12 points and four straight free throws. There’s no doubt he said Schmidt was the best defensive player in the league earning him a team MVP for defence. There is a tireless focus on improvement referring to the mantra: be the best you can be today and find a way to be a little bit better tomorrow.
When Waito asked other coaches in soccer and badminton about what they thought of the fourth year student character traits such as selfless committed and inspirational for his tireless efforts in games and in practices came up.
Schmidt who also won a COSSA silver medal on his way to a C flight silver medal at OFSAA for badminton was humble taking a few seconds to pause at the podium before thanking his coach for the “amazing speech.” He credited all of his coaches for their efforts in making him a better person and athlete. He even thanked “the guys at the back” for attending which was met with distant whoops and applause.
“But most importantly I’d like to thank my family. My mom for supporting me. My dad especially for the time and effort into playing with me in badminton and helping me become a better player and person all around. It’s because of you I’m up here right now” he said holding back tears. “Wow. I’d also like to thank my three brothers who pushed me to become better a better player and for training me to become a better person. Thank you.”
Coach Jessica Lloyd and the coaches who worked with this year’s athlete of the year characterized Kenndal Marsden as a passionate committed competitor and team player with exemplary leadership qualities for her respect of teammates opponents and officials.
When it came to asking the coaches in track and field ice hockey and volleyball it wasn’t difficult for Lloyd.
“Every single one of them had something wonderful to share about her. I was only blessed to coach her for one season but she did leave an impression on me and I can’t wait to have her back on the field with me again next year if she’ll have me” she said.
Lloyd coached Marsden in varsity A field hockey and saw first-hand the competitive drive and determination during the season capped off with an appearance at OFSAA.
Marsden’s voice quivered as she accepted the award thanking her coaches and her dad Dan Marsden.
“A shout out for my dad for being my No. 1 supporter through it all. I can’t thank you enough” she said.
After the event Marsden was still shocked by the win. She made sure to thank her teammates whom she credited for allowing her to have fun and be herself on the field.
“They are the major key that helped me through. Definitely my coaches again and my parents and my sister who have been a really big impact on me. They have always kept me going and been the one to say ‘you’re good you get back out there you’re fine’” she said referring to challenging moments.
She’s excited about next year and is looking forward to being a role model so she can help other athletes to be their best. Marsden had always wanted to be an Athlete of the Year and welcomes joining the many other recipients of the award whose photographs hang on the wall above lockers in the athletics facility.
“It was a goal for me to become Athlete of the Year but I had been expecting it to be in my Grade 12 year. Just hearing my name was amazing and I’m so thrilled and I can’t wait to represent Hal High and be up on the wall for everyone to see. I’m looking forward to that” she said.