By: Adriana Skaljin
The name Harry Potter is one familiar to most, given its prevalence in pop culture. The Harry Potter franchise’s beloved sport, Quidditch, has made its way into the Muggle (non-magical) world, having become a semi-professional sport.
On March 23 and 24, Quidditch Canada held their 2019 National Championship at Ron Joyce Stadium and Alumni Field. Fifteen teams from across Canada, coming from Ontario, Montreal, Edmonton and British Columbia, participated in the two-day tournament, bringing the sport to life.
“This is the second time that we’ve held the Nationals in Hamilton,” said Bethan Morgan, events manager for Quidditch Canada. “Last year, we held it at Tim Hortons Field. It is exciting to be back in Hamilton for a second year in a row.”
Morgan has been playing the sport for eight years, and has loved watching the sport grow. She began getting involved with Quidditch due to her love for the fandom and the impact that it had on her life.
“It makes me really happy to see [Quidditch] turn into a competitive sport… [one that] has become international,” explained Morgan. “It has grown a lot in Canada and it is cool seeing people come from all over to play.”
It is amazing to see the ways in which a community of Harry Potter fanatics has turned into a community of athletes. The sport encourages players from all backgrounds and demographics to participate, creating a diverse and welcoming environment.
“There are people that love Harry Potter and then people who have never even watched the movies,” said Morgan. “People from all different backgrounds and genders are welcome. I love how gender-inclusive the sport is, in comparison to others.”
This combination of community and a genuine love for the series and its fictional world is what drives the existence of Quidditch competitions, such as the one just held at McMaster.
“It is a very supporting and welcoming community of people and I think that is what motivated me to stay the sport, and become a better athlete,” said Morgan.
The game is made up of several positions: chasers, who drive the ball and get them through the hoops, beaters who combine tackling with strategy, and seekers. Each position appeals to different strengths, allowing people to excel and specialize in different areas of the sport.
“This is a sport that anyone can play,” said Morgan. “Our athletes train as though it is a professional sport, and I think that a lot of people are surprised when we tackle because it is a very physical game. We are trying to show that we aren’t just a book, we are a real sport with real rules and intense athletes.”
At the 2019 National Championship, the Ottawa Otters and the University of Guelph faced off in the final match. The Otters won the tournament, with a final score of 250^ to 200*. The Vancouver Storm Crows placed third, beating Valhalla Quidditch, a team from Toronto, in the bronze medal match, with a score of 100* to 50.
— Quidditch Canada (@QuidditchCanada) March 25, 2019
The Canadian National Championship is a prime example of the ways in which the combination of passion, community and athleticism can bring magic out from the pages of books and into the lives of fans and athletes.
Quidditch is definitely a sport to watch and one that deserves recognition in the world of international sports. This sport is definitely a ‘keeper’.
Last weekend, the McMaster track team headed to Manitoba for the U Sports Track and Field National Championship. Although the team did not return with any hardware or medals, Mac’s Alex Drover finished in fifth place for the 3,000m event. With McMaster not particularly known for their indoor track season and the intense competition he was up against, this accomplishment got Drover recognized by the Marauders Athletic department.
Drover: Second year of integrated biomedical engineering and health sciences.
D: A big part of why I came to Mac was because of [that] program. My year is the first year it's been offered. It's a pretty special program because it's not something that's offered in a lot of places, due to the combination of engineering and health sciences. Then, from the running aspect, the team was quite similar to what I had done in high school, so it was an easy transition. Lastly, [head coach Paula Schnurr] is one of the best coaches around so I really wanted to run for her.
D: It was a really fun experience. I didn't get to run indoor track last year because of an illness, so this was my first time at an indoor track championship in university. It was a little bit daunting because all of the best athletes were there, though it went relatively well. Going into it, I didn't have huge expectations for myself because I'm one of the younger athletes. So, I wanted to do as well as possible, but I knew it was going to be a challenging race. I ended up finishing fifth in the race, which was exactly where I was ranked going into it, so I was very happy with that finish.
— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) March 12, 2019
D: It was pretty cool, and I was quite honoured because I know volleyball had their OUA Championships that same weekend. I know they have a lot of talent on their team so there were a lot of guys that could have been nominated that are equally as well deserving of that award.
D: Right before races, I like to watch movies. There is one in particular called Prefontaine, it’s a running movie and I've watched it several times before races.
D: Placing fourth really left me with the urge for a little bit more being that close to the podium. I know I have a lot left in me especially with a few more years after school so my goals are to grow and medal in the future.
The McMaster swimming team will be heading to the University of British Columbia for the U Sports Swimming Championships on Thursday, Feb. 21 through Saturday, Feb. 23. After competing at the Ontario University Athletic Championships this past weekend, the women’s team finished with 545 points as a group, beating out Western University for second place for the first time since 2007. A large part of the team’s success is thanks to Isabelle Lei’s silver medal in the 200m individual medley and bronze in the 400m freestyle. Lei also helped win three medals in team relays. On the men’s side, Mitch Muizelaar took home the team’s only gold medal, repeating as OUA champion in the 1500m freestyle. The qualified Marauders will be competing during nationals this weekend.
The McMaster wrestling team will be heading to Calgary for the U Sports Wrestling Championships, hosted by the University of Calgary on Feb. 22-23, 2019. The Marauders, who medaled during the OUA championships, will be attending the national competition. On the men’s side, Ameen Aghamirian, who was previously named U Sports Athlete of the Week, was named the OUA's Most Outstanding Male Wrestler, and first-year Trystan Kato took home the men's Rookie of the Year award. While for the women, Ligaya Stinellis and Joelle Vanderslagt each took home a silver medal.
The cross-country team will take their talents indoors this reading week for the OUA Track and Field Championships, which will take place at the Toronto Track & Field Centre on Feb. 22-23. The team completed their outdoor season with great success, and have been competing in indoor meets ever since in preparation for these championships. The medalists of the meet will move on to compete at the national level for the U Sports Championships at the University of Manitoba on March 7-9.
At McMaster, there are several club teams that students can join and women’s field hockey is one of them. Though one thing that makes it unique is that they have been participating in the Ontario University Athletics championship for two years. The OUA outdoor field hockey has an open style championship so clubs like McMaster, who do not participate in the regular season, are welcomed to play.
Their outdoor season runs from the end of August to end of October, and their indoor season runs from November to March. During these seasons, they play in exhibition games, tournaments and invitationals like the Big Apple Tournament held in Pennsylvania.
For co-captain Morgan Renkema this structure style is something that makes field hockey at McMaster really special.
“I’ve been on the team for five years and when I started, we just played exhibition games and weekend tournaments,” said Renkema. “So now being able to play in the OUA championships is something that adds an extra competitive edge to it. Field hockey is appealing to a lot of women because it is not like a full-time varsity commitment but we get to play with more competition.”
The fifth-year athlete and former soccer player first started playing field hockey in the eighth grade when she wanted to try something new.
“When I went to high school I decided to join the varsity team and to play more competitively,” said Renkema. “I always played soccer my entire life, but to me, field hockey was something I discovered on my own and it felt as if it was unique, so I started to play outside of school in a club team in tenth grade.”
When she came to McMaster she decided to try out for field hockey rather than her first love soccer because she wasn't sure if she was ready to be a varsity soccer player at the university level — in addition to the fact that she had really fallen in love with field hockey.
“When I joined, I never really expected it to be where it is today,” said Renkema. “Everyone always wanted us to be an OUA team and now we're halfway there. So it’s been really nice to see the progress over the years.”
Though the team has been able to make a lot of progress structurally, this year has been a really big rebuilding year for the program. With a lot of senior players graduating at the conclusion of last season, this year’s team consisted of a lot of first-year players.
“On paper its hard to say that we did well because we did end up losing all of our games but we are playing against teams that have more experience than us,” said Renkema. “During last year’s OUA championship, we ended up tying two of our games and going into shootout, where we unfortunately lost both. But we got a lot of positive feedback from that because no one was expecting us to actually be able to compete.”
For the team’s indoor season, they play in the premier division of an indoor league in Waterloo along with seven other teams. This year, they managed to finish in fifth place, making the playoffs but falling short during the March 10 weekend.
“In our first game, we managed to keep the score tied 1-1 for the majority of the game but in the last few minutes they managed to score,” said Renkema. “We went on to win one more game but lost 4-3 to a team that we were down 3-0 to.”
Even though they are not performing at the level they would like to be at, it has only been two years since they began playing at the OUA Championships and Renkema believes that in time they can really begin to succeed.
“We have a lot of good new talent and even though this is my last year playing I think we have a lot of potential going forward,” said Renkema. “First-year goalies Madeline Waybill and Jessica Kostuch have shown a lot of improvement and should be able to help our team continue to grow.”
As Renkema looks back at her five years as a Marauder, one thing she knows for sure is that she does not regret choosing to play field hockey over soccer in her first year.
“We’ve come a long way since I’ve started and really have been able to make a name for ourselves,” said Renkema. “I know it may not be ideal for a lot of people being in between [an OUA team and club] but I really enjoy that nature of it. Also we have a special bond as a team and I have been able to make a lot of close friends because of it over the years.”
As she prepares to graduate and leave McMaster women’s field hockey behind, the lessons she learned from it will remain.
“The one thing I will take away from my time as a field hockey player at McMaster is to be persistent,” said Renkema. “We’ve heard 'no’ a lot, but we always kept going”
Understanding the unique nature of their team and using it as a reason to continue to improve and grow as a club in the McMaster athletics community is what the women on the team have excelled at doing. It is this persistence that has allowed them to be recognized by the OUA and that will continue to take them far for years to come.