Twenty-one Tigers across five different sports have comitted to post-secondary sport.
PREP GIRLS HOCKEY
Catherine Foulem '20 - Boston University
Boston University checked all the boxes for Catherine Foulem.
The 18-year-old, Grade 12 student at Ridley College has accepted a scholarship to the school to play hockey.
“I’m so excited,” Foulem said from her home in Moncton, N.B. “We’ve had a couple of team meetings already and I can’t wait to be in Boston and play with these amazing people.”
Foulem was blown away on her visit to the campus in downtown Boston.
“The coaches made me feel like I was home,” she said. “I could be completely honest with them, I didn’t feel pressured. I felt very comfortable and felt like I had a connection.
“Also, the campus was beautiful and they are one of the top 10 universities for women’s hockey, so add that to the coaching and the city and the campus, it was just the right fit for me overall.”
Foulem had hoped to go back this summer for a visit.
“I love the city of Boston. It’s sad I can’t go now but I don’t think it’s (pandemic) going to affect us because we figured out other things we can do with our team,” she said.
Foulem said the team is conducting workouts together on line and also meeting in smaller groups with the strength and conditioning coaches in order to prepare as best as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foulem, who was a member of Team Atlantic that competed at 2019 National Women’s Under 18 Championship in Manitoba, is well aware it’s a big jump to a NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I program.
“The coaches said to keep working on my speed because the game is a step above,” she said. “They said to work on my hands and my shot. If I have a better shot I would have an advantage as a rookie and they gave me a couple of tips.”
Foulem feels her two years at Ridley prepared her for what is sure to be a hectic schedule on and off the ice.
“It was the right fit in terms of academics,” she said. “You have a busy schedule, three hours of homework a day and then practice. With that busy of a schedule, obviously that is going to prepare me to be disciplined and be ready for a lot of work and hockey.”
Foulem also acted as a prefect (senior student advisor), which she feels was a key in her overall development.
“It was an opportunity I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. It definitely made me grow as a person,” she said.
Foulem plans to major in biochemistry/molecular biology.
“I always wanted to be a teacher. When I was a child I would put all my stuffed animals on the ground and teach them,” she said. “It fascinates me how the body works and I want to understand it more.”
Abygail Grexton '20 - Dartmouth College
A change of direction at the last minute paid huge dividends for Abygail Grexton.
The Ridley College senior had been slated to attend Syracuse University this fall, but a change of heart landed her at Dartmouth College, where she will study international relations and skate with the women’s hockey team.
“It was kind of last minute,” Grexton said. “Ever since I was little, I wanted to go to an Ivy League school.”
Grexton, who hails from Thornbury, took a tour of the campus in March and came away impressed.
“When I toured, the coaching staff was so welcoming. I loved the environment and feel very fortunate to go there,” she said. “The staff was amazing through the whole experience. They showed me what it was like to have a really good recruiting process.”
Grexton was able to meet the coaching staff and some of her future teammates.
“They talked about the small environment and I thought that was a great fit. I thought it was a lot like Ridley in a way,” she said.
Grexton, who was fourth on the Tigers in scoring with eight goals and 14 points in 20 games, is looking forward to the challenge of playing at the next level.
“Dartmouth’s philosophy involves a lot around hard work and knowing where you’re supposed to be,” she said. “It’s a lot about systems.”
“The ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) is a great league with amazing competition so I’m really excited to challenge myself both athletically and academically.”
Grexton began playing hockey when she was three years old and quickly progressed. Ridley head coach Amanda Wark encouraged her to pursue playing at the collegiate level.
“She (Wark) helped me along the way and got me to where I am today,” Grexton said.
Grexton completed her final exam this week and is in the process of finishing up one last course online.
She has fond memories of her time at Ridley.
“It has done a lot for me. I couldn’t be at Dartmouth without it. Ridley really helped me develop both academically and athletically. I have some amazing friendships with my teammates and at the school. It’s been a really great experience.”
Grexton is working out with a program sent to her by Dartmouth and is looking forward to getting back on the ice.
“It’s really hard,” she said. “I was really excited for my third term and graduation and prom and everything. It’s a right of passage and something everyone looks forward to but Ridley is trying their best to reschedule for some time in the future. I’m just counting on that and hoping everything goes back to normal soon.”
Hallie McClelland '20 - Arizona State University
Hallie McClelland is going to continue her hockey career in a location known for almost anything other than hockey.
The 18-year-old Ridley College student has committed to Arizona State University where she will tend goal for the Sun Devils beginning this fall.
McClelland, who hails from Michigan, was introduced to the school by a friend from home.
“I reached out to their coach (Lindsey Ellis) and sent her some game film and we e-mailed back and forth and set up a tour,” McClelland said. “I met some of the girls on the team and they were super nice and the coach was really nice. The campus was so beautiful.”
McClelland then practised with the team and a few days later got an e-mail offering her a spot for the 2020/21 season.
“I really just loved the environment,” she said. “It’s a huge school but they made it seem like such a small community as the same time.”
McClelland, who plans to study bio-medical sciences, is well aware of the adjustments she will need to make, both on and off the ice.
“It’s definitely going to be a big change but I’m excited for it,” she said. “It’s going to take some getting used to with the weather and new environment. I think it will be fun to not have to walk through snow and carry your gear to the ice.”
McClelland is currently at home training as best she can.
“Our trainer at Ridley is amazing,” she said. “She’s been giving us workouts to do at home which has been great. My gear is at school and the rink is closed so I haven’t been able to get on the ice in a while which has been driving me crazy.”
McClelland joined Ridley under difficult circumstances. Her team in Michigan was about to fold when she was alerted to Ridley by a teammate who was already playing for the Tigers.
“A lot of the girls didn’t know what to do. I reached out Amanda (head coach Amanda Wark) and she replied back within 20 minutes. We set up a tour date and I skated with the goalie coach.”
McClelland has enjoyed everything about her experience at Ridley.
“It was an amazing,” she said. “We got to travel so much and the amount of games we got to play was insane. It was like playing university hockey before going to university. It was great.”
Ridley goaltending coach Jason Barron is happy for McClelland.
“We are excited for Hallie as she takes the next steps in her journey as a student-athlete, joining Arizona State University, and playing in the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association),” he said. “Hallie was an athlete who made strong strides both on and off the ice during her time at Ridley and we are excited for her to continue grow academically and athletically in her post-secondary education.”
Avery Penner '20 - University of Prince Edward Island
A family trip to the East Coast was enough to convince Avery Penner Prince Edward Island was the place to continue her hockey career.
The 18-year-old defenceman for the Ridley Tigers visited the Maritimes last year and quickly felt at home.
“I knew I wanted to go somewhere far and move away from home,” Penner said. “I fell in love with the East Coast.”
When she returned from the trip, Penner reached out to handful of schools, and with the guidance of Ridley assistant coach Celeste Doucet, hooked up with University of Prince Edward Island coach Bruce Donaldson.
“She (Doucet) knows the coach and told me he was amazing. I reached out to him and I knew after talking to him for a bit I would feel comfortable there and love it there,” Penner said.
Penner said the area was reminiscent of her hometown of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“P.E.I. as a whole is small and I knew I wanted to go to a small school,” she said. “It’s a great atmosphere and everyone was so friendly. It’s super small and reminds me of Niagara-on-the-Lake.”
A tour of the campus was arranged and that sealed the deal, Penner said.
“Coach Bruce Donaldson has a lot to do with it. He’s a great guy and when I toured he made me feel so welcome and everyone on the team did too,” she said. “I spoke to a girl I used to play with at Ridley and she could only say good things about it.”
Penner, who will major in kinesiology, is excited for the hockey aspect of playing at P.E.I..
“I didn’t realize how good they were until I started following them. They were placing top 10 in Canada which is amazing for them and that program,” she said.
Penner is well aware it’s a huge jump to university hockey from high school.
“Their head scout talked to me and said the hockey is similar but it’s a lot more aggressive,” Penner said. “I’m going to have to become stronger on the ice and push a little more which I’m totally OK with and working towards now.
“He said it’s not much different in regard to speed and moving the puck but he said playing against girls who are five years older than me will be a challenge as far as strength goes.”
Penner is working out at home as much as possible, but is limited due to the pandemic.
“With the virus there’s not much we can do. I’m just looking forward to September and hoping it will happen,” she said.
Penner said she will miss her family, but is excited for the experience.
“I have never really been away from home. I go to Ridley but am a day student and I want to experience the boarding life so that’s why I wanted to move away,” she said. “I’m sure I’m going to miss my parents and family and Niagara but I know I will be able to come home on holidays and see them and they’ve already talked about coming to see me play, which is great.”
She feels her time at Ridley has prepared her for the next level.
“It’s the best experience I’ve ever had,” she said. “I’m happy I went there. Everyone at university says the academic part at Ridley prepares you so much for university. Strength and conditioning twice a week, being on the ice every day and then playing multi games on the weekend, that’s the same schedule as P.E.I. so I’m pretty sure I’m prepared and I’m really excited.”
Class of 2021
Carmen Elliot '21 - Holy Cross University
Mary Sweetapple - Mercyhurst University
Lusia Welcke '21 - Ohio State University
Lilli Welcke '21 - Ohio State University
PREP BOYS HOCKEY
Carter Giles '20 - Whitecourt Wolverines (AJHL)
The Whitecourt Wolverines didn’t waste any time courting Carter Giles.
The Wolverines, who play in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, reached out to the Ridley Tigers forward soon after the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Giles, a 17-year-old Orangeville native, recently committed to the Wolverines after two seasons at Ridley.
“I’m thrilled to get going in September,” Giles said. “I was weighing a few options. The style of play was a huge factor and just where I felt most comfortable.
“When I was speaking with their scout and head coach, I felt really comfortable with their program and where they’re headed. Seeing their track record with D1 commitments looked really good.”
Giles appreciated being wanted.
“Talking to them, they made me feel comfortable and they were the first team to reach out to me,” he said. “Teams were scrambling because camps weren’t available so you couldn’t see the places you wanted to play. “They had tons of interest in me and I thought it would be a great place for me to develop and play.”
Giles, who also considered offers closer to home in the Central Canadian Hockey League, admitted it was a difficult decision under the circumstances.
“You’re going in blind a little bit but you have to have that trust factor,” Giles said. “I was going off (of what) former players (said). It was really hard not being able to go out there and see the facilities and the town.”
Giles is excited to see how his game translates to the AJHL.
“I know going into next year we’re an older team. I’m a forward and it will be a year to grow and develop,” he said. “The goal is to play two years there and then hopefully receive a D1 scholarship. The track record of the AJHL is really good so it’s a great spot to develop my game. There are a lot of eyes watching out there and that league garners a lot of attention.”
Giles was a point-per-game player for the Tigers this season.
“Under coach (Mike) McCourt, my game grew a lot and I really grew up as a person and a player,” Giles said. “In the first year, there were older guys and you really had to earn your spot. He taught me what abilities and assets I could use to get myself minutes. That really helped me my first year growing into my second year.”
McCourt loves what Giles beings to the table.
“Carter is a quiet leader that plays the game extremely intelligently,” McCourt said. “He is a dynamic skater, who is a responsible two-way player and has tremendous character.”
Giles will miss his time at Ridley.
“Being able to live at Ridley and go to school full time definitely prepared me for university and balancing the mix between hockey and school,” he said. “The atmosphere at Ridley is second to none. There is nothing like it. It was great.”
Giles has been able to skate once a week and is looking forward to ramping up his workouts.
“It’s been tough. The first couple of months after hockey you still have that itch to play. Slowly but surely things are coming back and it’s good finally being able to get on the ice,” he said.
Robbie Stewart '20 - Ottawa Senators (CCHL)
Robbie Stewart is excited for the next chapter in his climb up the hockey ladder.
The 18-year-old St. Catharines native has signed with the Ottawa Junior Senators of the Canadian Central Hockey League after two seasons with the Ridley Tigers.
“Some teammates from last year went up there and being in touch with them all I heard was great stuff,” Stewart said. “I’ve been interested in playing in the CCHL anyway.”
Stewart stayed in contact with former Ridley defenceman Max Blanchard, who played with the Junior Senators last season, and also had several chats with Ottawa assistant coach Jamie Mayo, which he said made the decision much easier.
“That connection really drove it and my sister goes to school in Ottawa as well and that helped the cause,” Stewart said. “I know they’re a great team and organization.”
Stewart is relieved to have his future mapped out.
“With the situation everything is in now, it’s good to have that set so now I just need to get on ice and get in shape for it. I’m really excited for that and the new level.”
Stewart, a 6-foot-3, 185-pound defenceman, recorded three goals and 13 assists for 16 points in 17 games with the Tigers this past season and earned five games at the junior level with the Pelham Panthers of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“He has shown tremendous growth over the last two years and really matured as a person and as a player,” Ridley coach Mike McCourt said. “His in-game decision making evolved and he emerged as a leader on our team both on and off the ice.
“He played an integral role on our team.”
Stewart feels he has progressed in his two years at Ridley.
“Coach Mike (McCourt) and the staff really helped me develop,” he said. “I think the biggest thing was trying to get more confidence. Starting off my first year I was a little timid but once I understood what was going on there and I started to learn more about myself and how we were going to play, I think I grew a lot.”
Stewart was drafted in the 12th round (221st overall) of the 2018 Ontario Hockey League draft by the Sudbury Wolves, but opted for Ridley.
“I knew Ridley was going to be a good choice and has lots of exposure for everything so it was the right place for me to keep all my options open and keep developing,” said Stewart, whose father Brad is a former St. Catharines Falcon. “It was great. We’re on the ice tons and tons of travel so you get used to that aspect. Obviously both years were great winning the MPHL (Midwest Prep Hockey League).”
Stewart hopes to use his time in Ottawa as another stepping stone to his ultimate goal.
“My goal is to get a scholarship to the NCAA so this is just the next step. Hopefully I get a couple of years in with Ottawa and then see what happens from there,” he said.
The Junior Senators are excited to add Stewart.
“Jamie Mayo watched him all winter and seemed pretty certain that he could be a player at our level,” head coach Martin Dagenais said. “He came highly recommended by Mike McCourt. All the players that he’s sent us over the years have been excellent for us. Once he adjusts to the caliber of play of the CCHL, we are confident that Robbie will become a reliable two-way defenceman.
Coleman Bennett '20
- Napean Raiders (CCHL)
Coleman Bennett has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.
The 18-year-old London native worked his way up from a rookie defenceman with the Ridley Tigers to one of their most dependable players who made an impact at both ends of the ice.
“It was a delight watching the transformation of Coleman and how he grew and matured both on and off the ice,” Ridley coach Mike McCourt said. “Coleman evolved into a player who we could match up against other teams’ top players and he was always very difficult to play against. He learned to compete extremely hard and was a big piece of our two (Midwest Prep Hockey League) championships.”
McCourt said Bennett’s work ethic was second to none.
“Coleman worked extremely hard to get this opportunity and can be a tremendous asset when playing this way. Coleman’s growth and maturity off the ice will serve him well as he makes the transition to junior hockey.”
Bennett will get his opportunity at the junior level after committing to the Nepean Raiders of the Central Canada Hockey League for the 2020/21 season.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity and the chance to play in the CCHL and show them what I can do,” Bennett said.
Bennett had contact with a handful of teams in the CCHL but a few phone calls from the Raiders convinced him Nepean was the right organization to continue his career.
“Coach McCourt was always big on Nepean and said it would be a great place for me,” Bennett said. “I was looking at some other options. I got a call from their GM and after a couple of more calls I saw what a great opportunity it was and what a great organization they have and was excited to commit to them.”
Bennett feels he can make an immediate impact with the Raiders.
“I’m hoping to step in and make a difference right away but I know the jump is going to be different for me. I know it’s going to be a more physical game and that’s something I hope to get into right away, making a big impact on the physical side of things and hopefully making an impact on the offensive and defensive side also.”
Bennett also got into some action with the Fort Erie Meteors last season which gave him a chance to experience playing against older competition.
“That helped me get that confidence playing against older players. I know it’s going to be a much more skilled and much faster pace and that’s something I’m going to have to work toward,” he said.
Bennett was quick to give credit to McCourt for helping him progress.
“When I went there, I wasn’t the way I am today. Coach really pushed me to become a better player, especially on the offensive side,” he said. He taught me when to jump in and when to stay back.”
He also felt the overall experience at Ridley was crucial to his development.
“When I was looking at what to do after my minor midget year junior B in my hometown was an option but I didn’t think I was ready to take that jump right away. I also wanted a good academic education and Ridley was the best of both worlds for me. The schooling was phenomenal and the hockey was great. It really balanced it out. Everything was amazing there.”
Bennett has hopes of playing at the university level in Canada or at the NCAA level.
Alexandre Blanchard '20
- Rockland Nationals (CCHL)
It was love at first sight for Alex Blanchard when he visited the Rockland Nationals.
The Ridley College defenceman hooked up with the Nationals late last year and quickly realized the Canadian Central Hockey League organization was the right fit for him.
“We started talking and they expressed interest in me right away,” Blanchard said. “I did some research and talked to the coach and I had a lot of interest.
“I had a meeting with the coaching staff, the owners and trainers. It was definitely something that interested me right from that visit. Watching some of the players and watching them play, it was somewhere I definitely envisioned myself playing next year and I fell in love with Rockland from there.”
Blanchard, who recently committed to the Nats, appreciated being able to visit the team in person.
“It made me even hungrier to play with that group and play there that much more.”
Blanchard, who also played a handful of games with the Thorold Blackhawks this season, is excited to play at the Tier 2 level.
“I got to see their style of play, which is fast, hard hockey,” he said. “Every single player does the little things to keep them a step ahead of their opponents and that’s how they are able to win games. They use their speed and skill and I really think my game, being a smaller player, I can use my abilities.”
Rockland coach Dan Sauve is thrilled to add Blanchard to the organization.
“We are ecstatic to have him join us,” Sauve said. “The obvious reason is his playing ability. He is a poised defenceman with good vision, good distribution skills and a precise shot. With our team losing quite a few high-end defensemen, Alex will have lots of opportunity and we think he will thrive.
“More importantly, his character and professionalism are beyond his years. He will be a great ambassador for our team.”
Blanchard, whose older brother Max played with Ottawa of the CCHL last season, has high ambitions.
“The ultimate goal is to get a scholarship to go play NCAA, at the same time, a lot of players playing Tier 2 are able to go play USports,” he said. “As a family we value that just as much.”
Blanchard loved his time at Ridley, where he helped the Tigers to a pair of Midwest Prep League championships.
“I remember walking on to campus for the first time with my brother who gave me a tour and explained how things work. Now it’s Grade 12 and it’s already over and we’ve graduated,” he said. “My experience at Ridley is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’m so grateful for the opportunity. I’m so grateful to my parents for giving me that opportunity as well as coach (Mike) McCourt and the entire Ridley community.
“Those were some of the best years of my life. To meet so many new people and so many friends from around the world, it was something that will last a lifetime and that I will keep close to my heart.”
McCourt had high praise for the Fonthill resident.
“He’s a quiet individual who leads by example and lets his play and actions speak for themselves,” McCourt said. “He has outstanding work ethic on and off the ice. Whether the gym or the classroom, Alex is committed 100 per cent. He really evolved over his time here and is a player who can be utilized in all situations and epitomizes character.”
Rylee Hlusiak '20BASKETBALL
- Hawkesbury Hawks (CCHL)
Rylee Hlusiak has always been able to see the big picture.
The 18-year-old Barrie native was selected by the Hamilton Bulldogs in the ninth round (167th overall) of the 2018 Ontario Hockey League draft, but the big winger had already set his sights on the NCAA.
Hlusiak attended camp with the Bulldogs but quickly shifted gears and enrolled at Ridley College which he deduced would give himself the best opportunity to develop while keeping his options open.
The move proved fruitful for Hlusiak who played two seasons for the Tigers before accepting a spot with the Hawkesbury Hawks of the Canada Central Hockey League for the 2020/21 season.
“I’ve always been interested in the NCAA. I got drafted in the OHL and that was exciting but in the back of my head I always wanted to go to the States to play hockey,” Hlusiak said. “I went to the camps just for the experience. Had I been offered a spot (in Hamilton) I probably would have gone but after being at Ridley my goal has been the NCAA.”
The Hawks expressed interest in Hlusiak early, which he said made the process less stressful.
“The head coach (Rick Dorval) came down and watched me a number of times, probably more than any other coach, and we had communication. Towards the end of the year they offered me a spot,” Hlusiak said.
Hlusiak felt that helped him in his second and final season at Ridley.
“It was relaxing because I was just able to focus on what was going on at Ridley and that helped out my season,” he said. “I was just able to focus on that one thing and not worry about where I was going to end up next season.
“With the Coronavirus, players still don’t know what they are doing because there are no tryouts. It’s been good for my training because I know where I’m headed and I just have to get ready for that date.”
Ridley coach Mike McCourt is confident Hlusiak will succeed at the next level.
“Rylee was an offensive threat every time he touched the puck. He has an ability to use his body and protect the puck to create space,” McCourt said. “Rylee shoots the puck like a pro and always had a knack for scoring big goals.
“I was most proud of how he learned to play a more complete game, learned how to create offence without sacrificing defence. His play away from the puck improved. He has the ability to be impactful as he moves forward.”
Hlusiak also played a handful of games for the Thorold Blackhawks last season, which he feels will help him with the transition.
“I think it was good for the physical aspect because high school was more rendered around skill versus junior B which is more physical,” he said. “There was a lot more energy which I liked and I had a ton of fun playing with Thorold. It was a great opportunity to get a taste for what’s upcoming next year.”
He also feels his time at Ridley has equipped him for the CCHL.
“It will take a few games, but just being there and practising, I don’t think it will be too bad. Ridley really prepared me well for that and I’m looking forward to it. It will just take some time, an adjusting period.”
Hlusiak, who is slated to head to Hawksebury Aug. 21, plans to take some high school courses to upgrade his marks.
“I’ve been in talks with some schools and waiting to write my SAT and go from there,” he said. “I think this extra time at home has helped me get ready for that.
“Obviously, I’m a little bit nervous because it’s a new level and I’m playing with older guys but I’m ready to head up there. I’d love for it to be tomorrow.”
Kiano Heath '20
- Bishop’s University
Kiano Heath found what he was looking for in his backyard.
The Quebec native had some specific requirements for his post-secondary education following his graduation from Ridley College and Bishop’s University more than satisfied his needs.
“It’s a small community feel,” Heath said. “They have a really good team. They were at the national championships this year.
“It clicked all boxes for me to be close to home, play for a good program, and get into a good school.”
Heath, a 6-foot-9 forward who played four years for the Ridley Prep Boys team, wasn’t so sure at first about Bishop’s.
“In November, the coach (Rod Gilpin) reached out to me. They are a local university here. I live about an hour away and I never really thought about their basketball program,” Heath said.
But Ridley coach Derrick des Vignes played with Gilpen at Laurentian and persuaded Heath to have an open mind when considering the school.
“He told me about Bishop’s and how Gilpen was a great player so I decided to look into it and I ended up really liking the school,” said Heath, who plans to major in secondary education with a concentration in physics.
Gilpen loves what Heath brings to the table.
“Aside from his size and athleticism, what initially piqued my interest was that he was a multi-sport athlete,” Gilpen said. “For a kid who is 6-foot-10 to be part of provincial team programs in both basketball and rugby in Quebec is special. He has the unique blend of being a big kid who can run and is not afraid to be physical. We are happy his sole focus will be basketball at BU though.”
He is thankful he was able to commit before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“It feels great. I was able to get my application in before our March break and I heard I was accepted during the break,” he said. “It feels so great to know that I am going somewhere next year with all this uncertainty going on and not even being able to graduate on campus.
“I have a solid plan as to what’s going to happen next year.”
Heath feels he will be able to make the jump to the next level.
“I have sort of a leg up because I played in the OSBA (Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association). I was going up against guys who went to D1 programs in the States and played against players who are in the NBA right now,” he said. “I think it will definitely be a lot more intense and a lot more physical but playing in the OSBA prepared me for something like that.”
Heath has been in contact with Gilpin and feels he has a good idea of how he will fit in.
“Our coach has been telling me lot about what they plan on doing next year. They want to run a lot and they want a mobile big man. I’ve been playing a mobile spot at Ridley and they want me to transfer that, to be able to run the floor, run a set screen, and be able to be a mobile asset on the floor.”
Gilpin feels Heath will have an opportunity to contribute this season.
“We return a veteran team this year, but I see Kiano competing for minutes at the centre position,” he said. “We expect him to develop into a player who can be a focal point in our offence and anchor our half-court defence. He really has only scratched the surface of his potential and it often takes big guys just a little longer to get there.”
Heath has also been working out once a week with Gilpin and his staff at an outdoor facility in Sherbrooke.
“Our strength coach has been pushing us with workout programs,” he said. “We’re having team meetings and getting together and working and motiving each other. We’re doing one-on-ones with skills and shooting.
“It’s great to be able to work out with them because they give me a good idea of what to expect.”
Heath will miss his time in black and orange.
“From Grades 9-12, I was looking for somewhere to play a high level of basketball. I didn’t give much thought to Ridley because it was a Canadian school and I wanted to go somewhere down in the States but Dave Whitty reached out a lot and told me about their program. I eventually caved and came for a visit and I loved it from the moment I stepped on the campus.”
Peter Moses '20 - Acadia University
Peter Moses can’t wait to begin the next chapter of his life.
The 18-year-old Ridley College graduate has committed to Acadia University where he will suit up for the Axmen’s men’s basketball team.
“That’s all I’ve been waiting for, really,” Moses said. “I’m excited to go on to university and start a new part of my life.”
Moses, a 6-foot-10 power forward, will join Ridley alumnus Marcus Upshaw. Moses is Acadia’s second committed player from Ridley in the last three seasons. The philosophies of the two institutions align very well.
Moses was attracted to Acadia from the start.
“Tarry Upshaw (Ridley coach) put me in contact with Acadia pretty early on this year,” Moses said. “It was one of my first looks. I also had a few options here in Ontario but I just thought Acadia is someplace new and I would enjoy myself there.”
Moses had a chance to visit the school last fall, which sealed the deal.
“I had a chance to go out there and it was an amazing visit,” Moses said. “I enjoyed my time a lot.
“It’s a small town and a smaller school so I got the same kind of small community feel I got at Ridley. I’ll be able to meet a lot of people and connect more than at a big school.”
Acadia is located in Wolfville, N.S., about 100 miles northwest of Halifax.
Acadia basketball head coach Kevin Duffie feels Moses will be a welcome addition to the Axemen.
“We are excited about the addition of Peter to the program,” Duffie said. “We see Peter fitting into our environment seamlessly since he is coming from the well-reputed Ridley College where he is a proven student and accomplished athlete.
“Peter is a mature young man who will come in and impact our program on a lot of different levels. From a basketball perspective, he has good size, skill and length and that combined with his work habits will be crucial in his success at university.”
Moses, who will study business administration, is looking forward to the challenge of playing at the university level.
“It’s just getting into the rhythm of things. I can see myself fitting into the team well being so lanky and big,” he said. “Hopefully I can play the 4-5 spot in the rotation and help the team in two ways.
“It’s going to be a jump but the staff has highlighted exactly what I need to do. Right now, it’s just getting my body physically and mentally ready.”
Moses moved from Windsor to attend Ridley for the final two years of his high school career.
“I really wanted to play at the next level. I wanted to take a step forward, help my game and put myself in a better position for post-secondary basketball. Ridley was there to help me excel and push myself to get better as a basketball player and as a student,” he said.
Moses feels the overall experience at Ridley will help him ease into university life.
Alex Root '20
“Some days are really long,” he said. “I think it’s going to help a lot. I’ve been in a position where I’ve had to manage my time and figure out how to balance both school and basketball.”
- McGill University
McGill University was the perfect fit for Alex Root, both on and off the court.
The 18-year-old Welland native was looking for a post-secondary institution where he could study business as well as further his basketball career next season after graduating from Ridley College. McGill checked all the boxes.
“I was looking at a variety of Division 1 schools in the States and a plethora of D2 and D3 (schools) and it came down to factors that had to be balanced for me,” Root said. “Going to Ridley really gave me a broader view on the value of education so McGill really does provide the best balance of all that.
“It’s somewhere where I can play right away and impact the team along with being one of the best business schools in the country. That was one thing that pushed me away from some of the other programs.”
Root was recruited by former coach David DeAveiro, who stepped down in April after a decade to accept the coaching position at Ryerson.
“He recruited me for almost three years,” Root said. “McGill was the first USports team to reach out to me going into my first year at Ridley in Grade 11.”
Ryan Thorne replaced DeAveiro as head coach, but Root isn’t concerned the coaching change will affect his position on the team.
“It was obviously a bit of a shock at first but I still felt that McGill was a place I could have an impact on a team that has a real chance at winning a national championship,” Root said. “They were 12-4 last year and I really believe we can make a run.”
Root, a 6-foot-5 forward/guard, is looking forward to the challenge of playing at the next level.
“I think my style of play may change now that DeAveiro is no longer at McGill but the style of players he recruited will be,” he said. “I feel my role will be dependent on how I perform and what I bring to the team, but my understanding is that I have an opportunity to play my way into a position that can really help the team win.”
Root, who captained the Tigers’ Ontario Scholastic Baseball Association teams in 2019 and 2020 and averaged 15 points and five assists per game, is thankful to have his future mapped out.
“Right now, I can see it through some of my teammates who are going through the recruiting process and it’s very stressful,” he said. “I am really thankful I was able to go through mine fully because it’s very uncertain.”
Root attended Notre Dame for two years before moving to Ridley for his final two years of high school.
“Notre Dame was a very positive experience and taught me a lot of values and work ethic that translated into my development later on,” Root said.
Root said attending Ridley helped take his game to the next level.
“I felt Ridley was the best place in Canada in the OSBA to develop your game competing against the best players, not only on the other teams, but also on your own team. In practice at Ridley, you saw all these national team players who checked their egos at the door and just went into the gym to get better.
“I felt like I had to make that move. It really helped my game and I’m glad I did it.”
Root is doing his best to keep in shape for next season.
“Because of COVID, we haven’t been able to get together and practice yet but it’s a very talented team, bigger guards and versatile wings, so I think I fit right in based on my playing ability to be able to be versatile,” he said.
Andreas Gomez '20 - University of Victoria
Andreas Gomez’ dream of attending the University of Victoria began four years ago.
The Niagara Falls native was attending a rowing camp in British Columbia with Ridley College and was able to tour campuses at several local universities.
“It was the first school I ever went to see and it was an amazing time there,” Gomez recalled. “It was crazy to think how four years later I’m going to the first school I ever saw.”
Gomez said it was love at first sight.
“It caught my eye and it was an absolutely awesome campus with a great environment,” he said. “I’ve always loved B.C. and the great outdoors.”
Gomez recently committed to the school after also being accepted at St. Francis Xavier, Dalhousie University, the University of British Columbia and the University of Hawaii.
“I had some options,” said Gomez, who plans to major in nursing. “Education was the main goal. I wanted to go to a school that best fit my education. I had to plan out where I wanted to go. All those schools had excellent nursing programs and then rowing was my next priority.”
Gomez said the rowing part of the equation put UVic over the top.
“Their rowing program is one of the best in the country. I couldn’t turn down that offer and they have an amazing hands-on nursing program.”
Gomez, who rowed for Ridley in a lightweight four and lightweight double earning a silver and bronze at the Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association Regattas in Grades 10 and 11, is excited to see how his talents translate to the university level.
“They are trying to build their lightweight program so the goal for next year is to make the light four and double and hopefully win a national title,” he said.
To that end, Gomez isn’t taking anything for granted, putting the extra down time thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic to good use.
“My first priority is to find my motivation through these tough times,” he said. “I have a white board at home and write down my goals, what I want to do for the week, for the year and my lifetime goals. I keep looking at that and that honestly does motivate me.”
Gomez said he is working out three times daily — cardio, weights and yoga — and is also keeping a close eye on his diet.
“I want to be a competitive athlete in university. I’m trying to stay active and trying to eat really, really clean. I’m trying to be the best, and in order to be the best, you have to train hard.”
Gomez admits life without Ridley is going to be strange.
“It’s a little bit bittersweet, to be honest,” he said. “This has been my home since Grade 3. I’ve gone to school there for over half my life and it’s like no other school. You create connections like no other. It’s incredible how many close friends I have that will last forever.
“The rowing changed my life. Without the rowing, I honestly have no idea what I would be doing now. It really helped me grow as an individual and I learned a lot.”
Charlotte Drennan '20 - University of British Columbia
Charlotte Drennan felt immediately at home at the University of British Columbia.
The Grade 12 student at Ridley College went for a visit earlier this year and came away mightily impressed.
“As soon as I saw the campus and had a tour around it with the rowing team, it really opened my eyes and spoke to me,” the 18-year-old Grimsby resident said. “I felt like it was my school.
“It was perfect.”
Drennan, who will be studying either kinesiology or arts this fall, can’t wait to get started.
“The future has so much in store and I’m so ready,” she said. “I’m super-excited, especially about going out west.”
Drennan said she weighed offers from both the University of Western Ontario and the University of Victoria before making her decision.
“My overall deciding factor was the academics at UBC as well as their strong rowing program. That had a big impact on my decision,” she said.
Drennan said the school expects a lot from its athletes.
“They want not only rowers, but athletes who are well rounded and physically active. Athletes who are passionate with a lot of grit and determination and not afraid to get out of their comfort zone.”
Drennan attended Grimsby Secondary School for two years before switching to Ridley for Grades 11 and 12.
She combined with Alexandra Cook, Erin Broski and Gabrielle Cook to win gold at both the Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association Regatta and the Stotesbury Cup Regatta last year in the senior women’s quad. The crew also went to England to compete in the Royal Women’s Henley Regatta.
“That was a really big deal for us,” she said.
Drennan, who has rowed for both the St. Catharines Rowing Club and Ridley Graduate Boat Club in the summer months, recently graduated from Ridley.
“I’m going to miss it so much. It was truly an amazing experience going to Ridley. It was definitely life-changing and eye-opening,” she said.
Drennan is missing being on the water but doing her best to keep in shape during the COVID-19 pandemic working on the ergometer, running and biking.
“I’m kind of going crazy, too,” she said. “It’s hard to train without a team but it’s about balancing everything.
“It’s taking it one day at a time and doing as much as I can.”
Gabrielle Cook '20 - University of Tulsa
It took a trip to England for Gabrielle Cook to connect with the University of Tulsa.
The 17-year-old St. Catharines native was rowing for Ridley College at the National Women’s Henley Regatta held at Henley on the Thames last year when she was approached by Golden Hurricane rowing coach Kevin Harris.
“I could tell how dedicated and involved in the team he was. It was like a family and at Ridley it’s the same thing. That environment is something I was immediately attracted to,” Cook said.
Cook then went on a recruiting trip to Tulsa where she was offered a full scholarship.
It didn’t take Cook long to realize Tulsa was a perfect fit.
“I was overwhelmed with the experience. It was great. It was the greatest overwhelming feeling I’ve ever had,” she said. “I met the rest of the team and could see how dedicated everyone was to not only the sport, but to the actual community at Tulsa which I really loved.”
Cook, who along with Charlotte Drennan, Alexandra Cook and Erin Broski won gold medals at both the Stotesbury Cup Regatta in Philadelphia and the Canadian Secondary Schools Rowing Association Regatta last year in the senior women’s quad four, began getting interest from schools last year.
“The recruiting process was extremely interesting,” she said. “It started earlier than I expected. In Grade 11, I went to my first recruiting camp and I kind of fully immersed myself into that experience.
“I got excited about the whole process itself.”
Cook, who plans to major in communications, began rowing in Grade 7 in Ridley’s learn to row program.
“I was a tall, lanky kid — I was taller than everyone in my class — I got into it and they told me I was built like a rower and I fell in love with it,” she said. “In Grade 9, I got to actually try out for the team and got to know it a little more seriously and I’ve been doing it since.”
She feels all early mornings and training have been worth the sacrifice.
“Honestly, rowing itself is rewarding,” she said. “It’s made me a better student and person and allowed me to be part of an experience and a team.
“It feels like all those early mornings, the 6 a.m. hour of power and the puking after practice, just makes it worth it.”
Cook said she feels well prepared for university.
“I can’t even explain how well Ridley prepares you for university,” she said. “One of my crew members graduated two years ago and goes to Cal Berkley. (University of California, Berkeley). It’s intense there and I was asking her how it is managing rowing and university school work and she said she could not be better prepared for what she is doing.”
Cook, who is tentatively slated to head to Tulsa in mid-August, is curious where she will fit in on the team.
“We’re not sure of that yet. We have to do our erg testing and see where we place on the team. I’m excited to find that out.”Garrett Bowley '20
- University of British ColumbiaRUGBY
Katherine Culligan '20
- St. Francis Xavier University
It was love at first tackle for Katherine Culligan.
The 18-year-old Halifax native had been surrounded by rugby growing up with several members of her family heavily into the sport, but it wasn’t until she enrolled at Ridley College in Grade 10 that she gave it a try.
“Rugby has been very important to my family for a long time, pretty much everyone in my family has played,” Culligan said. “I was looking forward to trying new sports and instantly loved it so much. It kind of became a passion of mine at Ridley.”
Culligan loves everything about rugby.
“I think it’s the perfect sport for someone who likes contact,” she said. “It combines pretty much anything you could want — contact, speed, skill — and there are so many different positions you can play and try and master. I think it’s a sport you can spend a long on trying to perfect. It’s cool to me there are so many aspects to the sport.”
Culligan played rugby and hockey in her three years at Ridley and had opportunities to continue to play both sports at the next level.
Culligan ultimately chose rugby and will continue to play at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia this fall.
“The possibility of playing rugby at the next level was always in my mind. I didn’t really think about it too seriously until the last year when some opportunities started to open up for me,” she said.
Culligan doesn’t regret having to hang up her skates.
“I didn’t feel like I lost too much,” she said. “I didn’t feel I was really giving up hockey, I felt I was deciding to start a new journey. I’d still love to keep hockey in my life and play it recreationally. I did have to make a decision because I did have some options where I could have played hockey at the next level in university as well.
“It was a weighing game of what was the best fit for me academically and athletically and what I want to do with my life. I’ve played hockey for 11 years and felt I had given so much of myself to that sport.”
Culligan, who is studying health and sciences and may pursue a career in dentistry, felt St. Francis Xavier was the perfect fit — the school is only about a two-hour drive from her home and features an outstanding women’s rugby program.
“Growing up, I had been to the school quite a few times and I was fairly familiar with it,” she said. “It was almost overlooked in my mind. I didn’t give too much thought to it in my university search process because I didn’t realize how amazing a school we had so close to home. I had visited the campus before so I knew what it was all about.”
She also came away impressed with head coach Mike Cavanagh and his staff.
“They have won six national championships since 2006 and I think that is very much because of their amazing coaching staff. I’m just very excited to get down there and get started with them in September,” she said.
Culligan will be able to attend classes in person, but there will be no organized games this fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m so excited,” she said. “We are planning on practising and working out and maybe in the spring schedule some exhibition games. It’s a good way to ease into it. I will get used to the team and the school.”
She will miss her time at Ridley.
“I was searching for a higher level of hockey and Ridley just offered the best academics for me at that point too so it was really the best of both worlds,” she said.
Tatenda Mafa '20 - Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology