By CLAUDE SCILLEY
It was much different this time.
A year ago, Harrison Kelertas came home from the Ontario University Athletics fencing championships empty handed. “I was very close to getting two bronze medals,” he recalled. “I lost both (the individual and team) by one hit from the same guy in both categories.
“This year I went back and told myself I would get it, and it finally happened.”
Kelertas won a pair of bronze medals at this year’s provincial championships, and Wednesday night that achievement led to his getting another prize, the Tommy Smart Cup as the outstanding male athlete, at the annual athletic awards night at Royal Military College.
Fencing teammate Kalina Larocque, a fourth-year aeronautical engineering student from Ottawa, was named the college’s female athlete of the year. She’s currently in the Netherlands competing at the annual CISM fencing championship.
Daniel Cruz, a member of the men’s soccer team—and, coincidentally, Kelertas’ roommate—won the HRH Prince of Wales Cup for outstanding performance in the four pillars (athletics, academics, military and language) over the entire four-year program. He’s a civil engineering student from Aurora.
An epee swordsman, Kelertas recalled the OUA championship tournament in St. Catharines last month not so much for the bronze medal match—“it was uneventful,” he said—but for the semifinal match that landed him there. In it, he lost a close bout, 15-12 to Joe Wright of Carleton, a long-time rival.
“Joe Wright is someone I used to compete against a lot when I first started fencing,” said Kelertas, who took up the sport with a club in Pincourt, a suburb of Montreal, 10 years ago. “He’s someone I beat at the Canadian championships when I was 15 years old for the gold.
“I took a year break so I kind of lost a bit and he’s surpassed me, big time. He’s a lot more skilled now, but it was still tight.”
Though RMC is one of the few universities with a fencing program, and the only one with full-time coaches, Kelertas said the sport didn’t factor into his choice of university. “I joined the military because I wanted to do the job,” he said. “Knowing there was a team was a bonus.”
Nonetheless, he was impressed the first time he got a first-hand look at the RMC team. That happened when he was a cadet at College militaire royal in St-Jean, Que., where he began his post-secondary studies, and he was involved in an exchange.
“I had no idea what the team was like here,” he said, “but I saw how cohesive and dedicated the team was and I was really excited to join.
“The first thing I did when I got here was I went and talked to the coach. That was my first task.”
Kelertas was effusive in his praise for the coaches, Patricia and David Howes. Winning the Smart Cup, he said, was a reflection of their dedication. He marveled at how they’re able to work with people and make them successful athletes in just four years.
“I’ve been fencing for 10 years,” he said. “I know the sport. Never have I had coaches this dedicated.”
Winning the Smart Cup as a third-year athlete means “a lot” to Kelertas, who is studying politics with an eye to a career in the infantry.
“It’s a big deal,” he said. “I’m pretty happy about it, (but) I didn’t win this on my own. The second bronze at the OUA was a team thing, really. I had to rely on others to help me. They won it with me.”
Kelertas was selected over one other finalist, Eric Louis-Seize of the hockey team, who was also a third-year athlete.
“I’m the one that won but there are so many more athletes who are amazing in their sport,” Kelertas said. “Louis-Seize had the most points on the hockey team this year; that’s tough to compete against.”
Winner of the Hutton Trophy as the top first-year cadet is fencer Cecily McDonnell. Matthew Courtney of the rugby team received the second Hutton Trophy as the top second-year athlete.
Cassidy Chang of the women’s volleyball team won the RMC Club of Canada Trophy as the leading third-year athlete, while hockey player Alex Pym was presented with the RMC Club of Canada Hamilton Branch Cup as the top fourth-year athlete.