Tag Archive | "Jennifer Brenning"

OUA folds women’s water polo due to lack of teams

When the Carleton Ravens women’s water polo team takes to the pool for the 2016-17 season, they will do so as a competitive club, rather than a varsity sport.

The change comes after Ontario University Athletics (OUA) announced on Feb. 5 that women’s water polo would be removed from its list of sport offerings.
Under the OUA guidelines, a sport must have a minimum of six teams of the league’s 20 members competing in the annual OUA championship in order for it to qualify.

As there are only five teams currently competing in women’s water polo, the OUA made the decision to remove the sport. As per the league rules, the sport was originally placed on a year-long probation for the third time in four years in December 2014.

“We did look to see if there were other programs that would join the OUA. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough support,” said Jennifer Brenning, Carleton’s athletic director.

“The respective universities that had teams entered had all petitioned our athletic directors. We’d been in conversation with the OUA itself and have been working in tandem with other universities to try to help them gain, not necessarily varsity status but gain support and momentum from the universities,” Ravens head coach Victoria Peters said.

“It’s not just this year, we’ve been trying for years . . . but it’s not an easy process and it’s difficult,” she said.

Despite it being her final year as a Raven, Emma Cooke, the team’s captain, said the decision was “really, really disappointing.”

“We definitely knew going into it, like our coaches made it really clear that that was a possibility and they were doing all they could to try and keep that from happening,” Cooke said. “But yeah, we were definitely really worried.”

“It’s just really sad,” she said. “I feel really bad for my teammates. I hope it doesn’t discourage the players that aren’t graduating this year from continuing to play.”

Historically, water polo has been played at Carleton for decades, and according to Brenning, that isn’t going to change, regardless of the OUA’s decision.

“We’re still planning to support a women’s water polo team,” Brenning said. “We’ll be most likely operating that as one of our competitive clubs that will participate against other universities, like the University of Ottawa that’s a club program already.”

With the decision, the women’s water polo team joins a list of 17 other competitive clubs at Carleton, including baseball and lacrosse.

Club teams at Carleton are funded through grants from the Carleton University Students’ Association’s clubs and societies program.

“I think the difference [between varsity and club status] is an OUA banner,” Brenning said. “The men will now have an OUA banner to compete for, whereas the women may have a competitive experience but not that OUA banner.”

Nevertheless, Cooke said there are some benefits to being a club team.

“It’s unfortunate because we don’t have that level of competition, but at the same time there’s actually more teams we can play against as a club team,” Cooke said. “So it has some benefits, there were only five teams in the OUA and now there’s going to be . . . quite a few more teams that we’ll actually get to play against.”

“I’m sure it’s probably going to affect a lot but I can’t predict it yet because it’s so new,” Peters said. “Historically speaking [Carleton has] always done very well medal-wise, so you know what, I don’t think that recruitment will be an issue, I think I’ll be able to pull another 20 girls and that’s the goal. Keep the team big and keep it going.”

After a waiting period of three years, teams will be able to apply to the OUA to have the sport reinstated, provided that it meets the minimum standards for competition.

“It was hard. Frustrating, very frustrating,” Peters said about the OUA’s decision. “It’s difficult but I don’t doubt that one day we’ll be able to get back to varsity status, and that’s the goal, to keep fighting towards it and to keep the program strong and keep the morale up.”

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Capital Hoops celebrates 10 years

On Feb. 5, a capacity crowd filed into the Canadian Tire Centre as the men’s and women’s basketball teams faced off against the crosstown rival University of Ottawa (U of O) Gee-Gees in the 10th annual MBNA Capital Hoops Classic. Before the game, the scene outside the Ravens’ Nest was filled with black and red as hundreds of fans piled into buses.

In a result quite different from past years, the Ravens women’s team managed to come out on top while the men’s team suffered a six-point defeat.

The bleachers were filled with over 10,000 fans for the men’s event. Last year’s attendance broke the record for a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) regular season game.

The heightened atmosphere of this rivalry was first showcased 10 years ago during the first Capital Hoops Classic.
“We partnered with the Senators in 2006,” said Carleton’s athletic director Jennifer Brenning. “This event was kind of a build up towards the national championship we were hosting that year. I remember [feeling] absolutely electric. It was exciting, the students were so pumped in their school colours . . . It was just a great atmosphere.”

From then on, it was a no-brainer to continue the event. Both fans and players have enjoyed the championship-like tradition for years now.

“It felt special,” said Ravens forward Heather Lindsay following the win. “In the past, it has felt really overwhelming, but tonight was special . . . The atmosphere was fantastic, and we have the best fans in the CIS, hands down.”

The level of the rivalry only propels the intensity of the games. The two men’s teams met in the CIS championship last season and have held the top spots in the country for the majority of the season.

“In terms of basketball, this is the best rivalry there is. Between this game and the Panda [Game], they’re the marquee events in terms of CIS rival games and events,” Brenning said.

The Ravens football team won the Panda Game in dramatic fashion earlier this season. Unfortunately for Carleton fans, the men’s basketball team could not complete the perfect sweep of football and basketball versus their rivals. It was the first time since the first Capital Hoops Classic that the men’s players didn’t send the Ravens’ fans home happy. However, the women’s team won their game for the first time in the past three years by a 20-point margin.

“We just fell short on making shots . . . Defensively we fell short in the third quarter,” said Ravens point guard Kaza Kajami-Keane.

Nonetheless, the atmosphere was electric once again, and the game displayed the high level of talent the city of Ottawa has to offer.

“We have really strong basketball at the community level. This game has certainly had an impact on the visibility and awareness of CIS basketball,” Brenning said. “Bar none the best rivalry in Canada, and it has stayed that way for years.”

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Carleton introduces the Alpine ski team

As part of a local effort to promote alpine skiing at the university level, Carleton formed its first competitive alpine ski team.

The team is made up of five students as part of a joint program with students from the University of Ottawa and the Université du Québec in Gatineau.

“As a new team we want to be able to put ourselves in a position to push for the championship, for the banner in about three to four years,” said Nick Paynter, first-year communications student and alpine skier.

Hannah Schmidt, team captain, helped start the team this year along with coach Gabriel Bouffard, .

“I wanted to continue skiing through school and other than going to the states on a scholarship there wasn’t really anything in Ottawa,” Schmidt said, who has been skiing for seven years.

“I think most of the team has skied before . . . and like me they wanted to continue skiing while they were in school, and it provided a good opportunity.”

Carleton Athletics and the Carleton University Students’ Association partnered together to sponsor competitive clubs each school year and recognized alpine skiing for the first time this year.

According to Jennifer Brenning, Director of Athletics, competitive sports clubs receive a grant ranging from $1,000 to $4,000 each year depending on the group.

“It provides a real social aspect for our students on campus to meet other students that are competing in sports they are interested in,” Brenning said.

Alpine skiing has applied in previous years, but this year was the first time where met  the criteria surrounding student leadership, budget, participation, and risk management.

“I think it is very important. It provides more competitive sport opportunities for our students,” Brenning said. “It fosters participation and healthy living.”

Schmidt said they have been doing a lot of fundraising on top of any money they receive, including a wine and cheese fundraiser in the fall, adding it can be a lot of money out of their own pockets.

Schmidt said her goal is to be able to help grow the team and to personally “be able to maintain skiing and school together.”

The first university races occurred Jan. 16 and 17 with teams from Carleton, Concordia, Laval, McGill, and Montréal.

Schmidt finished fourth in her race on Jan. 16. and third on Jan. 17.

Schmidt has seen the podium before at different races going into the university season, coming in second in her first race of the season in early December.

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MNP Park gets new turf

The turf on the MNP Park field has been removed to make way for a new and improved playing surface.

Jennifer Brenning, Carleton’s athletic director, said in an email that after eight years, the field has come to the end of its life.

As the home field for many Ravens teams—including football, soccer, and rugby—the field sees a lot of action every year.

According to Brenning, sections of the turf were damaged and no longer drained properly after it rained.

“There are large pools of water that sit on the surface—we had to postpone a playoff game this fall due to water on the field,” Brenning said.

The turf at the Ravens Road field, located behind the Ice House, was replaced last summer. This upgrade will ensure the turf on Carleton’s main field is able to meet the needs of its many users.

“The technology on artificial turf has advanced significantly over the years . . . The new turf will be much better for our community and our high-performance athletes,” Brenning said.

According to Brenning, replacing the turf is estimated to cost between $700,000 and $800,000, however the total cost will only be determined after the bidding process is completed early next year.

The new turf is expected to be installed in the spring.

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A history of Pedro and the Panda Game

Panda-monium took over the TD Place stadium Oct. 3 as the Carleton University Ravens faced off against the University of Ottawa (U of O) Gee-Gees in the annual Panda Game.

The first Panda Game was held in 1955 after Brian McNulty, a student at the U of O, decided something needed to be done to spice up the rivalry between the two teams.

McNulty came up with the idea of using a stuffed panda named Pedro as the Gee-Gees’ mascot, and enlisted the help of local jeweller Jack Snow to stage the first ever panda kidnapping.

In the years that followed, Pedro became the face of the game, with both schools fighting to be the one to take him home.
Pedro’s lengthy résumé includes a failed bid for president of the Carleton Students’ Council, being held hostage by the Queen’s University Panda Liberation Organization, and being transported to the game in an armoured Brinks truck.

The original Pedro retired in 1976 at the tender age of 24, and was replaced by a copper trophy.

Over the years, the game was the source of many pranks from students from both sides, which helped fuel the rivalry and, at times, threatened the continuation of the game.

At its peak, the Panda Game attracted more fans than any other regular season game in Canadian university football.

However, the latter years of the Panda Game were characterized more by the drunken antics of the fans, rather than the game itself.

Following the dissolution of Carleton’s football program at the end of the 1998 season, the Panda Game faded away as the Gee-Gees became Ottawa’s only university football team.

Fans of the rivalry would have to wait until 2013, when Carleton revived its football program.

The first Panda Game in the new era was held on Gee-Gees turf at Lees Stadium, in front of a sold-out crowd of 4,200 fans. The Gee-Gees won against the newly revived Ravens team 35-10.

“I think it’s important because it’s something that traditionally the entire city kind of gets involved in,” said Jen Elliott, the sports information and events officer at the U of O. “The entire city knows that it’s happening, and so it’s one of the times where university sport is really in the spotlight.”

In 2014, the game moved to the newly built TD Place stadium. A crowd of 12,500 fans saw the Ravens pull off a 33-31 win, after a last-second Hail Mary pass from quarterback Jesse Mills found its way into the hands of wide receiver Nate Behar.

Carleton’s athletic director Jennifer Brenning said playing at TD Place is helping the game grow.

“It just gives you that opportunity to be much bigger in terms of how many people can see the game and come out and celebrate,” Brenning said. “It puts the game on the map.”

“I think now with playing it at TD Place where it’s a beautiful, first class facility, it gets people off campus, it gets people interacting with a huge group of students from their campus, [which] doesn’t happen too often outside of … the orientation week,” Elliott said.

This year’s game attracted a crowd of 17,596 people, the largest attendance in Canadian Interuniversity Sport this season.

“It just brings out that pride in the two schools from the alumni, the faculty, staff and students. It’s about bragging rights,” Brenning said. “I think because we have these two schools in this community it really brings that school spirit out.”

For Sam Cox, a fourth-year Carleton public affairs and policy management student, the highlight of the game is cheering for the Ravens as a part of Red Zone.

“The best part about the game for me is the dramatic rivalry and how good the football is—the game is always back and forth right to the bitter end, making it a nail biter for all fans,” Cox said.

Ravens head coach Steve Sumarah said the Panda Game is unique due to the magnitude of the rivalry between the two schools.

“There’s other good rivalries obviously in this country, but just because of the sheer volume of people that come out from the community and from the two universities, I think it’s very unique,” Sumarah said. “I think the kids that have an opportunity to play in it have kind of a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be a part of something like that.”

“What makes it such a special game is the amount of history behind it, the fact that the first game was played in 1955 and it still exists today on a massive level is unreal,” Cox said.

“I’d like to see it in the next couple of years be a sell-out,” Sumarah said. “I think it should be the game of the year in this country, and I think it’s well on its way to that.” 

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A Ravens football history of homecoming

Alumni and current students were invited to participate in a variety of events designed to promote school spirit during Carleton University’s third annual homecoming, which ran from Sept. 16-19.
Homecoming has been at Carleton since the late 1950s. However, it disappeared along with the football program after the team was cut following the 1998 season.

In the years that followed, Carleton didn’t have any kind of homecoming.

“That was the biggest disappointing thing in my first year, that we didn’t have a football team, so homecoming wasn’t even mentioned,” said Sam Cox, a fourth-year public affairs and policy management student. “They had nothing.”

During those years, alumni were invited to participate in homecoming-type activities in May, said Mark Savenkoff, Carleton’s director of alumni and donor relations.

Flash forward to 2013, when Carleton hosted its first homecoming weekend in 15 years.

Since then, the event has continued to grow, with this year’s homecoming boasting close to 30 events spread out over four days.

Amongst a number of faculty events, the weekend also featured a golf tournament for women’s hockey alumni, as well as various dinners, networking receptions and lectures.

The highlight of the weekend was arguably the football game, which saw the Ravens pull off a close victory against the University of Toronto Varsity Blues.

“I think [homecoming is] a way to re-engage our alumni, most importantly,” said Steve Sumarah, head coach of the Ravens football team. “With a football game it always gives you an opportunity to get a lot of people together and share in old memories and all that, and that’s just good for your whole school environment.”

“I love school spirit. This is, like, what I live for,” said Cox, who is also a captain with Red Zone, a group of students who cheer for Carleton’s student athletes.

Cox added, that “it’s nice seeing all of the school community come back, seeing all the alumni come back and just good Carleton spirit.”

Mark Whitton, a Carleton graduate and former wide receiver with the football team, said being at homecoming reminded him of his first year at Carleton.

“I swear there were like three or four homecoming games and homecoming crowds that we had to face that year, so it was kind of neat to be on the other side of that and be part of such a raucous crowd,” Whitton said.

“What we like about [homecoming] is that it offers graduates a number of different opportunities to come back and to see what students are doing on campus, to reconnect with old classmates and to meet some of their old professors,” Savenkoff said.

According to Savenkoff, an expected 8,000 to 9,000 alumni returned to campus for homecoming this year.

“It’s important in that you get to celebrate your history and bring back the alumni to celebrate and be proud of their institution,” said Jennifer Brenning, Carleton’s athletic director. “Our current students can look at the alumni and see their success and what they could possibly do in their future, so it really is celebrating our history and our success and promoting our pride.”

Sumarah said there are a lot of similarities between the football program and homecoming, as both programs returned at the same time.

“I think there’s a lot of new traditions that are starting and I think that’s a good thing,” Sumarah said. “You know, every year it seems the homecoming weekend becomes bigger and bigger and I think it’s just going to continue to grow.”

According to Savenkoff, the response from the university community has been overwhelmingly positive, with attendance at homecoming events growing every year.

“I know it just ended but already we’re talking about what we can do for next year, so I think that’s a good sign,” Savenkoff said.

“This is our third year, so we’re really trying to build something and build some tradition,” Brenning said. “We’ve got off to a great start, we’ve had a number of events, we have full campus involvement, so I think this will really start to grow.” 

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Keith Harris renamed to MNP park

Carleton’s athletic stadium, formerly known as Keith Harris Stadium, has been renamed MNP Park.

The five-year naming rights agreement was arranged with MNP LLP, a large consulting and accounting firm in Canada.

“MNP is relatively new to Ottawa and we wanted to get involved in the community in a supportive way,” said Randy Mowat, senior vice-president of marketing for MNP, in a statement.

“Our sponsorship of the athletic stadium will ensure programs remain strong at Carleton,” he said.

Details of the agreement were not disclosed, but the sponsorship will support the football team long-term. Previously, the Ravens football team was funded primarily through alumni support.

“This is a positive partnership – one that capitalizes on Carleton’s visibility in the community and provides an important investment in the success of Carleton University athletics,” said Jennifer Brenning, Carleton’s athletic director, in a statement. “MNP’s support will help us ensure stability for our football program and a great experience for all of our student-athletes, fans and alumni.”

Despite renaming the stadium, Carleton will continue to recognize Keith Harris. The stadium was named in the former Athletic Director’s honour in 1998. Harris was director for 35 years. Highlights of his distinguished career include broadening sports programs and supervising construction of various athletic facilities on campus.

The Ravens football team will play their home opener on MNP park against Waterloo on Sept. 6.

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