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Kyle Corsten, Rachel Bekkers claim athlete of the year awards

Kyle Corsten and Rachael Bekkers, both from Antigonish County, with their 2019 Dalhousie Agricultural College athlete of the year plaques. The student-athletes competed in the sport of woodsmen.
Kyle Corsten and Rachael Bekkers, both from Antigonish County, with their 2019 Dalhousie Agricultural College athlete of the year plaques. The student-athletes competed in the sport of woodsmen. - Contributed

Local duo compete in woodsmen at Dal AC campus

BIBLE HILL, N.S. —

The 2019 female and male athletes of the year at the Dalhousie Agricultural College (Dal AC) in Bible Hill, Colchester County, have two very significant things in common; both won for their participation and success in the unique sport of woodsmen, and both reside in Lanark, Antigonish County. As well, local student-athletes Rachael Bekkers and Kyle Corsten also share the fact they’re graduating Friday (May 10).    

Rachael

“It was my best year by far,” Bekkers told the Casket April 29. The citation accompanying her award speaks to that success.

Rachael Bekkers competing in an underhand chop event during this past season.
Rachael Bekkers competing in an underhand chop event during this past season.

“She capped off this year with a Canadian Intercollegiate Lumberjack Association (CILA) MVP - capturing an astounding 790 points out of a possible 800 - and a CILA championship, as well as Dal AC Team MVP. She went undefeated in underhand and won three out of four in her singles event. Her and her chopping partner were the engine that drove this team to achieve the goal of a CILA championship.

“Away from the competition, she has been a Dal AC all-academic athlete in her four years, and has also been instrumental in organizing the Rick Russell Woodsmen Competition.”

Bekkers said she started doing woodsmen while in 4-H, and while she also played hockey and rugby growing up, those sports weren’t available at her post-secondary school of choice.

“So I decided to try out for woodsmen because I had a little bit of a background,” she said.

“I made the team as a spare my first year, so I got to try a whole bunch of stuff and I really liked underhand chop. I struggled a bit with my singles events so, this year, I finally found one I was good at, which was chainsaw.”

Bekkers noted their Dal AC team competes against four other teams regularly with, every now and again, a school from the U.S. sending athletes to compete.

“There is the McGill (McDonald Campus in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec) team, Sir Sanford Fleming College (Peterborough, Ontario), UNB has a team, and MCFT (Maritime College of Forest Technology) has a team, which is the forestry school in Fredericton,” she said. “Then there are a few teams from the States who come up to compete too; Maine, for example, has a team.

“And each school has two or three teams they enter. The first (competition) is at UNB, second one at Fleming College and the third at McGill. We host the final one, the national championship.”

Bekkers has been the co-chair for that final competition the past two years; adding the responsibility to her already busy schedule.

“It was a stressful few weeks,” she said with a chuckle, noting it’s definitely worth it in the end, considering not only the success she and her teammates enjoyed in the competition, but also the win it is for the college and area as approximately 180 athletes coverage on the Truro-Bible Hill area, and the stands are packed at the MacMillan Show Centre where the action takes place.

Rachael Bekkers visited the Casket April 29 to talk about his success in the sport of woodsmen at Dalhousie Agricultural College this past season.
Rachael Bekkers visited the Casket April 29 to talk about his success in the sport of woodsmen at Dalhousie Agricultural College this past season.

Being busy isn’t a problem for Bekkers who noted she likes to be “active,” and the woodsmen sport at Dal AC demands that type of energy.

“We practice a lot; two hours a day, five days a week,” she said. “So we’re together a lot; you make life-long friends from the team.

“We call it the woodlot,” she added, now drifting to where they practice.

“It’s basically a parking lot but we have it all set-up. You don’t need a fancy set-up but you need the equipment and that can be very expensive, so we’re lucky to have a team.”

As for receiving female athlete of the year, Bekkers said it’s a great way to end her career at Dal AC, but noted she missed the ceremony while attending a family get-away in Cuba.

“My coach texted me during the ceremony saying ‘you received athlete of the year’; I’m so happy to have won,” she said, praising her coach – Jeff Larkin – for her success.

“He was a big influence,” she said, while also noting the work of Scott Read, who was her coach for the first two years and helps run the competition, as well as retiring school athletic director Judy Smith.

“She was a big part of getting our home competition together,” Bekkers said, noting Smith had been at Dal AC since 1972.

Kyle

Corsten was also very complimentary of the coaches who helped him succeed.

“I’m just so thankful to my coaches; I can’t say enough about them and what they did for me over the last four years,” he said, noting Larkin as well as Rob MacIntyre.

Corsten’s citation talks about his impressive season success.

“This past year was an exceptional one where he captured team MVP, CILA MVP and captained the Dal AC woodsmen team to an undefeated season, which led to a CILA title. This was the second CILA championship of his career.

“He was a driven competitor and was able to push his teammates to perform to their best. Individually, he went undefeated in his doubles event and went two for four in his singles events,” it read, while also pointing out Corsten had won rookie of the year and most improved awards, during his career.

Like Bekkers, he started out in the sport while in 4-H.

Kyle Corsten competing in an underhand chop event during this past season.
Kyle Corsten competing in an underhand chop event during this past season.

“I was just really interested in the woodsmen from there,” he said. “I knew I wanted to go to the AC and they had a lumberjack team, so it was just a good fit; I knew right away this is what I wanted to do.”

And while he had a lot of success this year, Corsten talked about being pushed by a Fleming College athlete in the pole climb.

“I was battling with this guy from Fleming College for the last four years,” he said. “The first two competitions, he managed to get the edge on me and then we went to McGill, I got him there. Then at home, it was a dead race to the finish but I just managed to get him. I was happy to close that out too; he is a little bit taller than me so I have to make up that height. It was just that type of a year for everyone on our team.”

And then to top it off with the male athlete of the year award.

“That was just an amazing experience,” he said.

“I was never really great at sports when I was a kid. I wasn’t the best hockey player, couldn’t play baseball that well, but to get that recognition and to see my hard work come to fruition, it was just great.

“A lot of really good athletes who came before me at the school, a couple of woodsmen who had won it before, so just to be recognized like them and for all my hard work, I’m just so thankful,” Corsten said.

Kyle Corsten visited the Casket April 29 to talk about his success in the sport of woodsmen, at Dalhousie Agricultural College, this past season.
Kyle Corsten visited the Casket April 29 to talk about his success in the sport of woodsmen, at Dalhousie Agricultural College, this past season.

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