She may have been among the youngest competitors there, but that didn’t stop EDSS student Abby Byers from earning herself a bronze medal in the giant slalom division, and fourth-place finish in slalom, representing her school at the OFSAA alpine skiing championships last week.
The competition took place at Blue Mountain in Collingwood at the Osler Ski Club, where Byers faced off against competitors her own age in Grade 9 all the way up to skiers in Grade 12.
“I was very happy to see her do so well,” said EDSS coach David Vandenberg. “It was a very difficult field. She’s competing against top racers from across the province and racers 9-12. There’s no age classification in alpine skiing – it’s all an open category, so she’s a Grade 9 racing against Grade 12s.”
The open category includes racers with experience, rather than the high school-trained category that includes athletes with limited experience – Byers trains outside of school with the Devil’s Glen Ski Club in Collingwood.
“She had an exceptional year. [It was] the strongest performance of any ski racer that I’ve coached. It’s hard to comment on the progress through the year because there are very few races – she just kept on winning when it counted and then obviously did very well at provincials. She won at CWOSSAA – one gold there, and then bronze third and fourth at OFSAA,” said Vanderberg of the young skier’s success at the regional and provincial levels.
It’s not by accident: Byers trains four days a week to stay in top form.
Byers says that it’s her passion for the sport that truly drives her.
“It’s so much fun, and I just love everything about it,” she explained. “This is my main sport, but I also play hockey if I have time or track-and-field in the spring and summer.”
She excels in these areas too, beating out a previous long jump record in 2017 that had been on the books since 1996. Byers managed to break the record when she was just 12 years old. And just last year, she came in first place in the giant slalom division for the U12 provincial competition.
Training this extensively is a serious time commitment – mother Shannon Byers said EDSS has been helpful supporting her daughter’s athletic journey.
“Abby missed the whole month of December when she was in school. She was in British Columbia for the month, so during December she was selected by Alpine Canada to go train with a national development program,” said Shannon Byers.
“Then she went and trained with the regular team for the remainder of December, so the school was great. January she was in Quebec training so they had to make some adjustments so that she could write her exams at different times. So the school was really helpful when it came to accommodating her schedule. She trains a lot and manages to keep her grades in the 80s and 90s.”
Collingwood is not the farthest she’s travelled for athletic endeavours – Abby has gone as far as training in Austria in Europe, as well as Sugarloaf ski resort in Maine, and Whistler, British Columbia.
“I’m excited and optimistic for future years as well, given that she’s in her first year of high school right now,” said Vandenberg.
But there’s still plenty of time left in the season for Byers to keep the momentum going.
“Her season’s not over yet – she’s probably got about five more weeks of racing,” said Shannon Byers. “Provincials are next week, and then after provincials, she’s hoping to make Can-Ams – and that’s Eastern Canada and some U.S. states, so that’s the goal.”