By Ottawa Sportspage, For Louis-Riel Rebelles
Biathlete Zach Connelly loves nothing more than a breath of fresh air, and that’s what he got when he transferred to Louis-Riel for his senior year of high school.
Like many high-performing athletes, Connelly found that the regular school system just didn’t fit for someone with ambitions like his. The two-time IBU World Youth Championships competitor has aspirations of one day making the Canadian senior biathlon team (currently, he’s a member of the under-20 national development squad), regularly competing in World Cup events, and hopefully one day reaching the Olympics.
“It’s kind of where I want my life to go,” underlines Connelly, who moved to the Whistler Nordic Development Centre after graduating from Louis-Riel in summer 2019. “And I’m sure if I keep working on it, it’ll happen.”
Born into a family of marathoners and iron-man triathletes, Connelly’s passion for his sport sprouted from the moment he first strapped on cross-country skis.
“I love being on the snow, out in the forest, just being on my own,” explains the Chelsea Nordiq product and former Army Cadet. “Hearing the sound of the snow when you push and just feeling the wind on your face, the dopamine high that you get from doing exercise – it’s all there and it’s all hitting you at the same time. It just puts a smile on my face. It’s really beautiful.”
For Connelly to pursue biathlon at a high-performance level meant he had to be away from Ottawa for 8 weeks during the peak wintertime competition season. Once he’d return to his old school, Connelly found himself greeted with detention instead of congratulations.
It was a refreshing change when he switched into Louis-Riel’s Sports-Study program, where student-athletes are granted the flexibility and individual attention required to shine both in sport and in the classroom.
At Louis-Riel, the Sports-Study program staff helped build an academic plan around his schedule, and supportive teachers would give him assignments to be completed on the road, with help available electronically as needed.
“And you hustle hard when you get back to make sure you’re on top of everything,” notes Connelly, who represented Team Ontario at the Canada Winter Games in Alberta a week after making his youth worlds debut in Slovakia in 2019. “It’s a lot of hard work, but you can make it work.”
Connelly also appreciated having a daily phys ed period at school devoted to physical training inside the world-class Dome Louis-Riel.
“It was such a big help every day,” signals the 18-year-old. “They have facilities that are beautiful, great coaching, great school, and just a great program to help all athletes there.
“I was so happy to be a part of it.”
Learn more about the Louis-Riel Sports-Study Program and available streams at: https://sportsottawa.com/2020/02/20/louis-riel-sports/