Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media
Life on the ice is great for Madison Myers and Kaitlyn McNair.
The friends and graduates from Belleville’s St. Theresa Catholic Secondary School are heading to Adrian College in Michigan, beginning in August, on academic and athletic scholarships for their respective sports.
Myers, who is from Stirling, will continue her love of figure skating, both individually and with the varsity synchronized team at Adrian College, while McNair of Corbyville will play hockey for the Bulldogs.
A longtime skater with the Stirling Figure Skating Club, Myers began looking into college scholarships when she was in Grade 10. Adrian College stood out above the rest during her school tours.
“I got to do a few camps with Adrian and their coaching staff,” Myers said. “The experiences I had with them were just crazy compared to the rest.”
She appreciated the welcoming approach and a sense of honesty, not just from the coaching staff, but professors as well. The professors told the prospective students that communication is key: keep them informed of their sports schedules and they’ll ensure to work with them and make the student-athlete experience a great one.
“They were super honest that they will help us instead of figuring it out on our own,” Myers said. “It’s nice to have that environment of really accepting athletes instead of pushing them aside.”
McNair was able to lean on Myers for the in-person perspective of Adrian College since Myers had been able to visit. McNair only began connecting with hockey coaches this past season so meetings and tours were conducted virtually.
Despite only speaking with coaches, professors and other staff through computer, McNair still felt a genuine love of the school from each person’s perspective in their own words.
The advice from Myers proved to be a big assist as well.
“She just talks extremely highly about it,” McNair said.
Both girls graduated from St. Theresa with honours as Ontario Scholars and McNair will study biology at Adrian College. She was impressed by the facilities.
“They have a really high-standing medical program and they have a health clinic on campus, which I thought was really cool and it’s a way to really work one-on-one with people in your field,” she said.
Myers, who also enjoyed competing in shot put and high jump during high school track and field seasons, will be studying to become a secondary school physical education teacher. She previously considered physiotherapy, but the opportunity to be a peer mentor in a phys ed class this past year and at the suggestion of teachers, Myers changed course.
Interestingly enough, Myers “wasn’t a big fan” of high school at the beginning. It was a big change from elementary school, which she missed a lot of time in due to figure skating commitments.
“When I got to high school and having to go every day, it got very overwhelming at first,” she said. “By Grade 10 I knew how much my grades would matter to get into university.”
Myers set a goal of making the Honour Roll for her final three years at St. Theresa.
“I missed it by one per cent in Grade 10 and I was no longer going (fall short again),” she recalled. “I made honours for Grade 11 and 12.”
Her teaching ambitions aren’t limited to the classroom.
When she was younger, Myers had a choice: hockey or figure skating. She was part of a “hockey family” but figure skating won out.
“I’ve always wanted white skates from the beginning,” she said. “I knew I fell in love with skating then and I always wanted to do it.”
Her aunt coached at the Stirling Figure Skating Club and got her into the CanSkate program. Myers loved it and not only did she continue to skate there, she eventually became a program assistant and later a certified CanSkate coach as well.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher from the youngest time. That teaching ability for me kind of comes naturally, but I love teaching kids and helping them become better at everything and it’s even better because it’s a sport I love,” Myers said. “Teaching them about something that I’m truly so passionate about, it’s amazing to see how much they progress over a year even. It’s very rewarding.”
While representing the Stirling club, she also began training in Belleville with the Quinte Figure Skating Club due to the proximity of her school to the rink.
Myers has also trained with Skate Oakville under the guidance of Michelle Leigh, who has coached a number of elite skaters including Elvis Stojko.
“I’ve had her since I was 10 so we’ve been together for quite awhile and she’s helped me grow over the past years to help me get ready for this opportunity,” Myers said.
Myers said she gained even more appreciation for figure skating during the past year, especially when COVID-19 restrictions prevented her from being on the ice.
“This whole pandemic has just shown me how much I truly need figure skating in my life,” she said. “Not being able to do it has just been horrible. There’s no other way to describe it.”
McNair can relate. She was frustrated by a cancelled hockey season, but made the most of her opportunities to get on the ice when she could with the Kingston Jr. Ice Wolves of the Provincial Women’s Hockey League.
Her love of hockey goes back to a young age. She completed the CanSkate program before entering Timbits hockey.
With having a brother three-years-older, McNair wanted to follow in his footsteps and joined the Belleville Jr. Bulls ‘AA’ program, rather than playing girls hockey.
“When he was younger he played for the Bulls and for Quinte and Kingston,” McNair said of her brother Kyle. “He was always around this area so I watched him growing up when he was playing and moving up through the ranks. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and do what he was doing.”
After minor hockey, Kyle McNair played some junior C hockey for the Picton Pirates and Clarington Eagles before junior A stints with the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners of the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings of the United States Premier Hockey League. Starting this fall, he’ll play NCAA Div. III hockey at Lawrence University in Wisconsin.
Kaitlyn McNair, like her brother, also played ‘AAA’ hockey for the Quinte Red Devils for a year around the age of 10 or 11 before returning to the Bulls for a year until bodychecking entered the equation. She was game for it, but says her parents were not.
McNair went on to play ‘AA’ girls hockey for the Clarington Flames for a couple of seasons before playing midget hockey in Whitby. She also played a season of junior hockey there.
She was looking forward to playing in Kingston last year.
“It was by far one of my favourite teams,” McNair said, adding the team was anticipating a successful season. “The girls were great, the coaches were amazing. It really sucked that we couldn’t get a season because of COVID.”
Training remained incredibly important, especially during a season without regular games.
“Our practices were always good. There was never a time I wanted more or I wanted something else. My coaches always had good confidence in me and knew where I was at so it was a nice environment to be in because you knew what you had to bring,” McNair said.
“At that point I had no colleges or universities talking to me yet so I was very determined to get somewhere. I knew whether with a season or not, I still wanted to practice hard, train hard…I still wanted to get to the next level.”
McNair originally considered staying in Ontario for university, but that was before opportunities in the United States entered the discussion.
She had options to consider, but then Adrian College approached her as well thanks to video available from the Kingston team and an Adrian coach having previously watched her play in Whitby.
McNair quickly determined Adrian College would be the best fit for her. That would have been the case whether Myers was also going there or not, but it certainly helped knowing a friend would be sharing a similar experience.
“I’ll have someone there if I get a little homesick or if I need someone to talk to,” McNair said. “She’ll be there and can relate because we’ve been through high school together. That was comforting for me.”
McNair is excited for a new adventure. It’s the way she is. She played hockey at St. Theresa, but also enjoyed soccer and rugby, just to enjoy some sports away from the rink.
“I’ve never lived away from home, but I’m very excited to because I’m not a big homebody. I like going out adventuring. I’m excited to live on my own and go into the world a bit, but I’m still nervous about leaving home because I’m very much connected to my parents,” McNair said.
“I’m just excited to start a new adventure and grow physically and mentally.”