Rusnak carries the torch
2019 Canada Winter Games Torch Relay is going coast to coast
Sporting a white Canada Winter Games jacket, with red toque and matching mittens, Courtland’s Aalanna Ramona Rusnak may have run the biggest relay of her life Saturday, Oct. 20 in St. Catharines.
An accomplished cross-country runner, Rusnak carried the Roly McLenahan Torch on the final leg of the Canada Winter Games Niagara relay.
“I was thrilled, it was just super exciting. It was awesome to be part of that,” said Rusnak, who applied for the lifetime opportunity early in the summer.
“Skate Canada sent out an email saying they were looking for people to do the Torch Relay for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. So my mom (Jessica) nominated me... and I got in over about 700 people.” Nominations closed June 30th. On the Skate Ontario website, it noted ‘The goal is to engage champions of sport and community across the country and share their stories as they carry the torch during this historic relay.’
More than 900 torchbearer nominations were received and reviewed by the 2019 Canada Winter Games between May 14 and June 30.
“Congratulations to these outstanding leaders in youth, sport and community across our nation who are making an impact in our communities,” said Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games Board Chair in a September media release. “The MNP Canada Games Torch Relay is an exciting opportunity to bring communities across the country together to celebrate the spirit of the Canada Games movement and recognize the accomplishments of these deserving individuals.
“The quality and number of nominations was truly impressive.”
At the age of 13, Rusnak might be the youngest runner in the entire 2018-19 Torch Relay - which for the first time in the history of the Canada Games is travelling coast to coast.
“So that’s pretty exciting,” she smiled.
In her online Canada Games bio, it states “At the age of 13, Aalanna Ramona Rusnak has accomplished so much. She is a straight A student, volunteers at the Tillsonburg Skating Club and excels in many sports. She even has her own business, Rejuvenate. One of Aalanna’s greatest accomplishments has been receiving the Canada 150 Medal from Member of Parliament Diane Finley for entrepreneurship, community involvement and exceptional athleticism.”
From Oct. 4, 2018 in Ottawa, when it was lit at the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill, until Feb. 15, 2019 the Canada Games Torch Relay will visit 48 communities with 26 torch relay stops (routes varying from 2-5 km), with about 10-15 torchbearers at each stop, and 22 smaller scale celebration stops.
Rusnak’s big day was Oct. 20 in St. Catharines at the Niagara Region Torch Relay, where she carried the torch along with MP Chris Bittle, Dr. Cheri Bradish, Adam Cook, MPP Wayne Gates, Kanice McLean, 2021 Canada Summer Games Host Society board member Karen Natho, Mike Watt, and Doug Geddie.
“I just had to run 550 metres, so it was like a nice enjoyable run,” said Rusnak. “Then I had the five pound torch - I got it at its lightest point because it had burned - it was still pretty heavy. I ran with my cousin (Lilyana Petrella) and older brother (Ryan Rusnak), so that was nice to have the company.
“It was really exciting being the last leg of the race because we ran into the celebration site, which was Brock University, and there were tons of people lined up on the street. They were cheering for the torch and me - coming in.”
Rusnak lit the Roly McLenahan Torch, again, at the cauldron.
“That was really exciting. And I got interviewed there, so that was exciting too.”
From St. Catharines, the torch travelled to London for an Oct. 22 relay.
The 2019 Canada Winter Games will be hosted by Red Deer and central Alberta, Feb. 15-March 3, and will include 19 sports, more than 150 events and a major arts and cultural festival, with up to 3,600 athletes, managers and coaches and more than 20,000 visitors.
Aalanna Ramona Rusnak, 13, a Grade 8 student at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, was a Canada Winter Games torchbearer in St. Catharines on Saturday, Oct. 20. Rusnak, a five-time regional cross-country champion, ran the final 550-metre leg of the Niagara Region relay bringing the torch into the celebration area at Brock University.