High-flying athletes

Cross-country runner Matias Tessel and basketball guard Stefan Anisko balanced varsity athletics with their studies in Aviation.

Two Aviation Maintenance students made big contributions this past season as Mohawk Mountaineers varsity athletes.

Cross-country athlete Matias Tessel has qualified two years in a row for the national championships and was named both seasons to the all-Ontario second team. In 2021, the team finished with a bronze in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) and last year, finished fifth in the OCAA.

Tessel only began running cross-country three years ago when he decided in 2020 to transfer to Mohawk College. For the two previous years, he had been a sprinter at Wilfrid Laurier University.

“It is a different type of training to go from sprinting to cross-country. The transition was difficult at first and I got injured from over-training. I’m a very competitive person and I just went too hard.”

Tessel, who is from Guelph, says he had to adjust to committing more time to training each week.

“We run 8 kilometres. We do hills and forests, generally in a 2-kilometre loop. That requires building endurance and strength.”

It’s tough to balance varsity athletics with an intense, hands-on program, but Tessel says he managed through concentrating on time management. That included studying ahead, waking up early to run in the morning or squeezing a run in on his lunch break.

Tessel, who is captain of his team, is a “valuable teammate and a very important part of this department,” says Athletics Director Matt Ferreira.

The team of six men and four women trains year-round under coach David Hopton, who coaches triathletes at McMaster University. There is a new high-performance focus in an effort to become one of the elite cross-country schools in the country.

Stefan Anisko, a first-year Mountaineer basketball player, loves the hands-on work in Aviation Maintenance and the state-of-the-art facility at the Hamilton International Airport.

“It’s a great program and I’m really enjoying it. And we had a great season on the court, so it’s a win-win. My teammates are fantastic and I had a lot of fun.”

Anisko, who is at Mohawk College on a basketball scholarship, also had a great year. Men’s basketball finished the season with a 14-4 record, second-best in the OCAA West Division, and won the OCAA bronze medal. Anisko was awarded the OCAA Sixth Man of the Year award and was named to the OCAA All-Rookie Team after averaging 20 points per game (seventh-best in the OCAA). He also shot 40 per cent from three (eighth-best in the OCAA) and made 46 threes (seventh-best in the OCAA).

“Stefan had an incredible year and made a major impact as a rookie,” says Ferreira.

The team, coached for 16 years by Mohawk graduate and former Mountaineer varsity basketball player Brian Jonker, last won the CCAA national title in 2012.

Anisko’s schedule was intense. Classes run every day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then he had 90-minute practice four days a week and a weekly workout in the weight room. And once, sometimes twice a week, there were away games, which can be hours away.

“As long as I stayed on top of things, I could manage it. My instructors were very helpful. They were always available and so were my coaches.”

Anisko, who lives in Caledonia, says he enjoyed the travel time to away games because it meant more bonding time with his teammates.

“We are more than a team. We are more like a family.”

Tessel graduates in May but has decided to come back in the fall in order to run another cross-country season.

The College supports its athletes in many ways, says Tessel, including buying professional software that tracks training and performance and providing access to a mental performance coach. He says having a smaller roster of sports at Mohawk College is a strength.

“It’s a small community and everyone knows each other. The high-performance focus means everyone is working together to win.” Mohawk College logo