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Former École Mallaig student Esther Medema-Sieben (centre) and former École Mallaig coach Ian MacGillivray (right) stand with MacGillivray's wife Cathy following their induction to the Alberta High School Sports Hall of Fame in Edmonton on May 8. Both Ian and Cathy coached Medema-Sieben in various high school sports.
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Former Mallaig Stingers inducted to ASAA Hall of Fame

Jun 10, 2014 12:15 pm | By Ryan McCracken | St. Paul Journal

Former École Mallaig coach, teacher and assistant principal Ian MacGillivray and former student Esther Medema-Sieben were honoured for their achievements in community sports, with inductions to the Alberta High School Sports Hall of Fame in May.

MacGillivray, who recently retired from teaching at École Mallaig, boasts 30 years of coaching at the local school, in which time he has coached over 200 teams at the elementary, junior and senior high school levels across multiple sports. In his 30 years of coaching, MacGillivray brought over 100 teams to district, zone and provincial championships, most notably six consecutive provincial cross country banners.

“Sometimes you walk into a community that really supports athletics, and Mallaig is one of those communities. I think a program doesn’t happen unless the community really supports it,” said MacGillivray, adding he was humbled by the nomination and induction to the ASAA Hall of Fame. “It was an honour to be nominated by some of the alumni that I coached . . . and to get the award was pretty exciting.”

Medema-Sieben graduated from École Mallaig in 1989, and in her graduating year she managed provincial gold in the 100-metre dash, the 200-metre dash and long jump, and took home silver in hurdles. After 25 years, Medema-Sieben’s senior girls long jump record of 5.80 metres still stands. Medema-Sieben, who has gone on to teach outdoor education at Cochrane High School in Calgary, pointed out the importance of the ASAA in helping student athletes in rural communities grow and thrive.

“Mallaig was a small town and I don't think we would have the opportunities we had without the ASAA promoting sport and fair play in rural Alberta. Would athletes in small towns such as Mallaig ever be involved in a championship like Provincials? I don't know. Would someone like myself from a small, rural 1A school have been noticed or seen as having talent or a ‘gift’ without competing at such a venue with all the track clubs around? Those are questions every small, town Alberta athlete asks,” she said, adding she feels the ASAA needs to continue being “that pillar and stepping stone for all student-athletes,” no matter where they go to school.

“They need to continue to support rural athletics and continue to search out those gifts and talents that student-athletes might not even realize they possess. I never thought I would go on to do the things I accomplished but having that opportunity to compete made me realize that quite possibly maybe I can. It's amazing what's inside and sometimes you just need a reason or venue to let it shine.”

Medema-Sieben also boasts a successful post secondary and amateur athletic career, including University of Alberta records in the 60-metre hurdles (8.48 seconds) and the triathlon (2360 points), a gold -n hepathlon at the 1993 Canada Games, and silver in heptathlon at the 2013 World Masters. The current track and field coach for the 2014 3A provincial banner-winning Cochrane Cobras said she has very fond memories of competing in Mallaig, and training in the grass or on a small dirt pit alongside MacGillivray.

“I can't even remember if we had hurdles. I know times have changed now because I know that Mallaig has made quite a reputation for themselves at provincials every year,” she said. “I see Mr. M and his athletes every year (at provincials), and I realize that this year, 2014, will be the first year in a long time I won't see him because he has retired.”

MacGillivray reflected on his 30 years of coaching at Mallaig, and said that his favourite part of coaching is creating an outlet for students, like Medema-Sieben, to realize their potential.

“My favourite part is being able to get athletes to realize dreams that they maybe thought they couldn’t get to, and to be able to set goals and be able to try and achieve those goals. For me, that’s what I get out of coaching,” he said.

Medema-Sieben said it was truly an honour to share the induction to the ASAA Hall of Fame with her former coach and teacher, and the record-setting high school athlete turned high school coach directly attributed both her success as an athlete in high school and her decision to become a teacher to “Mr. M.”

“He is Mallaig School to me and the opportunities I had in life are partly due to his influence, mentorship and character. Mr. M was the metaphoric pebble that created this huge ripple effect and I don't think he realizes the effect he has had on his students and athletes, still today. I know thank you is such an overused phrase but that is what I feel needs to be said. He was always there when I needed a coach, a friend, and a teacher,” she said.

“I wanted to be someone like him, strong character, good leader, amazing teacher and inspiring coach. I truly believe I am an Outdoor Education teacher today because of his influence on me, in my athletics, and my professional choice. It's funny you know, I catch myself saying the same important bits of good, sound advice to my students, that he gave to me all those years ago. I cannot imagine École Mallaig Community School without him walking through the halls.”

MacGillivray’s commitment to his students extends beyond that of a field or gymnasium, and the local coach even traveled to Rio Di Janeiro, Brazil in 2007 with his wife, Cathy, to watch his former student Eric Dechaine compete in sitting volleyball at the Para Pan Am Games.

“For us, it was just exciting to go and watch him play in the Para Pan-Am Games,” he said. “It meant a lot for me to see a kid who played on one of our teams to be able to play on a national team.”

While MacGillivray no longer teaches at École Mallaig, he still maintains a role in the community, and says he hopes to continue coaching into his retirement with the help of his wife.

“I’m hoping handball will make a return next year, because I would like to coach handball. We’ll see,” he said. “Cathy and I were thinking we would like to maybe coach together, so we might go into Mallaig and see if they need any coaches in volleyball, and if they do, then we’ll help out in that area.”

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