Atheletes of the Week

Nicole Clarke, Phys. Ed. ’02
Track & Field

The Gaels track and field team has started their season in top shape, with a national sixth-place ranking heading into the McGill Team Challenge this weekend.

Leading the way is veteran Nicole Clarke, who single-handedly racked up nine of the 21 points earned by the Gaels at the University of Toronto track meet last weekend. This superb performance has earned Clarke the honour of being named Queen’s Journal Athlete of the Week.

Clarke, who is ranked first in the country in the weight throw and fifth in the shot put, took home two gold medals on the weekend in both events. With close to ten years of training behind her, coach Melody Torcolacci feels that Nicole is in top shape and ready for the OUA and CIAU championships.

“Nicole has it all. She is the total package and this is the best position she has ever been in,” said Torcolacci.

“The past two years, Nicole has come third at CIAU’s. This year she hopes to come home with something other than bronze.” “Nicole has the potential to be the best in the country,” added coach Torcolacci. “She has the technique, speed and power.” Clarke, a native of Battersea, started her track career in elementary school and continued in high school at La Salle where she made an annual appearance at the OFSAA championships, picking up a few medals along the way.

She was named MVP for the track team all five years of high school, and received Athlete of the Year honours in grade 11, in addition to competing on the national junior team.

Clarke really started to get serious about the sport in that same year, when she joined forces with Queen’s coach Torcolacci, and over the past six years the two have dramatically improved Clarke’s technique, and in turn, her national ranking.

Despite her recent success, this third year Phys. Ed./Math major didn’t get this season started the way she had been hoping to.

“I had some technical problems at the start, but we have worked out everything now,” said Clarke.

She now hopes to finish her season at the top.

“I am right on track with what I want to accomplish technically, and I am having a great season,” said Clarke.

“My goals would be to improve my standings at CIAUs, and to beat my own OUA record.” That shot put record, which Clarke set last year, is 15.98 metres, just ahead of the mark previously set by her coach, Torcolacci, when she was a student at Queen’s in the mid-1980s.

As for any future plans, Clarke is focusing on the short term and looking forward to competing for a spot at the Canada Summer Games next year, which are being held in London.

Aaron Fransen, Arts ’02

Aaron Fransen’s teammates are hoping his five-point performance on Sunday at Jock Harty is a sign of things to come.

In his second year on the team, and fourth at Queen’s, Fransen’s play has admittedly been enigmatic, combining intermittent scoring outbursts with frustrating scoreless nights. A player loaded with talent and potential, Fransen has struggled at times to make the adjustment from defence to forward. “I had three goals in one period last year in the playoffs, and I was hoping that would be my breakout game. But this year has been up and down so far,” said Fransen.

“It hasn’t been what I expected. I thought that I would have made the adjustment sooner but I think I’m getting the handle of it now. The bottom line is that I expect more from myself and hopefully my play can just carry over from last Sunday.”

“Aaron is his own biggest critic,” said Head Coach Chris MacDonald, the man responsible for Fransen’s transition.

“He’s been disappointed with the way he’s played at times, but it’s a tough switch for anyone to make and there are always going to be growing pains. I think he took a big step forward last weekend and hopefully he can continue to play that way.”

Fransen had three goals and two assists in leading his team to an important 7-4 win over the York Yeomen on home ice, with his two first period goals coming while the team was shorthanded. Not bad for someone who has played defence his entire life.

His first two years at Queen’s were spent as a part-time student, splitting his duties between the classroom and playing defence in the OHL. The Ottawa native spent those years on the Kingston Frontenacs blueline paired with current Gael Sean Griffin. He then played out his junior career by spending half a season with Owen Sound before becoming a full time student at Queen’s.

Fransen attended pro camps throughout his junior career, but never could quite make the final cuts. The Washington Capitals, Toronto Maple Leafs, Colorado Avalanche, and Syracuse Crunch of the IHL all felt that something was missing.

MacDonald’s change may have been influenced by that.

“One reason I moved Aaron to forward was because I felt it would give him a better shot at making a pro club. When we held the Prospects Tournament, Floyd Smith of the Maple Leafs agreed with me and that just reinforced my feelings. I wouldn’t be surprised if Aaron gets picked up by a team when his time is done here.”

Fransen describes his pro camps as fun yet, at times, disheartening.

“The first camp I attended I was in awe,” said Fransen. “I knew I had no chance of making the team so I took it as a learning experience. That holds true with the second one also. When I walked into the dressing room, Curtis Joseph and Mats Sundin were sitting there.. The third year was very disappointing. I was with the Avalanche and I expected to make the team and I just didn’t play very well. It was then that I decided to make school my focal point.”

The 6’2’’ Fransen has high ambitions.

“I want to go to law school. Right now that’s my focus and hockey is something that I do because I love it. For a while, it became a chore, but now I find that I love going to the rink more than I ever did.

I know it sounds cliché but I love going to practice and I love the guys on the team and if I get accepted to law school here at Queen’s I’d definitely think about staying.”

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