After the cancellation of varsity sports at the University of Toronto last year due to the ongoing pandemic, the Varsity Blues are back this year. With lofty expectations, and a lot of time spent training, the Varsity Blues are clearly ready to make waves across all sports. 

The Varsity interviewed two exceptional athletes who have stood out among their peers this season with their incredible performances thus far — Adele Chun of women’s golf and Beth Deconinck of women’s softball. Chun and Deconinck discussed challenges they faced due to the pandemic, their success this season, and their goals for the upcoming year. 

A recap of their success

The Varsity Blues softball team currently stands with a record of 10–1–1, sitting in first place of the Ontario Intercollegiate Women’s Fastpitch Association (OIWFA) East division. In their opening weekend, the team went 4–0 in all matches, with wins against Carleton and Queens, two of their strongest competitors. One of the superstars on the team is shortstop Beth Deconinck, a fourth-year student specializing in biology and majoring in immunology. 

Deconinck shines not just because of her game statistics, but her focus and mentality. “Beth stands out in all aspects of the game,” said her coach Craig Sarson. “Mentally, Beth is always on top of the situation. She’s always prepared. That allows her physical talents to shine even brighter.”

Another athlete who has been having a standout season is Adele Chun, a first-year Rotman commerce student who plays for the University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues golf team. 

In Chun’s first-ever university tournament, she finished with a score of one under par in a round of 71, capturing first place for herself and the Blues. She picked up another individual win at the Ontario Tech Ridgeback Invitational in a round of 82. Chun also helped the Blues to a second-place finish at the 2021 Waterloo Invitational, where her two-day total score of 158 topped a field of 45 women. The Varsity Blues’ golf team placed eighth at this year’s Ontario University Athletics championships and Chun shot 86 to individually tie for ninth place. 

Challenges due to COVID-19

Chun and Deconinck are both seasoned athletes with years of experience in their respective sports, but the ongoing pandemic has posed new challenges for both of these Varsity Blues athletes. 

“Because… [of] COVID… I didn’t put in as much practice because facilities weren’t open.” said Chun. But the recent relaxation of COVID-19 policies and joining the Varsity Blues team has put the pressure back on her. “I’m representing something other than myself.” 

While Chun is beginning her university career, Deconinck’s is coming to a close. She has been a part of the Varsity Blues softball team throughout her four years at U of T, but because of the pandemic, the season opener this September was the first competitive game her softball team had played since the 2019–2020 season. 

When we got on the field for our first game this year, I was… nervous because I hadn’t played a real softball game in almost 2 years,” wrote Deconinck. “It is tempting to compare my performance now to how it was before the pandemic, but I have to remember that we are all a bit rustier than normal, and it takes a bit of time to get back in the groove.” 

Once she started playing, the nerves went away. “It was awesome being back on the field playing the sport I love,” she wrote.

Highlights of the season

Despite the obstacles the pandemic has put in the path of these Varsity Blues athletes, Chun and Deconinck have had outstanding performances this season. 

To stay in shape and prepare for the season, Deconinck trained this summer and did softball drills with her dad and sister. The softball team also had a few weeks to practice together in September prior to their first game. 

The team has been dominant thus far, and Deconinck has had some spectacular moments this season. For example, during a recent game against York, she got three hits, including a triple. When asked about this standout moment, Deconinck wrote, “That [game] was really fun, and it always feels great to help your team score runs.”

Chun focused on her short game over the summer and participated in several tournaments to prepare for her season with the Varsity Blues. Apart from her sparkling scores this season, Chun’s highlight has been her team. 

After playing individually for so long, she appreciates the tight-knit group. “Golf, generally… is a very individualistic sport,” she said. “This is the team environment I’ve been lacking in this sport. Everyone is cheering everyone on.”

Chun said her coaches have also had a big impact on her game this season. “They’re all supportive individuals, especially in a sport where I put so much pressure on myself,” she said. “It’s hard to ignore some faults that you have in the game, but for the first time, I’ve been able to… overcome them.”

Goals for the upcoming year 

The Varsity Blues softball team was preparing to play the 2021 OIWFA Championship on October 24. The softball teams’ goal is to win the provincial championships and qualify for Nationals. 

Deconinck thinks her team has a greater chance of winning compared to previous years. “We have really strong players, and dominant pitching,” she wrote.

Chun achieved her goal of playing well this season, and mentioned how she “felt very successful,” and that the experience was “very rewarding.”

What was most memorable for her was the culture of her team. “Simple bus rides to and from tournaments [have] always been enjoyable. I’m… making new friends. Even on the golf course, I’ve been able to meet people from other schools and share experiences,” said Chun.