July 15, 2013
After winning gold at the Skills Canada  — Ontario landscaping competition in Waterloo, Mark Hecnar and Simon Van Ray from St. Clair College in Windsor earned the right to represent their province in Vancouver from June 6 to 8.

“Ontario was very well represented at Skills Canada by a strong team of first-year students,” said Sally Harvey, LO manager of education and labour development.

Harvey said she had the privilege to once again represent Ontario as the National Technical Committee representative for the landscape gardening competition. “It is a proud moment for me to witness our youth as they enter the competition building in their provincial colours and waving their flags with the most incredible spirit.”

“St. Clair College was fortunate to send two quality competitors to showcase their skills on the national level, and they did so with great professionalism. Coming into the competition, both Mark Hecnar and Simon Van Ray approached the contest with confidence, excitement and enthusiasm,” said Jason Milling, horticulture technologist with St. Clair College, who coached the students through the two competitions.

Milling reflected on the journey the two students began last September in their first semester at St. Clair College’s horticulture program. “From the beginning, they both showed skills and work ethic which made them stand out,” said Milling. “Little did they know that the hard work would drive them through the provincial level, where they earned gold all the way to the west coast and Vancouver.”

Harvey said she saw the team show great competency, maturity and professionalism both at the provincials and the national competition. “They did us proud, Ontario. I hope Simon and Mark will compete again next year. I know this experience was second to none for them. Although they did not medal this year, these young men have huge potential and I am so proud of them.”
Both students work for Landscape Ontario members. Van Ray is employed with Rural Roots Landscaping in Chatham and Hecnar works for Evergreen Landscaping in Windsor.

Said Milling, “They were both given the support of their employers to participate in this week-long event. This could be an issue with some companies, because the beginning of June is a crucial time and landscape companies often cannot afford to lose two key employees. Both Simon and Mark appreciate the support from their employers because the experience that they have had with Skills Canada created memories that will last a lifetime.”  

Milling remembered sitting down with the two students on the final day of competition. “I asked them if they were enjoying themselves. Both replied with a smile on their faces, that this may have been the best week of their lives. What a fantastic comment,” said Milling.

The Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation supported the Ontario team with an award to help the students offset expenses and enable them to enjoy the entire experience.