His impact in the Pickering High School community is lasting and impactful.
Evidence of Cyril Sahadath’s influence and the high esteem in which he was held was poignantly demonstrated last Sunday when close to 200 participants – the majority past and present students he coached and mentored – took part in the inaugural “Pull the Trail” five kilometre run and one kilometre walk around the school’s perimeter.
Funds accrued from the registration fees and donations will go towards the establishment of scholarships in Sahadath’s name.
Grade 12 hurdler, Yazin Joseph, misses his coach’s presence.
“Coach was the reason why I came to Pickering High and he was one of the biggest influences in my life,” said Joseph. “He meant a lot to me, he did a lot for me and it’s for those reasons that I will do anything once it’s in his name.”
The athlete spoke to Sahadath just hours before the coach suffered a fatal heart attack last March 18, the first practice day of the season.
“I told him that I would be at practice the next day,” said Joseph. “The next thing I knew is that I get a call saying he’s dead. That hit me like a ton of rocks because I was expecting to see him the following day. It’s hard because he was always there encouraging me and giving me confidence to believe that nothing was unconquerable. He was also very approachable.”
Sebert Salmon and his daughter Jaida, who is on the school’s track and field team, jogged a kilometre.
“Cyril was a big influence on my daughter’s life,” said the father. “He did it from the heart and it was always about the kids.”
Like Joseph, Salmon said Sahadath was the reason she enrolled in the school.
“He did a lot for me and this is the least I can do for him,” said the teenager. “He was always hard on his athletes, but that was in a good way because he was teaching us that nothing meaningful comes easily without effort and hard work. He also believed in me when I did not believe in myself.”
For ex-student Ashley Degnan, Sahadath was one of her favourite teachers.
The former Optimist Youth Club executive member is a track coach at a Pickering school.
“Sahadath was my role model and mentor,” said Degnan. “He inspired me to be a teacher with an interest in special education.”
Sahadath was the head of the special education department at Pickering High where he taught and coached for 23 years. The Durham school won a record 13 provincial boys’ titles, including four straight up until last year and four girls’ championships since that program was created six years ago.
“Cyril had a tremendous impact on the young people here,” said school principal, Philip Matsushita, who joined fellow teachers at the fundraiser. “He was more than a teacher and track coach. He was a mentor to many young people and the turnout today validates that.”
Vice-principal Denise Robinson – with support from Sahadath’s widow, Dr. Kathy Cowan-Sahadath and their son Casey – played a key role in organizing the event.
“As a school, we were reeling after Cyril’s sudden death,” said Robinson. “It was a big loss for us and we really wanted to do something that would bring our community together while at the same time symbolizing for us as a school what he did for us. I have been here for just under three years, but I have known his name for far longer than that.”
Beginning next year, scholarships will be presented to a male and female student who exemplifies academic and athletic excellence while demonstrating leadership, passion and commitment.
“The support has been enormous,” said Cowan-Sahadath. “Cyril enjoyed being on the track and around young people and this, in essence, is what today is about. We will always remember him and ensure that he’s not forgotten.”
Born in Trinidad & Tobago, Sahadath came to Canada in 1965 at age seven and attended Woburn Collegiate Institute where he met his wife in Grade Nine. They were married for 28 years.