Word that Steve Sadownik, 46, had died of natural causes on Saturday, June 16 was greeted with shock by the many people in the community whose lives Sadownik had impacted. A longtime Fort St. John Inconnu Swim Club coach and ultra marathon runner, Sadownik leaves behind his two children, Steven and Victoria. His wife Nicole died on May 8, 2017 after a battle with cancer.
“Steve coached so many kids up here and affected the lives of so many athletes and families. He was the guy I went to advice for all the time, and not just about swimming,” said Inconnu Head Coach Steve Carson.
Sadownik had coached swimming for 25 years, and was head coach for a couple of those years. When the Inconnu position turned into a full time job, Sadownik stepped down, but stayed with the club in an assistant role. He most recently coached kids in the nine to 13-year-old range.
“He was determined to stay with the club even in a smaller role, and would sacrifice his own time to help the kids,” said Carson.
One common praise of Sadownik is how much he cared about people and was respected by those around him.
“Steve wanted the best for the swimmers, and they respected him because of how he conducted his life, and the focus he showed towards helping kids do better,” said Inconnu President Annette Lang.
“All the kids wanted to swim well for him. He was so funny and charismatic, but would call you out if you weren’t swimming well or giving enough effort. He was very honest and sincere,” Carson said.
An important part of Sadownik’s life was running. He was an accomplished long distance runner, most noteably finishing the 160km 2015 Lost Soul Ultra Marathon in Lethbridge in a record time of 20 hours, 13 minutes and 30 seconds.
“He was in impeccable shape. During swim meets in Kamloops in 35 degree weather, he would say, ‘I’ll go run an easy 20 miles between the heats and finals,’” said Carson. “He once told me a marathon (26 miles) to him was only a sprint.”
Sadownik had a group of friends he ran with regularly in Fort St. John. Joshua Slykhuis, who finished third at the 2017 Emperor’s Challenge, credited Sadownik for Slyhuis’ switch to longer races.
“Steve was one of the major factors in encouraging me to start running distance, and was really instrumental in getting me to push my boundaries,” Slykhuis said.
The two were in Arizona in January for the Cold Water Rumble, a 100 mile race which Slykhuis said didn’t go well for either of them. Slykuis said he and Sadownik used to joke about how funny it would be to run 100 miles in the Fish Creek Community Forrest trails.
“When we heard of Steve’s passing, a group of us got together and thought having a 24 hour run in Fish Creek would be a great way to honour him,” Slykhuis said.
Following a moment of silence at the trails at 11:45 p.m. on June 23, Slykhuis and others will begin running at 12:01 a.m. on June 24, with no prolonged stops or breaks, and continue until 11:59 p.m. that night.
“We’re aiming for 100 miles. That was Steve’s best distance,” Slykuis said.
What started out as something small has caught on by the community and will be well attended. Inconnu swimmers and coaches will start running at 8 a.m. on Sunday, as will two other large groups throughout the day. Slykhuis said more than 100 people have already messaged him asking if they could come.
“It’s a testament to the kind of guy he was, that so many people were impacted by his life,” said Slykhuis.
A celebration of life for Sadownik is being held on Saturday, June 23 at 2 p.m., at the Northern Grand Hotel.
Email sports reporter Dillon Giancola at firstname.lastname@example.org.