The Thompson-Okanagan Zone 2 rowing team ruled the waters at the 30th B.C. Summer Games in Abbotsford last weekend.
The group of seven rowers, including three who had only started the sport in late May, all medalled on the Bedford Channel at Fort Langley.
Avery Collinson, Hailey Preston and Ian Oliphant, all of Vernon, and Natalya Ariano of Coldstream, joined with Nicholas Lourens and Ethan Pyle, both of Salmon Arm, and Kelowna’s Jocelyn Carmichael in the intense racing.
“It is incredibly rare for every member of a rowing team to win medals in the same rowing event, the fact that our rowers were inexperienced made it quite the achievement.” said head coach Lisa George of Vernon. “Our goal going into the Games was to master strong technique and have lots of fun in the process. I happily consider that as achieved.”
Racing included a 1,500-metre time trial and 1,000-m sprints for heats and finals.
Collinson made the A finals and the rest of the team progressed to the B finals, all having very impressive races and setting personal best times. Carmichael and Preston rowed back to the dock declaring “that was the fastest we have ever rowed our double and it was definitely the hardest we have ever worked. It was great.”
After pushing hard in the final to claim third Oliphant rated the race as “Just Awesome.”
The Summer Games rowing includes a skills event to evaluate a range of technical components in a single- or double-scull that assess confidence, balance and boat handling. Stations are set up and athletes have to demonstrate maneuvers that many experienced rowers would find extremely difficult.
“I knew if we focussed on the skills it would really help with our sprint racing, so they played a big part in out training plan. The kids all find these skills fun and were able to quickly appreciate how fast they were improving.” said George, assisted by Glen Stiven.
Oliphant struck gold, while Preston, Carmichael, Collinson, Lourens and Pyle grabbed silvers and Ariano Bronze.
The channel was uncharted waters for 14-year-old teammates Collinson and Ariano, who train on Swan Lake with the Vernon Rowing and Dragonboat Club.
Collinson is somewhat familiar with what a provincial games has to offer. Just a few months ago, Collinson competed in judo in the female 57 kg category at the BC Winter Games in Penticton.
Fast forward to last weekend, and Collinson said her B.C. Summer Games experience has been “pretty awesome,” noting that the Fraser River’s current makes it “a bit faster.”
Ariano said the level of competition was high. “There’s some really good rowers from Vancouver Island and stuff. It’s pretty hard.”
This, and the fact she’s a Games newbie, is why Ariano entered the competition with an open mind.
“Just to do my best,” she answered, when asked about her goal going into the weekend. “I don’t really have a goal because I never raced before.”
Zone 2 collected 13 of 25 medals in triathlon with Braden Kersey of Vernon, who trains with the Tri Monsters Triathlon & Cycling team, pocketing a pair of bronze medals.
The triathlon consisted of a 500m swim/10k bike/3.3k run, while the duathlon was a 1k run, 5k bike, 1k run.
The Vancouver Island-Central Coast zone topped the medal count with 170, followed by Fraser Valley Zone 3 at 144 and Fraser Valley Zone 4 at 135.
“It brings you joy to see that other people have met their goals and targets, and that by meeting their goals and targets, we’re providing a world-class experience that these kids are never going to forget,” said Steve Carlton, B.C. Summer Games president.
Already, 23 athletes from prior Games have been announced as part of Team Canada for next month’s 2016 Summer Olympics.
The Thompson-Okanagan took silver (lost 8-6 to Fraser River) in box lacrosse, represented by Jordie Scherck of Coldstream and Thomas Mackiewich of Vernon.
“Everybody had good chemistry and we gelled quickly,” said Scherck, 16, who practised with the Vernon Junior Tigers some this season. “We also had really good defence; a lot of the shots were from the oustide so I wasn’t all that busy.”
As for the sleeping on a foamie on a gym floor, the Grade 11 VSS student sad: “I slept fine, but the beds were kind of uncomfortable. I’m young so my back was fine.”
Devin Hofsink and Isaiah Ondrik of Vernon boosted Zone 2 to silver in boys basketball, while locals Jayden Strachan, Kelsey Carriere, Danica Ariano and Mariya Blades went home with U15 girls soccer bronze medals, winning a shootout. Assistant coach was Felicia O’Gorman of Coldstream
“All of our Vernon players rose to the challenge of the Games as the level of play was definitely higher than what they are used to in regular league play,” said O’Gorman. “It was exciting to witness their growth as players over such a short time span.”
O’Gorman said Carriere and Strachan were solid on defence, with Carriere’s skillful tackles shutting down the attack through the middle, and Strachan’s aggressive play out wide and tireless runs up and down the flank producing turnovers and creating quick counter attacks. From midfield, Ariano’s control and composed play allowed her to connect with Blades on some nice through balls.
In swimming, Jonathan Heffner of Vernon struck silver in the 4×50 team relay, while Jacob Brayshaw bagged bronze in the para swimming.
Reece Hawthorne posted a silver in wakeboarding and took a silver with Zone 2 in the team portion.