Along with nearly 3,000 others across the province in Abbotsford, nine high performance athletes and coaches from Vanderhoof will be testing their skills and fitness at the 2016 BC Summer Games this weekend.
During the 18-sport event from July 21 to 24, Luke Fehr will be competing for the Cariboo-North East basketball team led by coach Aaron Brouwer in Prince George; Felicia Brooks and Melanie Rodgers will be competing for the North West rugby team led by coach Sean Rodgers; and Eran Bach, Aiden Evenson, Addison Miller-Gauthier, and Jonathan Read will be competing for the North West wrestling team led by coach Travis Himmelright.
Luke Fehr is one of two Vanderhoof boys joining 10 other boys from Prince George to compete for the Cariboo-North East basketball team, led by coach Aaron Brouwer.
Due to recent injury, Regan Unger will no longer be participating.
“We have really good depth, from player one to 12,” Brouwer said. “They understand what it means to compete at that level and we’ve been pushing them to go hard on the court.”
In preparation for the event, the team competed in three out-of-town tournaments in the past months as two teams of six players, in order to maximize their playing time and exposure to high intensity, Brouwer explained.
The teams placed first and second at a tournament hosted by Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, first and fourth place in Edmonton, and fifth place in Langley.
“The team has done really well,” Brouwer said. “They are eager to learn and they seem to want more basketball, pushing each other to learn better.”
Going into Grade 9 next year, Luke Fehr has been playing basketball since Grade 2 and joined the Prince George-based team this year for the first time.
“I’m excited and ready to go,” Fehr said. “It’s a good opportunity…makes you want to play basketball at a more competitive level and be able to play it.”
With practices two times a week, team cohesiveness as well as fitness and skills were the focus of training.
Fehr recalled the first practice, where only one player was encouraging another in a drill. The other athletes were then punished with a running lap.
“If you don’t encourage each other, you get more,” he said. He is also doing part-time work to earn funds for the trip to the Lower Mainland.
Felicia Brooks and Melanie Rodgers will be competing for the North West rugby team, led by coach Sean Rodgers, along with 10 other girls across the region — including representation from Prince Rupert, Houston, Smithers and Burns Lake.
With players from widespread locations, the focus of practices — taking place in Smithers since early June — lie in having the team work together, explained coach Sean Rodgers.
“Some haven’t trained together before a month ago,” he said. “They get to play together, trust each other, pass the ball to each other.
“They seem to have a common bond in rugby and they click well.”
With social media, the team was able to communicate and connect outside of practices.
However, Vanderhoof’s style of playing is now shared with previously opposing rugby teams.
“The secrets are out of the bag and we have to develop new stuff for next year,” Rodgers said.
This is the second time for Vanderhoof rugby girls to participate in the BC Summer Games — they competed for the last event two years ago.
Felicia Brooks looks forward to playing at a higher level, learn from the experience, and gain as much as she can, she said.
Going into Grade 12, Brooks has been playing rugby for four years and her focus for the upcoming event is to be mentally prepared.
“Physically I feel prepared, so it’s about not psyching yourself out,” she said. “We’re going in as underdogs.
“To not only play how I know how to play, but also be a unified team, getting to know them not just on the field but off the field. We know what our strengths are and we play off of each other.”
Though the training season in the north is shorter than that of the south, teams in this area may have physical advantages.
“We have farm and country girls,” Brooks said. “We are fast but we are bigger for our scrums. We want to tackle, whereas they’re just going to want to run with the ball.”
Nechako Valley Secondary wrestlers Eran Bach, Aiden Evenson, Addison Miller-Gauthier, and Jonathan Read, supported by coach Travis Himmelright, will be representing the North West zone at the BC Summer Games.
With three of the athletes having competed in the national tournament hosted in Calgary in April, some medals are expected, Himmelright said.
While one participating wrestler had a hiatus in February, the others were training since October.
Bi-weekly practices, supported by NVSS wrestling alumni Jennor Nohr who currently wrestles at SFU, have been focussed on keeping skills sharp and fitness level adequate, Himmelright explained. Some took place in Prince George to allow more varied partners.
“If you stop doing a sport, your technique degrades,” he said. “They are not necessarily learning new techniques, but refining and improving what they know.”
Going into Grade 10 next year, Addison Miller-Gauthier hopes to do well, though he’s a bit nervous.At his second year of wrestling, Miller-Gauthier placed fifth in the freestyle category and fourth in the Greco-Roman category at the national tournament.
“I think our endurance is the best, with lots of training in stamina,” he said.