With skis, guns, or skates ready, five Vanderhoof high performance athletes will be joining more than 1200 others from all over the province at the Penticton 2016 BC Winter Games this weekend.
Linnea Moutray will be participating in biathlon events, while Connor Ebert, Nicole McBride, Alexis Seely, and Logan Sewell will be competing in speed skating.
Taking place from Feb. 25 to 28, this year’s Winter Games features athletes with an average age of 14 competing in 17 different sports.
“Penticton is where the BC Games began in 1978, and we are so pleased to be back and benefiting from the history of sport and event hosting in this community,” said Kelly Mann, President and CEO of the BC Games Society. “The athletes, coaches, and officials coming to these BC Winter Games are taking their first step towards future national and international level competitions and the expertise of the volunteers will make a mark on their journey.”
Over 50 per cent of Team BC athletes at the 2015 Canada Winter Games were BC Games alumni — 18 of which were part of Team Canada at the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Games including Kelowna’s Kelsey Serwa in Ski Cross, Summerland’s Justin Kripps in Bobsleigh, and Josh Dueck of Vernon in Para Alpine.
At her fifth year in biathlon, 14-year-old Linnea Moutray will be competing at her first BC Winter Games this weekend.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Moutray said. “[I’m] trying to get my shooting good…get my grip tighter, try and ski faster.”
Earlier this month, Moutray won silver medals in the Junior Girls Sprint and Pursuit events at the third BC Cup provincial biathlon tournament at Whistler Olympic Park.
In addition to regular biathlon practice every Thursday, she has been training every day since last fall — skating on the lakes with nordic blades and poles, skiing, shooting, and getting her rifle sighted — including Christmas Day, she said.
During the summer, training involved more precision shooting, running, as well as roller skiing.
Enjoying cross-country skiing since she was little, she enjoys the opportunities that competing in biathlon offers.
“You get to travel around B.C. to meet new people, making new friends from different places,” Moutray said, adding that her favourite competition venue is Whistler, where signage reminds athletes of its role in Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
Coaches Sonya Zurevinski and Gerd Erasmus noticed Moutray’s huge increase in training outside of practices this year.
“Once she realized she really likes it, she came more to train more…it’s made a huge difference.” Erasmus said. “She really improved in skiing and shooting this season.
“It really came together.”
Heading down from Vanderhoof to compete in this year’s BC Winter Games are Connor Ebert, Nicole McBride, Alexis Seely, and Logan Sewell.
Supported by coaches Nicole Ebert and Vince Sewell, as well as adult supervisor Jessica Seely, they are joined by Fort St. James’ Austin McKersie, who will be competing in a relay race as a team with the four younger members of the group.
For McBride, 14, Alexis, 13, McKersie, 13, and Logan, 14, it’s the first BC Winter Games of their speed skating career. During the last month, the four athletes have been practicing once a week together in preparation for relay.
“I’m a little nervous and super excited,” said Austin, who also skis in addition to speed skating.
Also excited, Alexis looks to do her best and have fun. “It’s a great chance to meet other athletes,” she said.
McBride aims to improve her personal best time, “try my hardest in everything and just have lots of fun,” she said.
Though speed skating is her main focus this year, McBride is also involved in biathlon and cross country skiing, winning silver in the individual race at the third BC Cup provincial biathlon tournament at Whistler Olympic Park earlier this month.
Skating for the last eight years, Logan looks forward to see what the event will be like and to have fun, he said.
For Connor, 15, it’s his second time participating in the BC Winter Games that takes place every two years.
He has been skating for 13 years, “if you count crawling on the ice,” he said.
“I would really like to thank the community for the support they’ve given fro the rink, and the coaches who have put together the program and support beforehand in training,” Connor said.
The speed skating team is sponsored by 15 different local businesses between Vanderhoof and Fort St. James, including equipment, bags, and cut-proof skin suits.
For McKersie’s mother Laura, the event is an opportunity for the athletes to represent their communities.
“They become role models for younger kids,” she said. “When they are back, they’ll have stories for younger kids…who strive for that position.”