Volleyball, soccer, cross-country and aquatics round out term one athletics for Brooks Secondary School Thunderbirds rep teams for 2016/17.
Some teams are in rebuilding years and others hope to build on successes from last year, according to coaches.
After coming close at the BC Girls Volleyball Provincial Championships last year, senior girls volleyball coach Doug Skinner is optimistic.
“Most of the kids we will have this year are in grade 12,” said Skinner. “We were really elated last year when, as a predominantly grade 11 crew, we went to Vernon and came second in BC in AAA volleyball.”
Thunderbirds are expected to be strong but, according to Skinner, there will be good teams who were in grade 10 last year and more experienced grade 12s.
He said he and Jay Yule, the other girls volleyball coach, will know more about the Brooks team by the end of September and which other teams will present challenges.
“We’ll get strong competition from Campbell River and Nanaimo. We know all of those teams will be stronger just on the island alone,” said Skinner. “There are only three teams that go off the island to the provincials, so we have to figure a way to come in top three.”
According to Skinner, the Thunderbirds senior girls volleyball team was a powerhouse in the old Max Cameron Secondary School days. All of the banners in the Brooks gym are from Max Cameron teams, except one won by the 2000/01 team.
“We hope we can go back to another BC championship,” he said.
According to vice-principal and junior boys soccer coach Tony Rice, this is definitely a rebuilding year for the senior team. Rice said a lot of boys are playing the game right now and he expects a resurgence in soccer this year.
“Powell River schools have always been strong in boys soccer,” he said. “Two years ago, my senior boys team, we finished sixth at provincials. We had a second place finish in 2000.”
According to Rice, with so many boys keen about soccer, there will be a bump of players who make the teams more competitive.
“We’re at the beginning of that bump,” he said. “If you watch the next three years, I would expect us to be challenging at the top again.”
Rice’s junior boys did challenge last season, making it to the North Island Championships, he said.
“We’ll have a pretty deep squad,” said Rice, “so I will expect us to be pretty competitive.”
Just as in soccer, a renewed interest is also being seen in cross-country running, spurred on by the team’s success in qualifying the last two years for the BC championships, according to coach Graham Cocksedge.
All of the cross-country athletes deserve attention, said Cocksedge.
“Chris Fisher has had great success and is now at the top of his category. This is the same for Josh Chernoff, a grade 12 student,” said Cocksedge.
Chernoff, according to Cocksedge, had a breakthrough year in track and field last year.
“I am excited to see how he carries this into cross country,” he said.
Cocksedge said another athlete to watch due to his rapid increase in ability because of a very high work ethic is grade nine student Will Rice. Will recently won the eight-kilometre Run the Rock on Texada Island.
“On the girl’s side, Camryn Cline comes off an amazing track season and will lead a big junior girls team,” said Cocksedge, “which has never shown more promise to make it to the provincials.”
Brooks Thunderbirds cross-country team will be hosting a meet on Thursday, September 22.
For every athlete who makes a Thunderbirds rep squad, there are those that do not.
“It’s the least enjoyable part of the job when you tell somebody they might not be able to play this year because of different levels of experience,” said Rice. “It’s part of the balance of a high-school teacher. You want to get as many people involved and have quality experiences but sometimes you can’t have everybody. It’s a balance for sure.”
For youth who do make the teams, there is the fun of competition, representing their school and travel. These athletes might be the only people who actually enjoy ferry travel and being together as a result.
“Our kids are closer as a group,” said Rice. “We spend a lot of time together before and after games, so coaches can use it as an advantage and one of the reasons the kids play is for all that social time. It’s friendships. It’s building those relationships.”