As is tradition at the end of one year and the beginning of the next, we present our top stories of the year past.
In 2021, sports stories were few and far between. Most sports were cancelled for most of the year, except for golf. Consequently, golf stories kind of dominate our list.
There were a few other bright lights along the way, however.
Here we present the last five of the Top 10 sports stories of the year in no particular order.
The Smithers Golf Club’s Ladies Northern Open Championship took a trip east on Hwy 16 in 2021.
A Houston team consisting of Loraine Halfe, Dallas Edwards, Hellen Slaney and Lillian Kelly eclipsed the field of 18 foursomes in the annual scramble event with a low gross score of 134 over two rounds July 17 and 18.
Following a first-round 66 to lead after day one, the Houston team did not look back carding a 68 Sunday for a five-stroke victory.
Halfe, a first-time member of the Smithers club in 2021, and who drained a 12-foot putt for birdie on the 36th hole, spoke on behalf of the team.
“It feels really good to win the tournament,” she said. “We had an age group of a little over 200 years of age, I believe, between all of us ladies and the course was in wonderful shape, the cooks were good, I thought we did really well.”
Low Net honours went to the Smithers team of Rachel Eller, Suzanne Brooks, Joscelyn Hawes and Brett Tolton.
Prizes were also handed out to the top team in each of the three flights.
In A Flight, Ann Maher, Kim Moldenhauer, Eowyn Netzel and Carson Vida prevailed with a five-under-par 139 for the two days.
Karla Eguia, Casey Gero, Taylor Reese-Handsen and Chalaine Hannah also carded a 139, good for top spot in the B Flight.
Rounding out the winners circle were C Flight champions Cheryl Butler, Jessy Chapman, Kate Howard and Regina Saimoto with an 11-over-par 155.
Smithers’ Adam Kingsmill continued to rack up new accomplishments in 2021.
The now 20-year-old, who lost his right leg below the knee in a lawnmower accident when he was two, brought home a silver medal from the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) World Para Hockey Championship in Ostrava, Czech Republic, this year. Canada lost in the gold medal game to the U.S. team.
“It was a heartbreaking loss, but with some time and perspective, we knew it was an amazing accomplishment. We came together from all over the country never having played together before, and we were up against teams that play all year together, so we had to gel fast.
One of two goaltenders for the Canadian team, Kingsmill’s performance on the ice also netted him a slot on the national team that will tentatively compete in the Beijing Paralympic Games in March.
Currently enrolled at Mount Royal University, in Calgary, Alta., in the Athletic Therapy program, Kingsmill was home briefly in September to visit family and friends.
He has given his success a great deal of reflection, for someone so young, and is quick to include the multitude people that have surrounded and supported him every step of the way.
“I have always had great friends and mentors all of my life. I have been exceptionally lucky for the people that have kept me going, even in my low times, they pushed me and built me up, I cannot imagine where I would be without that core support.”
Yee’s record from Montreal was short-lived as former record holder Gen Lalonde set a blistering pace of 9:22.64 in the third Olympic heat.
Lalonde shaved another 0.24 seconds off the Canadian record in the final, but 9:22.40 was only good for 11th in a field that saw Peruth Chemutai of Uganda take gold with 9:01.45, American Courtney Frerichs win silver (9:04.79) and Kenyan Hyvin Kiyeng secure bronze (9:05.39).
Yee’s other teammate Alycia Butterworth from Prince Rupert also failed to qualify for the final heat clocking in at 9:34.25 for 10th place in her heat.
Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a team of U14 boys competed in Richmond’s “Turkey Tourney.”
Head coach Ben Weinstein said the team’s three-loss, one-win record belied how well the boys played.
“In each game, we were in there until the very end (in two of the games we were down 1-0 until the end when we pressed hard and the opposing teams scored on the counter attack),” Weinstein said. “The boys showed excellent dedication and passion to the sport and worked really hard.”
He said even attending the tournament was a stretch goal for Bulkley Valley soccer.
“We set it early in the season and practiced all summer in preparation. For many kids (and parents) it was their first organized team sport trip.”
Overall, it was a very significant event for the local soccer program.
“It was an amazing experience for the kids, parents and coaches, and I am very proud of the team and all my players,” he said. “Considering that, due to COVID, prior to the tournament we played a grand total of three games against boys our ages this summer, we did amazing.”
Furthermore, he added, the Lower Mainland teams that also participated, were amazed and thrilled to see a team from the north show up and compete so admirably.
“The team faced some adversity that we needed to overcome as a group (and we did in so many ways),” Weinstein concluded.
Five years after a bareback bronc riding accident at the Bulkley Valley Rodeo left Kevin Cunin paralyzed from the chest down, the 31-year-old made his return to the Smithers rodeo ring Aug. 28.
Cunin was greeted by a standing ovation on the Saturday evening at the Fall Fair Grounds when he rode in on a specialty saddle as part of the opening ceremonies.
Cunin told The Interior News he was thrilled just to be back in the saddle, but was looking forward to competing again.
And that he did, in the team roping event as the heeler. Although Cunin was unable to complete the task, it was an awe-inspiring performance that drew loud cheers and applause from the estimated 3,000 people who gathered for the rodeo, Aug. 28.
It was also the culmination of a long, determined road back to where the tragedy originally befell him.
Following a complicated surgery for a broken neck and multiple broken ribs and veterbrae that left him in a wheelchair, Cunin never gave up the dream of riding again and said he got a ton of support along the way.
“The rodeo community was there: I’d be in the hospital laying in bed, and life sucked at that point pretty bad, but I’d open up my phone and look on Facebook and I’d see messages from people I knew, and people I didn’t even know from all over the place — guys who’d been in rodeo wrecks down in the U.S. — even Davey Shields made a special trip from Alberta to come in and chat, so just really cool support from all over.”