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 Top 10 sports stories of the year in no particular order.
In January, representatives of Engage Sports North (ESN) were in town in preparation for making Smithers Secondary School (SSS) a campus of the Canadian Sport School (CSS).
“Canadian Sport School facilitates a high-performance culture amongst like-minded athletes while providing support, coordination and advocacy between student athletes and their high school teachers and sport coaches,” said Mandi Graham, executive director of ESN.
On Jan. 15, Graham, along with ESN director high performace Dave Adolf introduced SSS students and staff to the program, conducted a workshop and put student athletes through a workout at the school.
Smithers joined Victoria, Kamloops and Prince George as campuses for the sport school in September, Graham told The Interior News.
“We chose Smithers because we feel Smithers has a really good fit with the active community and we were approached by a qualified individual in the community that was really interested in bring the program here,” she said.
She noted when they visited the idea they received “amazing community support and collaboration.”
The qualified individual is Derek Holland, a strength and conditioning specialist coach who holds a masters degree in coaching from the University of Victoria and has been heavily involved in the Smithers Secondary Hockey Academy and Northern Hockey School.
“Smithers is a community that is really committed to physical activity and there’s a lot of driven youth and committed youth in this community that could really utilize the extra support so they can stay in their community as they develop in their sport,” Graham said.
That support includes help and resources for balancing the demands of training and competing at an elite level with academic excellence and teenage life in general.
ESN was also impressed with the facility.
“We’re really happy with the collaboration the [school] district has given us and providing a really amazing facility in the mezzanine of the secondary school, so we’ll be making some upgrades and purchasing some equipment to make sure it’s up to the standards of the Canadian Sport Institute,” she said.
The Canadian Sport Institute Pacific is an organization dedicated to the development of high-performance Olympic and Paralympic athletes affiliated with high-performance sports centres across the country.
The Northern Men’s Open championship took another trip west on Hwy 16 in 2021.
Scott Rigler of Terrace captured his second title in the annual Labour Day Weekend tournament on Sept. 6 with a three-round total of 220.
“It feels unbelievable,” Rigler said. “It’s a long-standing tournament run by a great, great community and I’m just super happy right now.”
Rigler last one the Northern Open in 2018.
Going into Monday’s final round, defending champion Wouter Morkel was in striking distance of repeating trailing by only two strokes. But while Rigler faltered on the last day, ballooning from a first-round 74 and three-under-par 69 on Sunday to 77 Monday, Morkel also struggled to a 78.
“It was fun, we had a good group, the weather held up, the course was in great shape and it’s nice to see the guys come from Terrace and Vanderhoof,” he said. “It’s a privilege to play in the tournament, I just didn’t have my best stuff today.”
Morkel, who was a first-time Northern Open winner in 2020 was gracious in defeat.
“Repeat champion, Scott’s an awesome guy, played good golf today, played the best of all of us, so congrats to Scott.”
Also in the final group on Monday was last year’s runner up, Trevor Metcalf. Metcalf trailed by seven strokes, but carded the best final-round score in the group with a 74. It was too little too late.
In all, 108 men competed in the tournament resulting in five flights.
Morkel, by virtue of Rigler taking the overall title, was first low gross in the A Flight. Chris Morsund took the A Flight low net.
One of the first sports back out of the gate in 2021 was gymnastics, which lends itself to virtual competition and the local club did not disappoint.
Smithers Saltos Kiera Bredow became the provincial Junior Olympic Level 1 champion following a gold medal performance floor routine that earned her a score of 9.8 from the judges.
Six other Saltos also took home hardware in the virtual competition in which the gymnasts were judged via filmed routines.
Grabbing the silver with an 8.9 in Junior Olympic Level 3 balance beam was Ella Opdendries.
Peytanne Brockley also scored silver with a 9.15 floor routine.
Bronze medals went to Alia Marsden on Junior Olympic Level 3 uneven bars (score 8.9) and Chloe Collingwood with a 9.0 on balance beam in Junior Olympic Level 6.
Male Saltos Greyson Brooks and Quinten Remillard achieved overall silver level in Provincial Level One men’s artistic gymnastics competition.
In all 29 Saltos athletes competed with the female athletes performing in four events: balance beam, uneven bars, floor, and vault. The male gymnasts competed in six events: parallel bars, vault, pommel horse, floor, rings, and horizontal bar.
Six Saltos athletes scored over nine points out of a possible ten in multiple events.
School sports went ahead in the fall and both the Smithers Secondary School (SSS) Senior and Junior Girls volleyball teams advanced to provincial championships.
Provincials were ultimately cancelled, but Kristina Stefanek, head coach, was impressed with the girls’ return to competition.
“I am extremely proud of our senior girls, not only for winning the zone championships, but also for their tremendous improvement and for demonstrating outstanding sportsmanship all season,” said . “They are a genuinely kind and gracious team of individuals who have acted as exemplary student-athletes.”
On Nov. 20, the seniors faced off against Charles Hayes Secondary School in Prince Rupert, the only other team in the Northwest AA zone this season.
The teams were scheduled to play a best of five match, but SSS prevailed in straight sets winning decisively 25-9, 25-14, and 25-13.
Team captain Melissa Pesch took most valuable player honours in the zone matchup.
The previous weekend the junior girls also qualified for provincials at Ebenezer Canadian Reformed School where seven teams competed for the title.
After barely squeeking by Ebenezer to make the final, the SSS girls took on Houston Secondary for the title
“Smithers won in two straight sets, but was very well challenged and hats off to HSS for the awesome respectful competition,” said Smithers assistant coach Matthew Monkman.
Stefanek said the junior girls’ undefeated season is great news for the future of the girls volleyball program at SSS.
The Smithers Golf and Country Club added a new tournament to its roster in 2021.
The two-round, inaugrual Harold Palmer President’s Cup was held over two weeks on June 17 and 24, 2021 to honour former club president.
Harold served as president of the club for eight years from 1998 to 2005. A highly regarded and respected leader, Harold helped guide the club through difficult times and was instrumental in creating the thriving golf club memebers enjoy today.
In 2008, BC Golf awarded Harold with a Distinguished Service Award for his volunteer work at the Smithers Golf Club. In 2010, the club awarded Harold with a lifetime membership.
“The Smithers Men’s Club is proud to recognize Harold’s dedicated contribution to the golf club with the inception of the Harold Palmer President’s Cup,” said club captain Tanner Olson.
“This year we had 88 players compete in this two-day team event, this is more than a four-fold increase from past years. We had a mix of senior golfers who we often don’t see participating in these events to golfers as young as Max Belanger (one of our junior golfers), and Harold’s Grandson competing.”
The first champions whose names will grace the trophy are Phil Lickers and David Hawkins with a two-round total of -20 (124) net.
The tournament combined two different formats for the two rounds. On the first day, the golfers played best ball in which both team members play their own ball and record the lowest net score between them.
On the second day, they played a scramble format in which the best of the two players’ shots are selected and both then play from that spot.