WIth the end of February approaching, local athletes are putting in final practices in preparation for the 2012 BC Winter Games in Vernon, Feb. 23 – 26.
As Terrace was the host city for the 2010 BC Winter Games, many of these athletes saw the 2010 action first-hand, and have long anticipated their turn to hit the provincial stage in an event hosting youths from the ages of 10 – 18 in 15 different sports ranging from hockey to badminton.
Ria Vandenberg, 14, says she will be competing in the cross-country skiing event, because of the great experience her sister Johanna had when she cross-country skied in the 2010 Games.
Because she knows a bit of what to expect, Ria says she’s not nervous about competing at the games, just looking forward to the experience.
“It’s not just about the competition,” she said. “You get to meet new people and experience the sport in a different way.”
From a cross-country skiing family of nine children, Ria gets out on the trails often with her siblings
in a sport she says is a lot of fun.
Her father and coach Bill Vandenberg said Ria is practising about three times a week, as they work on her endurance for the games.
“We just get her to ski hard … because she has to build up her stamina, it’s kind of like an all-out sport,” Vandenberg explained.
Ria will be skiing on the Zone 7 team as the only member from Terrace.
Zone 7 is the northwest zone and stretches from Vanderhoof to Haida Gwaii.
The Terrace Junior Badminton team will also be representing the region as the Zone 7 team at the Games.
Coach Norm Parry said tryouts were held for the region in early December, but only Terrace players attended, resulting in an all-Terrace team of five girls and five boys, ages 12 and 13.
This will be the fourth time Terrace has sent a badminton team to the BC Winter Games, and the second time Parry, who was an organizer at the 2010 Games in Terrace, has attended as a coach.
Parry said the team has been hitting the courts three nights a week to prepare.
“They are excited to go, and they have been looking forward to it,” he said.
“It’s an amazing event for these kids,” Parry said of the games, which he likened to a mini-Olympics with entertainment and opening ceremonies for the youths.
Coming from one of the more sparsely-populated areas of the province, Parry said the team understands its level of competition is going to be different than other badminton teams from larger centres.
Parry and his team will look to regions similar to Terrace and make goals against teams they are evenly matched with.
“So we go in there with a goal and we target a few zones we would like to do well against,” Parry explained, adding players also focus on strong sportsmanship on and off the court.
Terrace’s U-14 ringette team is sending five local players. These players will be joined by two players from Houston and four from Courtney to make up the Zone 7 team.
Coach Jacque Dahl said the team picked up players from Victoria as there were not enough age-qualifying ringette players in the region to create a fully-northern team.
Hitting the ice from Terrace will be a co-ed team including Haylee Gibson, Jennifer Dahl, Hannah Resch, Marshall Wilson and Peter Nicholson.
“They are actually very excited,” Dahl said, noting that Dahl, Gibson and Resch all attended the 2011 BC Summer Games and are more familiar with the experience.
She said the team has been practising as much as possible to get ready, with the two Houston players joining up for a few sessions on the ice as well.
“I don’t know how we will do, the kids we have can all play well, but we are going down with lower numbers,” Dahl said of the size of the team.
However, she said all of the players are looking forward to the excitement of attending the BC Winter Games.
“I am positive we are going to have a great trip,” Dahl said.
Also attending the BC Winter Games from Terrace will be alpine skiers and female hockey players.
Shames Mountain’s Northwest Freeriders is also sending three members from Kitimat.
On Feb. 22, two chartered planes will land at the Northwest Regional Airport, and two more at the Smithers Regional Airport, to pick up Zone 7 contestants and their coaches.