From the Now-Leader’s Play pages, some sporting highlights of 2018:
With drama on and off the diamond, Whalley Major Allstars went to Williamsport to represent Canada at the fabled Little League World Series in August. The baseball world watched as Dio Gama, one of the squad’s best young players, was initially prevented from joining his teammates in Pennsylvania, due to immigration issues. With last-minute clearance by federal authorities, however, he flew there to play a part in the team’s two big wins, followed by a celebratory trip to a Blue Jays game in Toronto.
In October, Surrey-based BC Tigers Hurricanes scored the 2018 Toyota Canada Nationals soccer championship with a display of dominance in Saskatoon. Led by Nick Soolsma’s four goals, the association’s senior men’s team beat Ontario’s Caledon SC 7-3 in the gold-medal final to win the tourney’s Challenge Trophy – the first B.C. team to do so in 14 years. Soolsma’s nine goals was the most scored in the tournament by one player in 18 years.
A Surrey preteen carded an impressive 16-stroke victory over his nearest competitor at a junior golf tournament in March. Justin Bjornson, 12, shot a second-round 67 to help him win the MJT Humber College PGM Classic, the Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour’s 20th-anniversary season-opener. “My great ball striking and putting helped me win,” he told MJT officials later. “I feel privileged to win such a great event.” Meantime, Justin’s older brother, Bailey Bjornson, 14, scored third place in the Bantam Boys division.
In February, South Surrey’s Meghan Agosta recalled her moment in the spotlight for Team Canada during the Winter Olympics in South Korea, when she had a chance to extend the women’s hockey shootout against Team U.S.A. in the final game, but missed and settled for a silver medal. “The shot just wasn’t there, so I tried to bring (the puck) across far enough for (the U.S. goalie’s) stick to move, and when I shot between the legs, it was somewhat open, but not open enough. That was it.”
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) November 14, 2018
Hockey history was made in Surrey in November when the women of Team India played in a Canadian rink for the very first time, in an exhibition game against a Bantam team with Surrey Falcons. Prior to their flight to B.C., the Indian players were in the international spotlight after overcoming some strong societal and familial pressures in their ambition to play hockey in the mountainous Ladakh region.
Surrey’s Shallon Olsen, 17, had a golden time in Australia in April, when the Fraser Heights resident was a multiple medal-winner in gymnastics at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, in Queensland. She earned gold as a member of Team Canada in the women’s artistic gymnastics team final – Canada’s first women’s team gymnastics gold at the Games since 1990.
Newton resident Miguel Tomley scored an astonishing 66 points in his team’s 100-76 victory over Belmont Bulldogs in last spring’s B.C. boys basketball championship tourney, played at Langley Events Centre. The Tamanawis Secondary star’s performance in the bronze-medal game gave him 180 points for the tourney, a new record. The six-foot-three guard scored 48 points the night before in his team’s 74-67 loss to the Semiahmoo Totems in the semifinals. In July, in the footsteps of Steve Nash, Tomley committed to play at the NCAA’s Santa Clara University.
Surrey-raised hockey forward Justin Sourdif was named the Major Midget League’s Player of the Year for the 2017-18 season by BC Hockey, governing body of the province-wide circuit. The 2002-born standout led the league in points, and in the fall was among 66 players named to Canada’s three squads for the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, played in New Brunswick. This winter, Sourdif is among young guns on the WHL Vancouver Giants.
Canadian track star Christabel Nettey won gold in long jump at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, while the Surrey-born, Langley-raised Django Lovett was awarded a bronze medal in high jump. In April, the Surrey-raised Nettey won with 6.84-metre long jump, as her sister Sabrina watched on TV early one Thursday morning. “I’m just thrilled for her,” Sabrina said. “She’s been well-ranked in the world for a years few now, but it’s nice to see her earn something that she’s worked so hard for.”
Spring is time for “beer league” hockey for thousands of kids at Excellent Ice, the Panorama-area rink populated by colourfully-named teams such as The Devil’s Rejects, Blue Donkeys of Doom, Buzzer Beaters, Flying Hellfish, Shake n’ Bake and Who Needs Teeth. When winter club leagues end, a large number of young players lace up for some additional “3 on 3” action there. “This spring we have about 2,400 players on around 222 teams, from Hockey 1, which is five-year-olds, right up to Midget-aged players, who are 17,” boasted league manager Lyle Wingert.
May 5 marked the ninth year of Lions Pride, a flag-football tournament involving at-risk youth from the Lower Mainland. At Tom Binnie Park, near the CFL team’s Surrey headquarters, close to 100 kids played games during a special day. “Being here, playing football with these boys, that’s what I like. I’m going to be one of them one day,” said player Mohammed Abdi, pointing to Surrey Savages coach and B.C. Lions running-back Jeremiah Johnson.
Surrey’s Bob Brown reflected on putting together one of the best teams in Canadian junior hockey history, the Memorial Cup-winning Kamloops Blazers teams of 1992, 1994 and 1995. As GM of those dynasty teams, Brown had collected a number of future NHL stars, including Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Scott Niedermayer. In July, Brown was hired by the Vancouver Giants as the Langley-based team’s new senior advisor.
A provincial coaching award was a “big surprise” for Adam Ingle, who lives in the Guildford area of Surrey and coaches with Vancouver Velocity Speed Skating Club. Each week in the fall and winter months, he volunteers close to 25 hours of his time to coach speed skaters. In May, viaSport British Columbia announced Ingle as its 2017 regional/provincial Development Coach of the Year. “To be honoured among all sports in the province is quite a thrill for me,” he said.
The Firehawks of Fraser Heights Secondary sure are good at badminton. In June, the Dave Dryden-coached squad won its fifth consecutive provincial high school championship, giving it top spot over more than 120 teams that play the racket sport at B.C. schools. It was the eighth provincial medal for the Fraser Heights badminton team over the past nine years, and represented the school’s sixth ever provincial title, in any sport.
Surrey United’s 50th anniversary was celebrated Sept. 29 at Cloverdale Athletic Park, the soccer club’s hub. When formed in 1968, Surrey United boasted just six teams; today, the association boasts a membership of some 2,300 players, up from 400 in 1994.
Surrey’s newest school football program hit the gridiron running in August. For head coach Gord Randall, it was a dream come true at Sullivan Heights Secondary, where the Stars hoped to shine after more than eight months of planning. Randall originally estimated startup costs of around $40,000, but the number went north of that with the creation of two teams.
Surrey’s Lauren Kim scored a national golf championship with rounds to remember over the Remembrance Day weekend. The 13-year-old player earned the low-overall score, along with the 2018 Maple Leaf Junior Golf Tour 15-18 Girls national title, at a course in Phoenix, Arizona. Lauren defended her title as the 2017 MJT Girls Low Overall national champion.
On a Saturday morning in June, Surrey-raised NFL pro Christian Covington taught young players the finer points of football. The 24-year-old defensive end for Houston Texans welcomed a couple hundred kids to a second annual skills camp he hosted at McLeod Athletic Park in Langley. “We have a bunch of great kids out here, and we’re trying to bring a little taste of the NFL to Canada,” Covington said.
At just 19 years of age, Surrey’s Kiera Van Ryk is already among the top volleyball players in Canada. She proved it over the summer by making the country’s 14-woman roster that flew to Japan for the 2018 FIVB World Volleyball Championships. Meantime, with the UBC Thunderbirds in October, the Surrey Christian School grad set out to show that her record-setting rookie season was no fluke.
In March, Cloverdale-based Team Tardi won a world junior curling championship in Scotland, defeating the host nation 6-5 in extra ends to claim top spot. “I’ve been dreaming about this moment,” said Tyler Tardi after the win. “To finally have it come true is unbelievable.”
Elizabeth Model, CEO of Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, is in some elite company for being the only woman in the world to complete every Ironman triathlon race ever organized. A 92-race Ironman veteran, she’ll aim for her 100th next year to continue being part of “The Club,” a five-member fraternity that includes her partner, John Wragg, and fellow endurance athletes from Mexico, the U.S. and Germany.
In September, the Surrey Eagles retired the No. 10 worn by former Eagles forward Jaxon Joseph, who was among 16 killed in the Humboldt Broncos bus crash last April. In July, former Surrey Eagle defenceman Nathan Oystrick was hired to coach the Saskatchewan junior team, replacing the late Darcy Haugan.
Weightlifter Christine Girard finally received her two new Olympic medals – a gold from the 2012 Games and a bronze from 2008 – in a December ceremony in Ottawa. Girard’s original placings – third in 2012 and fourth in ’08 – were bumped up to podium spots after competitors ahead of her were busted for doping violations.
with files from Nick Greenizan