YEAR IN REVIEW: Surrey’s winning athletes and teams of 2016 – and some losers, too

UFC dream comes true, heartbreak for Whalley baseball team, gold medals and more

The Whalley Major Allstars baseball team with their B.C. championship banner.

The Whalley Major Allstars baseball team with their B.C. championship banner.

Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers prevail to win provincial JV football title

Two touchdown passes and a field goal were enough to power Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers to a Junior Varsity provincial championship on Dec. 3. The Cloverdale-based team’s 17-14 win over Victoria’s Mt. Douglas Rams was earned during a day of Subway Bowl action at BC Place Stadium. The Nick Kawaza-coached squad of Grade 9 and 10 players scored the first points of the game and held on as the Rams battled back to make things interesting in the fourth quarter. Receiver Jaden Simon showed flashes of his famous father, B.C. Lions legend Geroy Simon, and Trey Jones earned game-MVP honours for his work as QB. In other Subway Bowl action, North Delta’s Seaquam Seahawks won the AA Varsity title with a 25-15 win over Vernon. It was the final game of Jerry Mulliss’ 49-year coaching career and his first-ever provincial title as a coach.

UFC dream comes true for Fleetwood-raised Jeremy Kennedy (pictured)

On Aug. 27, seven years after his very first mixed martial arts (MMA) battle in a church not far from his Surrey home, Jeremy Kennedy made his UFC debut at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, and won the fight. In the card’s first fight, a lightweight-division battle, he scored a unanimous decision over fellow Canadian newcomer Alessandro Ricci. Kennedy, 23, is a natural featherweight (145-pound class) who was competing in a division up. As of this week, Kennedy is still waiting for his next call from UFC brass. “I’m waiting to get a call in my proper weight class,” he told the Now. “They can get me a fight at 155, I’m sure, but it’s a little harder with me wanting to go down.”

Whalley team comes within two runs of Little League World Series berth

On a hot August day in Vancouver, tears later turned to smiles and laughter for the Whalley Major Allstars. The team of 11-to 13-year-olds fell just a couple runs short of realizing their dream trip to the fabled Little League World Series. Instead of flying to Williamsport, the baseball-ing boys of Whalley spent some time thinking about the Canadian Little League championship that could have been theirs; after dominating most teams during round-robin play, the squad lost 1-0 to the host Hastings team in the tournament final. The result meant Hastings, not Whalley, got to represent Canada at the big show in Pennsylvania. However, things weren’t all bad for the Whalley team following the loss. “We just went to Boston Pizza and the kids have forgotten about it already,” team manager Marc Chiasson told the Now later that evening. “Half of them were crying on the field after the game but we went (for dinner) and they were all laughing there and smiling, like nothing happened.”

Valley West Hawks fly to win B.C. title but fail to soar in Alberta

The Valley West Hawks’ hockey season came to an end in April, but not without a fight. The B.C. Major Midget League champs lost twice to Lloydminster Bobcats, ending the team’s goal of going to the Telus Cup national championships. In the Pacific regional final, held in the Alberta-Saskatchewan border town, Lloydminster swept the Hawks with victories of 4-1 and 5-3. The Hawks roster consists of players aged 15 to 17 from Cloverdale, North Delta, Semiahmoo and Surrey minor hockey associations. This season, the team is currently in fourth place in the BCMML standings, with 15 wins in 24 games played.

(Story continues below photo)

Motocross racing returns to the Stetson Bowl in Cloverdale (pictured)

In a win for local riders, motocross racing returned to the Stetson Bowl at Cloverdale Fairgrounds. The Tuesday-evening races in June and July were augmented by Saturday daytime practices at the outdoor bowl, which last saw motocross action in the 1990s. The Future West Moto races were very much a family affair, and for many there was a definite sense of deja vu. “This was a huge undertaking for these guys to do this, and I want to thank them for doing it,” Lee Coutts, a veteran presence in the motocross scene, told Now contributor Gord Goble.

Surrey Knights winless (so far) in team’s first hockey season at North Surrey rink

At the oldest of three rinks at North Surrey Recreation Centre, Surrey Knights took to the ice at their new home in early September. Ever since, life hasn’t been easy for the Junior B squad as they’ve won zero of the 30 games played to start the season, including a 4-1 loss to Port Moody before the Christmas break. Sadly, the Knights are inching closer to breaking a record for futility in the Pacific Junior Hockey League (PJHL). League president Ray Stonehouse told the story of the flightless Mission Pilots of the mid-1980s. “They went the entire season without winning a game, and (they) almost went another entire season without winning a game,” Stonehouse told the Now. “I’m sure it’s frustrating,” he added. “You feel for the kids, and they’ve been so close to winning.” The Knights will again aim for a first post-game celebration when their schedule resumes on Monday, Jan. 2 against Abbotsford Pilots.

Surrey U17 squad a national force on the volleyball court

It was another banner season for the U17 Force volleyball team as the squad won its third straight national championship at a Volleyball Canada tourney in Saskatoon from May 13 to 15. Impressively, the Force had not lost a game to a team in its own age division since 2013. During the club volleyball season, which runs from January to May, they practice three times a week at Pacific Academy in Fraser Heights.

Gold medal for Cloverdale curler at Youth Olympic Winter Games

Cloverdale teen Tyler Tardi has a bright future ahead of him on the curling rink, given the medals he won in 2016. In Lillehammer in February, Tardi and Team Canada capped an unbeaten run through the tournament’s mixed curling competition with a 10-4 win over the U.S. A few weeks earlier at the 2016 Canadian Junior Curling Championships in Stratford, Ont., Tardi, then 17, and his older brother, second Jordan Tardi, earned bronze with Team B.C. following an 8-3 semifinal loss to Team Manitoba, the eventual champs. Looking ahead, the Tardis have qualified for the 2017 B.C. Junior Men’s Curling Championship taking place at the Royal City Curling Club from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1, and they’ll be competing in February at the 2017 B.C. Men’s Curling Championship in Abbotsford.

Silver for Surrey United U14 girls at Canadian club soccer championships

A long trip to New Brunswick had a silver lining for the girls of Surrey United’s U14 team, which placed second at the Sport Chek National Club Championships held in Moncton in October. As the B.C. reps in the 10-team soccer tournament, United fell 2-1 in extra time to the Foothills squad from Calgary, during a final played in driving wind and rain. In their five games at nationals, the Arianne Adams-coached team scored 10 goals and allowed three. Amy Connorton and Madelin Mah led the way with three goals each.

B.C.’s ‘Ms. Lacrosse’ lives in Newton

For her behind-the-scenes work, Surrey’s Beth McLucas was named “Ms. Lacrosse” in B.C. as this year’s winner of the Tom Gordon Plaque. The award was given to McLucas, a Newton resident, during the B.C. Lacrosse Association’s annual general meeting in Whistler. She’s among the province’s most involved volunteers in both box and field lacrosse, at the executive level.