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Thunderbirds hand out the hardware

First wind-up for club since the onset of COVID-19
WES - Thunderbirds IMG-6607
Thunderbirds past and present gathered for a photo at the end of the association’s dinner and awards ceremony April 9 at Memorial Hall. The coming season is quickly approaching with the team’s first practice slated for May 9.

WESTLOCK – Following two tough years filled with uncertainty due to COVID-19, the Westlock Thunderbirds honoured not only their best from 2021 but welcomed back past players at their recent wind-up event.

Hosted at Memorial Hall April 9, long-time head coach Jon Kramer said the evening supper and awards ceremony was a long-anticipated wrap-up following back-to-back seasons that saw the club forgo its spring camp in 2021 due to ongoing COVID-19 protocols, then transition from the traditional 12-aside football to nine-on-nine and even six-on-six.

For the coming year, Kramer, who was elected as a town councillor in the fall of 2021, will be scaling back his duties as head coach and share the sidelines with Travis Darling. For the awards night the club also called back grads from the past two years as there was “a lot of kids and parents who had been looking forward to it for a long time.”

“The big word that comes to mind for me is gratitude. That was year 15 for me and it can sometimes get predictable when you’ve been doing it that long. So, we were really blessed to be able to get what we did last year and have a night to celebrate it,” said Kramer, who gave kudos to his coaching staff, association president Amanda Nelisher, the executive and parents for making the last two seasons happen. “It wasn’t a scramble, but they really worked hard to organize something. And the grads really worked hard at recruiting their friends and even making new friends to make sure we had a full roster.

“I know we didn’t have playoffs last year, which was a letdown for some of the grads and maybe wasn’t ideal. But after having a year of internal competition that was cut shut due to COVID, just getting out on the field and competing felt like winning the lottery for a lot of the kids.”

And while the night was a look back, Kramer said they’re already focused on the coming season with four weeks of training camp that’s slated to start May 10 and will culminate with a June 4 scrimmage on the road in Hinton. Right now they’ve got around 20 Grade 9-12 athletes signed up and 10 kids in Grades 7-8 — Kramer says there’s still time to register and directed prospective Thunderbirds to the club’s website, westlocktbirds.com.   

“It’s a little hard to think football when there’s still snow on the ground, but it’s coming together and the pendulum is swinging back and youth sports are going to keep going on,” he said.

2021 Award Winners

Most Valuable Player - Nicholaus Barrett

Best Defensive Player - Jaina Rudderham

Best Offensive Player - Ryan Medcke

Most Improved Player - Owen Gabel

Heart and Soul Award - Carson Ewasiw

Bonecrusher - Miguel Skuban

Rookie of the Year - Calyx Fertuck

Leadership Award - Chance Foster

Captains’ Choice - Michael Smith

George Blais, TownandCountryToday.com