It was hard to miss all the headlines made by Westlock’s volleyball squads this year.
Not only did the R.F. Staples T-Birds host the 3A boys’ provincial championship, which brought scores of enthusiastic players and fans to town, but both the T-Birds and the St. Mary Sharks earned silver medals in their respective divisions.
Furthermore, all four of our town’s senior squads got a chance to take on the best in the province. Both T-Birds squads and the Sharks boys won zone championships, while the Sharks girls took silver medals at zones and earned a wildcard spot for their provincial tournament.
It’s hard to understate the effect these successes will have on these young players’ lives. In many cases, players are using their experiences at provincials as a springboard for higher levels of play at colleges in the province.
At the very least, the experience of playing at a top-level sporting event will be one that the players will remember for the rest of their lives.
Few around here would disagree that Westlock rocks, but last season the Pee Wee Westlock Rock Lacrosse team brought home a provincial gold medal to prove it.
It was a hard-fought grinder of a final game, but the Rock scored a double-overtime goal that gave them an 8-7 win over the Calgary Knights in the Alberta Lacrosse Council ‘B’ Championship final July 18.
The Rock earned their spot at that tournament by taking the gold at the Greater Edmonton Lacrosse Council ‘B’ League Championship in late June, so they will have a set of seriously impressive hardware.
It wasn’t all good news out of the Rock club this year, though. Kyle Killeen, a former player and the club’s “No. 1 fan,” died at age 21 due to a heart condition.
The club retired his jersey, No. 43, during a special ceremony in June, and it is expected to be displayed in the new Spirit Centre.
Two notable changes have taken place with minor hockey in Westlock – one that has significantly reduced travel time and the other giving parents and players more choice.
This year, the league has switched directions and joined the 1660 Hockey League, which is mostly composed of teams from the greater Edmonton area, which has significantly reduced the amount of time players have had to travel to get to their games.
The Westlock Minor Hockey Association’s teams have historically played in the Sturgeon-Pembina Hockey League, which meant players and parents had to do a significant amount of driving; the league has teams as far away as Jasper and Slave Lake.
Players and parents were given more choice this hockey season with the creation the Westlock Fun Hockey group, which has about 30 players in its inaugural year.
It is registered under FunTeam Alberta, an organization that started about 20 years ago with Dr. Randy Gregg, a family physician and former Edmonton Oiler who saw the need for a community-based, less competitive alternative of the traditional approach to minor hockey.
These changes have meant some growing pains and adjustments for everyone involved, but in the end these two developments promise to provide a better and broader hockey experience for young players in the region.
This spring, there was a double dose of Games fever with the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver being only slightly overshadowed by the 2010 Alberta Winter Games, which were held Feb. 4-7 in the Lakeland region.
And while Spruce Grove’s Jennifer Heil made provincial headlines with her silver medal in the moguls event, two members of the Tawatinaw Valley Freeriders ski made local headlines with medals of their own.
Emma Siegle, 10, won two silver medals for her efforts, while her sister Kara, 13, brought home a silver and a bronze.
The Alberta competition took place at the Kinusoo Ridge Ski Hill in Cold Lake. A total of six skiers from the freeriders club qualified to compete in the competition.
The two stories, that of Heil and that of the Siegles, share a distinct connection, and not just because they have proven that people living on the prairies can develop some top-notch ski skills.
One of Heil’s coaches, Murray Cluff, has also spent some time working with the Tawatinaw team. Certainly, Siegle could be a name we see again on the skiing scene.
Kellie Galliford has really pinned down her reputation as a wrestler.
The 17-year-old R.F. Staples student earned a series of victories late last year that even overshadowed her successes from the previous season.
In December alone, Galliford brought home two gold medals from two different tournaments, and said she planned to keep up her training throughout the holiday season.
Her success on the mat has opened up some doors for her, as well; she said she might even qualify for a scholarship to the University of Alberta so she can continue her wrestling career on the university team.
The Westlock Wrestling Club is no stranger to winning, however. It has made headlines throughout the year, with its members as seemingly constant winners at the various competitions the club attends.
Furthermore, the club’s coach Jessie Norton, earned herself a coaching spot at the recent 2010 Alberta Winter Games. Norton coached the Zone 5 Bantam-aged girls, a total of 15 wrestlers from around the region.
Despite that added responsibility, she successfully coached many of the Westlock Wrestling Club’s members to medals throughout the year.