Term 1 Athletics
Back in September, volleyball kicked off the 2019 fall term. The Senior Girls, playing at the AAA level, enjoyed a season full of building and learning. Led by Claudia Murr, who went on to be named the SMUS Female Athlete of the Year, Katie Rothwell and defensive specialist Ines Wang, the team played well in early league matches.
With these games as a base, the Blue Jags then went on to compete well at both the prestigious Western Canada Independent Schools tournament, held in Calgary, and the BC Independent Schools Association event at Crofton House.
Back home, SMUS then gained a pivotal victory over Vic High to move on to the Island AAA finals. Eight closely balanced teams contested the three BC berths on offer. Unfortunately, despite producing their best performance of the season, the Blue Jags, though scrambling through a pool play tie-breaker, were eliminated in the quarterfinals. Anna Brinham, Josie Hallatt and Jasper Delichte capped fine seasons with very solid play.
On the Senior Boys side, and led by setter Kyle Stenberg, defensive ace Eddie Kim and power hitters Peter King and Karter Fry, SMUS battled through a very demanding exhibition schedule. Sixth place finishes at both the Camosun College and Argyle tournaments were then followed by an excellent performance in the Highland Invitational. In this latter event, the team dumped the hosts in the semi-final, rallying from an opening 25-23 loss to triumph 27-25 and 15-8.
More good play was to follow, with SMUS defeating provincial AAA No. 10 Semiahmoo as well as going five sets with highly rated Dover Bay and Pacific Christian School.
The Island AA tournament, held at SMUS, was a thrilling affair played in front of large and enthusiastic crowds. In a key pool victory versus Lambrick Park, Ben Beattie and Mark Finamore registered multiple blocks while Matias Totz and Mark Melo paced the right-side attack. Then, with a coveted provincial berth on the line, the Blue Jags executed wonderfully to defeat Mark Isfeld in a semi-final, though local nemesis PCS proved a bridge just too far in the championship match.
For such a fledgling program, a second consecutive appearance at the BCs was a fine achievement. In the end, SMUS won three of its seven matches at the Langley Events Centre. Close losses to both Duchess Park and Surrey Christian, and then a 27-29, 26-28 heartbreaker to WL Seaton were certainly disappointing, though the team did close on a high note with victories over Alpha and Sir Charles Tupper.
The 2019 season was noteworthy in that fully half of the Senior Girls squad of 18 were players in Grade 9. If at times inexperience and a lack of physical presence were issues, SMUS still compiled a solid set of City league results before placing fifth in the ISAs and then winning the consolation shield at the prestigious Bridgman Cup.
While a loss to AAA powerhouse Oak Bay, in the May Tully Shield City final then followed, the squad regrouped very well to defeat Francis Kelsey, Lambrick Park and Brentwood to reach the Island AA final versus Shawnigan Lake School. Despite a loss in the final, the Blue Jags earned a spot at provincials.
As always, the provincial AA tournament, played in Victoria, provided the ultimate tests. Seeded No. 6, SMUS opened with wins versus Westview and South Kamloops, leaving a final match against No. 3 York House to determine pool finish. Alas, conceding goals immediately before and after halftime left a deficit too large to claw back.
Undeterred, the Blue Jags then gave their best effort of the season, battling an experienced and polished Shawnigan Lake School team all the way to the end before falling 3-1.
Suzie Stone, Lizzy Bass, Stephanie Ganz and goalkeeper Jessie Cheng all played strongly throughout the season to cap fine SMUS careers. Likewise, Elle Nelson and Julia McDermott provided savvy and experience. Yet, as mentioned, it was the Grade 9s who, in showcasing their considerable ability, also promised much for the future. Notables from this group included Eva Cuddihy, Ella Delichte, Lauren Fracy, Fay Hoefer and Rebecca Stone. They should be a joy to watch in the years ahead.
Senior Boys Soccer also enjoyed a very busy campaign in Term 1, with seven teams contesting the most balanced Tier 1 City league in recent memory. SMUS’s 3-1-2 record was good for only fifth place, though any disappointment was quickly extinguished following a tremendous Colonist Cup quarterfinal upset of unbeaten Claremont. While SMUS then fell at the semifinal level by the same 1-0 score to Reynolds, the matches themselves, in addition to a bronze medal finish in a grueling ISA tournament, had the team well prepared entering the Island AA competition.
In this event, opening wins over Brooks and Lambrick Park propelled SMUS into a third consecutive final against Carihi. In a highly entertaining matchup, the team was just unable to hold on after a brace by Callum Colgate and a magnificent header by Efosa Imasekha gave the Blue Jags a one goal lead on three consecutive occasions. However, the Tyees scored in a last-minute goalmouth scramble to draw level at 3-3. Extra time solved nothing, though both teams had chances. In the end, amid high drama, Carihi advanced 6-5 on penalty kicks.
At BCs, an opening loss versus South Kamloops and a subsequent defeat to eventual tournament winner Notre Dame knocked SMUS into the consolation bracket. In the end, two wins from five matches and an 11th place finish were not what the team had hoped, however the fine work of Ben Shaw was showcased, as he was named to the Commissioner’s XI.
Shaw and Colgate were dangerous on attack all season, with seniors Will Kinahan, Adam Roberts, Erik Peters and Andres Vega Perez also prominent.
The Cross Country teams enjoyed a very solid season overall, with Grade 10 Tion McLeish running remarkably well throughout the term. In the City races, at Henderson Park, Cedar Hill and Beaver Lake, both the Senior Girls and Senior Boys consistently finished in second place, thanks in part to fine efforts by Flavius Meinecke, Nicholas Herrmann, Angel Lan, Izzy Champion and Sophia Tafel.
At the Islands, held in Nanaimo, strong performances by Anouk Schoch and Kristina Matthews helped the Senior Girls advance to the BCs, while yet another scorching run by McLeish saw him demolish the Junior Boys field.
In the provincial meet, at Abbotsford’s Clearbrook Park, 12 SMUS athletes acquitted themselves splendidly. Superb weather and a grassy, flat course promised some excellent times and so it proved. At Senior Girls level, in a field of 250 runners, Champion enjoyed an excellent outing and 41st place finish. Matthews and Lan also ran strongly, while Lauren Randall-Guy, Alanna Henry, Nadine Reis each produced their best races of the term.
In the Junior Boys competition, Calum Webber-Smith, Diamond Haripottawekul and Mudmee Khankham performed well, though, in the end, the day belonged to McLeish. Though a relative newcomer to the provincial scene, he capped a stunning school season by blowing away a strong field over 4km, winning the Junior Boys race comfortably in a time of 12.44.01.
Amazingly, three weeks later, McLeish then won the national U16 race in a photo finish. It was a worthy final flourish by the SMUS Junior Athlete of the Year, as he brought down the curtain on first term athletics.
Read the recaps of Term 2 and Term 3 Athletics: