It was, quite simply, a thrilling week of sport.
Eleven SMUS runners competed at the Provincial Championships across three race categories. Conditions were less than ideal at Jericho Beach Park in Vancouver, with half of the course under 15 centimetres of standing water.
In the Junior Girls division, 240 runners started. In the slop and mud, progress through a packed field was difficult. In the end, Avery Geddes finished a very credible 44th place, while Nella Meinecke, Beatrice Sharpe, Maria Gilardi Gutierrez and Larisse Zhao rounded out what was a 15th-place team. Meinecke, out for the previous two weeks due to injury, turned in a particularly gutsy performance.
In the Junior Boys competition, Grade 9 standout Owen Sandquist-Sherman, after a solid first loop, began experiencing some muscle cramping. Despite this challenge, he battled through to place 40th in a field of 265 athletes.
The Senior Boys took to the course for the final race of the day. With rain thundering down, the course now featured new sections of deep mud and treacherous footing. Early on, Tion McLeish was in a small chase pack about 10 seconds out of the lead. Digging in on the second lap, he dropped the chase pack but still remained behind the leader. While not able to quite catch his opponent, his silver medal finish was a tremendous result, especially given the crazy conditions. Not to be forgotten, the other SMUS runners also enjoyed solid performances. Calum Webber-Smith, Bryson Henry, Oscar Lau and Joshua Kim combined with McLeish to finish 16th out of 26 teams.
The Senior Girls Field Hockey team concluded an exciting season with a silver medal finish at the most competitive BC AA Tournament in recent memory. On the turf at UVic, SMUS enjoyed pool wins over Southridge (7-0) and Windsor (2-1) before, courtesy of goal from Eva Cuddihy and shutout by goalie Talia Pike, tripping up local rival Mount Douglas in the quarterfinal.
This victory set up a semi-final showdown against powerhouse Crofton House. Down 1-0 in the late going, a superb solo effort by Cuddihy sent the game to a shootout. With Pike performing heroics in net, markers from Cuddihy and Fay Hoefer confirmed a place in the championship match.
Alas, up against a polished York House side, the Blue Jags surrendered two early goals, ensuring a long and difficult climb back into the game. Cuddihy capped an outstanding tournament with a well-taken penalty flick, but the required equalizing goal never materialized.
Despite some disappointment, it was a very successful term’s work. The team produced some wonderful hockey, and, with senior Emma Curry the only player set to graduate, SMUS looks set for further success in 2022.
The fall term rowing season also came to an end with the November 6-7 City Regatta. Inevitably, Mother Nature served up its usual dish of rain, wind and a smattering of sunshine. However, the water remained calm enough, with multiple SMUS crews going on to reach the podium.
In no particular order, in a team championship display, SMUS finished first and second in both the Open Novice 4X- and the Novice 4X D races, as well as top two in various Novice 8+ categories.
As well, a mixed gender crew of four boys and four girls, coxed by Sydney Sugar, won a bronze medal in the Open 8+ race. Finally, the Open 4X- group took silver in their race.
Congratulations to all involved, with special mention to the following race winners: Jaieme Aubertin, Jaclyn Chow, Marlene Dietrich, Pippa Hlannon, Spencer Peters, Finley Rolfe, Willow Tzonev, Samantha Yee and Tiger Zhang.
Grade 9 Rugby also moved to the end of its season. Bolstered by a handful of Castaway-Wanderer guest players, SMUS, playing as an Invitational selection, hosted Collingwood, the top team from the mainland.
In tricky conditions, both sides played some wonderful rugby, with the visitors scoring a fine, multi-phase try with the clock in the red to edge home 10-8. For SMUS, winger Zaki Pelyhe was a threat throughout, while Ewan Webber-Smith, Markus Djurickovic and Kingston Hollis were the pick of a hard-working pack. Halfbacks Jack Driscoll and Harry Rothwell coped well under pressure, with centre Brody Harris running strongly.
While Senior Boys Soccer moved on to the BC AA qualifying Tournament in Campbell River, the Junior Boys Soccer team competed in their own Island event November 1-3.
In pool play, the Blue Jags topped their group by virtue of wins versus Carihi (4-0) and Mark Isfeld (3-1) and a scoreless draw against Royal Bay. Cole Michel was in rich form, finding the back of the net on five occasions, with Kian Colgate and Enrique Gilardi Gutierrez also on the scoresheet. Goalkeeper Camilo Libreros Rios, backed by a strong defence, also featured strongly.
The championship final, against City rival Claremont, had a little bit of everything, as weather conditions forced a day’s delay and a move to a turf field.
The Spartans controlled most of the first half possession and were perhaps unlucky not to be up heading to intermission. SMUS duly came on strong in the second frame, just failing to connect on two excellent scoring chances. In the end, after regulation and extra time could not determine a winner, the game went to penalties. Credit to Claremont, who converted all their spot kicks, with the one Blue Jags’ miss proving to be the difference.
Nonetheless, the team has so much of which to be proud. The group’s development over a nine-week period was impressive.
The Junior Girls completed their season, with tight, three-set wins over Mount Douglas and Belmont confirming Island qualification. In this competition, despite the best efforts of Avery Geddes, Chioma Duru and Joss Olcen, SMUS fell to Reynolds at the quarterfinal stage en route to a 6th-place finish.
Meanwhile, the long and winding playoff road for the Senior Girls team continued. In AA matches, the team defeated Glenlyon Norfolk School 2-0 but lost in a close, hard fought match versus Pacific Christian School. Anna Fowler, Makena Anderson, Maya Brinham, Delaney Arkell and Skye Farish all performed well, with a final City qualifier upcoming versus Lambrick Park.
SMUS then gets set to host the Island AA Tournament November 19-20.
The Senior Boys, on the heels of a 5th-place finish at the Belmont Invitational, balanced wins over Parkland, Royal Bay, Esquimalt, Mount Douglas and Victor Brodeur with a loss to Oak Bay. The City AA playoffs begin November 10, with the Blue Jags seeded second behind tournament favourite Pacific Christian School. Joshua Muwonge, Ryan Cheng, and libero Nathan Chiao played particularly well.
Finally, and appropriately, given basketball will get underway shortly, huge congratulations to Steve Nash ’92. Now head coach of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, the two-time Most Valuable Player, as part of the league’s 75th anniversary celebrations, was recently named one of its 75 all time greatest players. High praise indeed.