Greater Trail athletes are primed and ready to compete at the B.C. Winter Games in Mission this weekend. pictured is figure skater Jacob Verhelst.

Athletes primed for B.C. Winter Games

A healthy contingent of Greater Trail athletes are off to Mission to compete in the 2014 B.C. Winter Games this week.

A healthy contingent of Greater Trail athletes are off to Mission to compete in the 2014 B.C. Winter Games this week.

The Games, held from Feb. 20–23, will include over 2,000 participants from eight different regions of B.C. that will compete in 18 sports over the four-day event. The Kootenay team is comprised of almost 130 athletes, coaches, and supervisors, including 18 from Greater Trail.

One of the largest teams in recent years comes from alpine skiing’s Red Mountain Racers (RMR). Head coach Samantha French will lead RMR’s Kaysa Panke, Samantha Gaul, Orion Humpherys, Gavin Patterson, Matthias Hoffmann, and Logan Merringer on the Kootenay Zone team after qualifying in races in Fernie last month.

“The exciting thing for me,” Humpherys said in a release, “is that I get to be on the same team as kids I’m normally competing against. I may also get to see my cousin racing in the Nordic events.”

The alpine events feature racers 13-14 years old, the youngest group of carded racers in the national ski-racing system.

The Beaver Valley Figure Skating Club is  represented by figure skater Jacob Verhelst and adult supervisor Shelley Verhelst of Fruitvale.

Jacob qualified in sectionals earlier this year in Richmond and will compete in Pre-novice men’s division in the short program and free skate.

Verhelst is both a powerful and dynamic skater, and is looking forward to the opportunity to compete against the best skaters in the province at the Games.

“Going into it, I just want to get the most out of the experience, and do the best that I possibly can out there and just have fun doing it,” said Verhelst who will compete in his first B.C Games.

Jacob’s mom Shelley will chaperone her son and two figure skaters from Fernie, Anna Kotlai and Emma Nieuwesteeg, to round out the figure-skating contingent.

“My job is to keep the athletes focused and to do what I can to help them achieve their dreams and expectations of the weekend,” said Shelley Verhelst.

Not only does the Games bring together the province’s best developing athletes, but it also promotes a positive social environment that allows young men and women from diverse regions of the province to make friendships and share in a special community bond.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Verhelst will be to ensure the athletes get their required rest, after sharing accommodations en masse on the floors of Mission school gymnasiums and classrooms.

“The kids are all excited about going,” said Verhelst. “I think Jacob will do okay. He had a good competition a couple weeks ago when we hosted the regional championships, he had a good skate there so he’s going into it with good skates so. The biggest thing for him is to make sure he gets enough sleep.”

In female hockey, team supervisor Mike Bonacci will lead another strong contingent of local players that include Trail’s Jessica Bonacci, Emma Caron, and Brady Stevens, as well as Kendra Waterstreet of Fruitvale.

Black Jack Cross country skiing competitors include Rossland’s Remi Drolet, Michaela McLean, and Bronwyn Moore, while Rossland’s Holly Heximer will coach the Biathlon team.

The Kootenays’ best emerging high-performance athletes, trained coaches, and certified officials begin competition on Friday.

The Opening Ceremonies go tonight at 7 p.m. at the Mission Raceway Park with events going in Mission, Abbotsford, Langley, Pitt Meadows, Hemlock, and Whistler.

The Closing Ceremonies go Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

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