June 19th, 2024

Athletes arrive for Alberta Games

By Sean Rooney on July 20, 2018.

Lidianna O'Neil (left) of Claresholm and Medicine Hat's Mia Kelly hold the Zone 1 banner prior to the opening ceremonies of the Alberta Summer Games in Grande Prairie on Thursday, July 19, 2018.


The bus ride took all day but dozens of Medicine Hat and area athletes were all smiles Thursday in Grande Prairie.

A total of 53 Hat athletes will compete in a range of sports this weekend at the Alberta Summer Games, boarding a bus just after midnight and arriving in time for lunch.

“The bus is great, the ride is surprisingly not as long as I thought it would be,” texted softball player Makayla Clarke to the News while still en route. “Everyone is playing card games and sleeping.”

Spotty cellphone service prevented telephone interviews with the athletes, but they seemed pretty upbeat, even after a downpour of rain at the opening ceremonies. After all, they’re part of a biannual games that will see nearly 3,000 athletes, coaches and staff participate.

The Sunny South zone, dominated numbers-wise by Medicine Hat and Lethbridge contingents, will look to improve upon its 2016 haul of 53 medals.

Clarke’s team just picked up a bronze medal at provincials and most of those players are on the Zone 1 squad, so they’ll have a good chance of finding the podium.

“Playing provincials definitely prepared me more for summer games by being able to compete and have game experience,” wrote the 16-year-old.

But these games are about a lot more than simply competing.

“I’m looking… forward to spending time with my teammates at the games,” wrote swimmer Kaitlin Skrove. “It is a great opportunity for me to meet new people, have fun and compete!”

After getting settled into their dorm-style accomodations, the main order of business was Thursday’s opening ceremonies. Clarke’s teammate Mia Kelly was one of the Zone 1 banner-bearers. Events get started Friday and run through until Sunday, when the games wind up with closing ceremonies.

Soccer boasts the largest contingent of Hatters, with 12 players on the boys team and two on the girls.

There’s also a group of nine football players plus coach Al Geib. Duchess’s Drake O’Keefe also made the cut for football, among five athletes from centres near Medicine Hat who are part of Zone 1’s contingent.

The Zone 1 track and field squad has nine Hatters plus Dunmore’s Sarah Pimblett, Redcliff’s Ayla and Trinity Wikjord and Irvine’s Gage Reinhart. Elic Ayomanor, Zachary Campbell and Jacob Krueger are in the rare position of competing in their second games thanks to age groups, though Ayomanor went as a lacrosse player last time.

Skrove, one of six swimmers, knows she’ll be eligible for the 2020 games and would love a return trip like teammate Berlin Mastel, who won a bronze medal in 2016.

“I went up a group, now I have a different coach and train harder, longer and more,” texted the 12-year-old Skrove of how her swim aspirations have developed.

In basketball, Bubu Benjamin is the lone local representative, and he’s already part of the Alberta team that will go to nationals later this summer.

Three baseball players and lacrosse’s Matthew Macpherson round out the Hat roster.

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