The Charles Hays Secondary School wrestling team hauled in a half-dozen gold medals from the BC School Sport North West Wrestling Zone Qualifier, in Hazelton on Feb. 12.
The girls wrestling side won the zone team competition and brought home the 2022 championship banner.
Hyla McQuaid, Grade 11, Sarah Clarke, Neve Wilson and Mary-Jane Rojeski, Grade 9, secured the girls’ team top spot.
The names may seem familiar as all three girls just participated and won in the Western Canada Age Class Wrestling Championships in Burnaby.
“We’ve been really pleased with the development of our athletes,” Dane Waldal, team coach and Prince Rupert Middle School teacher, said.
Athletes who also competed on the team when zone competitions were held in Prince Rupert in 2019 have made big strides since Waldal said despite none winning their division back then.
“But this year, everyone single one of them managed to collect gold,” the coach said. “As coaches, we can see clearly there’s a significant amount of skill development and improvement.”
Winning gold medals for the boys were Tyson Nguyen and Tyler Harris, both Grade 9.
The high school wrestling team will next be competing in the provincial championships at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, beginning on Feb. 24.
However, the greatest foe to overcome this season is not a single opponent, but finances.
“The primary barrier for sport in Prince Rupert, particularly combat sports, is the cost of travel to go to these big events. Almost all of the major events, including provincials at the end of the month, are down in the Lower Mainland. So, we have to absorb a pretty significant travel cost just to get down there,” Waldal said.
Typically the team hosts fundraiser events throughout the year to cover some of the cost of travel, with businesses occasionally chipping in to help. Due to pandemic restrictions, this was not a possibility this season.
“So this year we are definitely in a pinch for fundraising,” Waldal said.
On their last trip to the Western Canada Age Class Wrestling Championships, the team managed to receive just $300 dollars in reimbursement, which wasn’t enough to cover the cost of the flight for one athlete.
However, since the zone qualifiers are a school event, the public is able to donate directly to Charles Hays Secondary School on behalf of the wrestling team. Any extra dollars leftover will go to funding next year’s season, Waldal said.
Norman Galimski | Journalist
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