Prince Rupert athletes hope to strike gold in Nanaimo

Suttira Johansen, Puneet Gill, Zach Dolan, Amy Leighton, Liam McChesney and Robert Warren will be hunting for medals.

Nanaimo is set to welcome the Northwest for the B.C. Summer Games and Suttira Johansen (volleyball), Puneet Gill (soccer) and Zach Dolan, Amy Leighton, Liam McChesney and Robert Warren (swimming) will be hunting for medals.

Gill will take her spot among the forward corps of the soccer squad headed by Terrace coach Michael Denomme. Gill is the only Rupertite to make the squad.

Johansen, the lone Rupert representative on girls’ volleyball is Northwest’s outside hitter and has earned heaps of praise from Northwest head coach Kam Siemens.

“She just has that athleticism that allows her to adapt very quickly,” said Siemens.

“She’s probably her own worst critic. That’s just the way that I know all my athletes are but she just demands excellence out of herself which is wonderful because we don’t have to push her as hard. She just does it.”

Johansen will play the outside hitter position on the starting six for the volleyball team. The secondary squad is made up of Grade 8 girls from the region. Johansen joined Siemens’ club team in Terrace while in Grade 8 two years ago when the coach discovered her.

The field of competition will be unlike anything the girls have ever faced in the northwest.

“It’s not going to be easy,” said the coach.

“This is the best of the best … [Some of the Lower Mainland zones] have 500 kids to select from. We have 17.”

Siemens works on the mental side of the game just as much as the athletic, especially because they’re growing girls, she said.

“We may not be the tallest or the strongest but we do have the edge in strategy and teamwork because the people across from you may be better volleyball players than them but it doesn’t make them a team.”

The positive aspect is that since there were only 17 players to choose from across the region, the teammates already know each other’s tendencies before even becoming a team.

With the swimmers, Prince Rupert Rapids head coach Chris Street said while the games may be a unique and incredible experience, the level of competition may not reach that of provincials.

“The way it works is, you’re sleeping in a school gym and it’s a lot of events over two days … It’s one of those things that lots of people when they retire, they’ll harken back to this as the most fun they ever had in a swim meet, so it’s a great time and an amazing experience but not necessarily a high-performance environment,” said Street.

Dolan, Leighton, McChesney and Warren will be coached by Smithers’ Tom Best.