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Looking back on 2016 in sports

Sports editor Emanuel Sequeira takes a look back at the Penticton Vees, both old and new, in 2016.

Athletes and teams that represent Penticton in sports experienced just about everything possible in 2016.

Some teams reached the ultimate high, while others came up short.

After entering the BCHL playoffs with 50-plus wins and being ranked amongst the best Canadian Junior Hockey League teams, the Penticton Vees lost their best-of-seven series to the eventual RBC Cup champion West Kelowna Warriors in six games at the end of March.

Read more: Warriors knock out Vees

“I have an empty feeling in my stomach right now and probably will for a long time,” said Vees captain Tyson Jost at the time. “I came back to win a national championship and to not have that is hard.”

Jost was part of a core group of five players who experienced heartbreak at the national tournament last year in the semifinals. He, along with Dante Fabbro, Gabe Bast and Demico Hannoun expected to be fighting again for the RBC Cup, until the West Kelowna Warriors got in the way.

While none of those core players would accept injuries as an excuse, they were dealing with some. Hannoun suffered his second broken wrist of the season right before playoffs, Colton Poolman returned in the second round nursing a separated shoulder, Bast missed almost the whole year with injury. Then there was Jost, the BCHL’s third highest scorer in the regular season, received a slash in the series against Vernon.

“I fractured my finger,” he said, adding it was not something he wanted to dwell on or blame for his play.

The Vees were also without part of their goalie tandem when Anthony Brodeur was put on the injury list with a knee issue. Combine that with coming up against a hot Warriors goaltender, 14 pucks rung off the post and a whole lot of shots blocked by the Warriors defencemen, the Vees stumbled.

The five returning Vees, Nicholas Jones, Owen Sillinger, Taylor Ward, Gabe Bast and Griffin Mendel, are determined to accomplish what they fell short on doing.

In May, Jost and Fabbro won CJHL awards. Fabbro was named the top defenceman, while Jost added most valuable player and top forward to his BCHL MVP award. In the summer, the pair heard their names called in the NHL Entry Draft. Jost went 10th to the Colorado Avalanche, while Fabbro was chosen 17th by the Nashville Predators. The friends close out the year by playing for Team Canada in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Junior Championship.

Local favourites capture ITU Long Course distance

In late August, Penticton welcomed athletes for the International Triathlon Union national championships for duathlon, aquathlon, cross triathlon, aqua bike and triathlon. Qualifying positions were up for grabs for the ITU Multisport World Championship Festival Penticton will host in 2017 for the duathlon.

Sister Madonna Buder returned to compete in the duathlon’s 80-plus age category and finished in just under four hours. Prior to competing, she was in the spotlight for being in a Nike commercial.

Winning the long course distance were locals Jeff Symonds and Jen Annett, who along with qualifying to represent Canada, earned $6,000.

Former Vees shine in Young Stars

Troy Stecher and Michael Garteig shone for the Vancouver Canucks during the Canucks Young Stars Classic Sept. 16 to 19.

Stecher piled up nine shots in his first game against the Edmonton Oilers, while collecting an assist against the Winnipeg Jets.

Stecher used the tournament to build confidence and improve. His goal was to keep on building on what the team was doing and impress management, which he did.

Stecher, who started the season in Utica playing four games, has seen action with the Canucks and has been one of the brighter spots on a struggling team. He has a goal (the first in his NHL career scored on Nov. 13 vs. Dallas) and nine points in 26 games to go with a minus-six rating and 70 shots. Garteig has been called up once by the Canucks serving as a backup. He has spent the season with the Alaska Aces in the ECHL, where he has won seven of eight games, one shutout, to go with a 2.39 goal against average and .926 save percentage.

Lakers captures provincial title

Anna Spence recalls the quiet before massive screams erupted from the Pen High Lakers swim team.

The group went crazy after the announcement at the B.C. High School swimming provincial championships in Kamloops that they had won the Lakers it’s their first ever title. The Lakers ended St. George’s School’s 15-year reign.

“I wish I had a video,” said Spence. “It was quiet then got louder than it had been the entire meet. It was a great experience to be part of.”

Spence was on the medley relay team that took second and the mixed medley that won and set a record as the Lakers girls won the overall. The girls side topped West Point Grey Academy, 336 to 331. St. George’s topped Pen High on the boys side 660 to 456 and overall the Lakers topped  St. George’s 792 to 660. Ninety-three schools competed.

The boys medley relay won and set a record with Tyler Wall, Jaren LeFranc, Sam Lasinki, and Riley Wall. Riley Wall took first in the 50-metre freestyle, Acacia Benn was second in the 100-m back stroke. The girls 400-m freestyle relay with Mackenzie Wallich,  Alia Waters, Kristen Vandeweghe and Benn were second. The boys 400-m freestyle relay with Sam Matthew, Elijah Kliever, Wynn Nordlund and Evan Peters took third. LeFranc completed the 100-m breast stroke in one minute, one second, snapping his own record by three seconds and is third in Canada behind a 23- and 26-year-old.

“It was pretty good,” said LeFranc. “I didn’t expect to be that fast. Hopefully it will stand for a while.”

Riley Wall also set a record while winning the 100-m freestyle. He finished it in 51 seconds. Lasinski took third in the 100-m fly, Benn was second in the 200 individual medley, while LeFranc took first and Tyler Wall tied for second in the 200 IM.

The girls took third in the 200-m free relay, and the boys (Tyler and Riley Wall, Xelian Louw and Matthew) won the 200-m free relay and set a record by more than three seconds.

“Everyone really came together,” said LeFranc. “It was amazing how it came together.”

Congratulations to all teams and individual athletes who achieved great accomplishments in 2016. May 2017 bring even more success to individuals and teams to make Penticton proud.