National champion Vees top story

South Okanagan teams and athletes enjoyed various successes in 2012.

PENTICTON VEES FORWARD Joey Benik blew away any hopes the Woodstock Slammers might have had of being champs when he scored the RBC Cup clinching goal in May. Middle

PENTICTON VEES FORWARD Joey Benik blew away any hopes the Woodstock Slammers might have had of being champs when he scored the RBC Cup clinching goal in May. Middle

South Okanagan teams and athletes enjoyed various successes in 2012.

The biggest story in the sporting landscape here was the Penticton Vees capturing the 2012 RBC Cup in Humboldt, Sask., against the Woodstock Slammers. Joey Benik hammered home the 4-3 winner with 51.3 seconds left in the third period. It’s the franchise’s second national championship and first since 1986. One connection between those two teams is that John DePourcq helped the Penticton Knights win, while his son Cody cracked the roster as a 16-year-old and earned his own ring. The 2011-12 Vees were a stacked roster that set a BCHL record with 30 wins in a row, then set a Canadian Junior Hockey League record at 42 and was talked about throughout the country. The most impressive quality about that team was that they didn’t quit on many plays. In fact, they scored in situations they had no business capitalizing on. It was an impressive group to watch. Getting there came with adversity. A 25-game suspension at the beginning of the season to Logan Johnston, season-ending injury to Connor Reilly, injury to their first-string goaltender as playoffs were about to begin and losing the opening two games at the national tournament.

“We went through our fair share of stuff and every time there was a big game our guys found a way to get through it,” said Vees coach-GM Fred Harbinson at the time.

They weren’t the only team to win a championship. On the soccer pitch, the South Okanagan Youth Soccer Association Pinnacles captured a provincial title from the under-16 girls, while the under-13, -14 and -17 boys returned with bronze medals. It’s a rewarding payoff for the players, coaches and management involved in the process of developing better players.

There was also the first-ever Saratoga Cup win by the Penticton Harlequins rugby club. The Harlequins defeated the Brit Lions from Delta 26-10. Harlequins captain Brad Martin was elated by the victory and proud of his teammates.

“Joy, elation, a little bit of exhaustion after all the hard work,” said Martin in September.

“I thought it was probably one of the best games that I’ve seen our team play in the last five to 10 years,” said Harlequins coach Ken Sommerfeldt.

On the slopes, Summerland’s Kristi Richards decided to retire from the Canadian national mogul team. Penticton’s Andi Naude enters the fold on the B team.

Summerland’s Claire Boothe is another athlete who comes to mind. She competed in the Junior Pan Am Games for karate in Cancun, Mexico Aug. 30 to Sept. 1. Boothe was joined by Sukhresh Kaloty. While neither won their respective matches, they gained valuable experience. Boothe is the reigning Canadian champion in the girls 16/17-year-old 48-kilogram sparring division. She also represented Canada in the Junior Olympics and U.S. Open.

Returning to team achievements briefly, the Princess Margaret Mustangs junior boys volleyball team earned a bronze medal during provincials. They defeated Langley Christian this past fall.

There are other athletes who have achieved a lot. Space prevents me from giving them their due justice. To those who received recognition in these Western News sports pages, I say congratulations for what you achieved, reached and continue to strive for.

Last year also marked a change in the triathlon landscape. Penticton hosted its final Ironman Canada and most will say it was a great 30 years.  Feelings are mixed as some are attached to the Ironman brand, but those who I spoke to feel it’s a positive change, especially how it impacts their community. Those involved look forward to a new challenge — Challenge Penticton. Germany’s Christian Brader, who competed in the final Subaru Ironman Canada, summed it up best during the pre-race pro press conference.

“It’s just another label,” he said of Ironman. “I don’t think it’s less attractive than before. They (Challenge Family) do a good job. I know them from Germany. I’m sure it will be a good race. I would also come back if it is not an Ironman.”

With 2013 now here, Penticton gets a strong start by hosting the World Financial Group Continental Cup. Curling lovers will be glued to their seats in the South Okanagan Events Centre and watching on TV as the worlds top curlers show off their skills.

What a year. I look forward to what 2013 brings and the athletic accomplishments people reach.