Byram golden boy at Western Canada Games

Nine gold medals, captain of the boys swim team, a couple of club records and the honour of being a flag bearer for champion Team B.C. at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops.

Golden medal boy Joe Byram.

Golden medal boy Joe Byram.

Nine gold medals, captain of the boys swim team, a couple of club records and the honour of being a flag bearer for champion Team B.C. at the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games in Kamloops.

It was an amazing few days for 17-year-old Vernon Kokanee Joe Byram, who helped B.C. record the most impressive medal haul in recent history.

The 345 B.C. athletes walked off the fields, courts, pools, course, mountains, lakes and mats with 130 gold, 68 silver and 63 bronze medals, an increase of 32 per cent.

Byram and Kierra Smith of Kelowna  won an astounding 16 medals between them in the pool and for that, Team B.C. named both of them joint flag bearers for Sunday’s Closing Ceremony.

Bryam, who could not be reached by The Morning Star, finished off a great summer of racing by winning three more gold Saturday night. He won gold in the 4×50 free relay with a split of 23.47; he also won gold in the 200 free going 1:51.40 in his evening swim (he went 1:51.00 in the morning – a club record) – and he finished off the night by leading the 4×100 medley relay to a victory.

The 261 medal count betters the mark of 197 won at the 2007 Games in Alberta.

Team B.C., whose athletes ranged in age from 12 to 42, has now won the Western Canada Summer Games Cup for the 10th time since the Games’ inception in 1975.

Their swimmers won an incredible 73 medals with 40 gold, 17 silver and 16 bronze. Athletics followed with 42 (18 gold, 15 silver and nine bronze) and canoe/kayak pocketed 33 medals.

“The talent pool of athletes in this province is deep,” said Team B.C. Chef de Mission Irene Schell of Victoria. “I look forward to following these athletes as they continue their journey to the top of national and international podiums.”

Wheelchair athletics athlete Tristan Smyth of Maple Ridge won three gold medals (200m, 400m and 1500m) after being injured in January, 2011, and competing in his first multi-sport Games.

Byram, who graduated a year early from the Vernon Secondary High Performance Program, said a few weeks ago his development has been steady in the last year, especially in backstroke events.

“We had a really good training year. Marc (Tremblay, outgoing Kokanee head coach) and I really made some progress. Technically, we found a pretty efficient and effective backstroke that’ll carry me through Olympic trials (for 2012 London Summer Games) next April.

“This year is more of a training year, next year is the racing year,” added the lanky six-footer.

Meanwhile, Vernon’s Sarah Mehain finished off the Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships in Edmonton with a bronze medal in the 100 breast. Her time was 1:53.90.

Mehain also finished fifth in the 200 IM in 3:21.53 and she also finished 4th in the 100 back in 1:35.85. The 16-year-old earlier pocketed a bronze in the 50 butterfly. Canada finished third with 62  medals.