KAMLOOPS – Vernon’s Seb Gardner will play his final home game for the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack Sunday in PacWest men’s soccer play at Hillside Stadium.
Gardner, who helped the Pack win the then B.C. College Athletic Association in 2007, has made a huge impact on the TRU program. The Pack (8-2-1) face the Langara Falcons (8-3-1) in a first-place showdown.
“He was a feisty kid from Vernon that supported Portsmouth (U.K.) through and through,” said WolfPack co-head coach Sean Wallace. “He wears his heart on his sleeve each and every time he steps onto the field and that is what I love about this guy.”
Since that first match, Gardner, like the program has enjoyed some ups and downs. For the 5-foot-10 midfielder, the highs have included two trips to the CCAA championships (2007 and 2008), being named a PacWest all-star in 2012 and meeting fellow soccer player Cassie Drummond, who he married a few weeks ago.
The lows have been two bouts of cancer. His latest chemotherapy came before the start of this season.
“Seb has matured as a player and an individual more than any 25-year-old should,” said Wallace. “As a player, he has grown to where any team would be glad to have him on their team and we appreciate his leadership qualities that he shares with the team.
“As an individual, he has had to overcome a lot with injuries and medical problems but I think it has made him stronger person and better for it.”
Added co-coach John Antulov: “He is probably one of the most selfless players I have ever coached. I have never seen a player that gets to know everyone personally on the team, but also make them feel a part of the program by engaging them in conversation and bringing them into the fold.”
Both coaches feel Gardner will leave a legacy through how he conducted himself as a passionate leader on and off the field.
Wallace has two fond stories about his soon-to-be-graduating player.
“One was in 2007 during the provincial final. Seb had played a hard first half but with his team down 2-0, he was subbed out to watch the second half unfold. He did not get down. He cheered on his teammates from the side and helped them come back and win in penalty kicks. I still have a photo of him with his arm around our youngest son Keenan and the rest of his teammates on the sidelines during the penalty kicks taking place on the field waiting for the final shot and the celebration to begin.
“The second one was last year during fitness testing doing the Cooper Run. He had just finished his run under 12 minutes and was waiting for the next group to finish and one of the rookies, Nolan Wallace, was struggling coming up to his final lap and Seb offered to run with him to encourage him to get around the track in the time needed. It was a very selfless act and showed his true qualities as a leader and teammate.”
Gardner will graduate this spring with a Bachelor of Social Work. The WolfPack host the Quest Kermodes of Squamish (0-9-3) on Saturday. Their playoff picture will be clear after Sunday’s match.