Vernon ringette products Courtney Bacon (from left), Abygayle Williamson, Alyssa Racine and Aly Carter are playing for B.C. at the Canada Winter Games which open Friday in Red Deer. (Photo submitted)

Vernon ringette players lead BC to Canada Games

Quartet pumped to begin action at highest calibre tournament they’ll compete in

For a picture of perseverance, meet Abygayle Williamson.

The soon-to-be Vernon Secondary graduate (finished a semester early) was in the midst of trying out for a spot on the Team B.C. ringette roster for the Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, which begin Friday when she completely tore her ACL in her knee playing in the B.C. High School Senior Girls Basketball Championships for the Panthers.

“I had been to a year of camps and ice training and fitness when I tore my knee,” said Williamson, 17, one of four Vernon Ringette Association girls named to Team B.C. that will play in Red Deer.

She had surgery in May 2018, missed the last three training camps, but her play and effort prior to the injury had solidified her spot on the provincial squad. She returned to skating in October 2018 and has made a complete comeback.

Williamson will be joined in Red Deer by longtime teammates, friends, sisters, Aly Carter and Alyssa Racine of Vernon and Coldstream, and Salmon Arm’s Courtney Bacon. The four have played together for years and have competed in B.C. Games, provincials, Western Canadian and national ringette finals.

“The Canada Winter Games will be the highest calibre we’ve played,” said Williamson, a forward who will play on a line with Quesnel’s Katie Young and Brooke Valancious of New Westminster. “My knee is fully recovered and I’m looking forward to getting on the ice.”

Ringette games during the competition will be streamed live. B.C. opens against Ontario and PEI on Sunday, Feb. 17. B.C. will play Quebec Monday and finish the preliminary round Tuesday against Saskatchewan.

Related: Local teams medal in Calgary

Related: Vernon teams capture gold in Langley

Racine is almost the elder stateswoman of Team B.C., the second-oldest player at 19. She will wear the C with pride as captain of the provincial squad, an honour bestowed upon her by B.C.’s coaches, which surprised her.

“It’s kind of unreal,” said Racine, studying at Okanagan College to be an elementary school teacher. “It’s quite an honour. They were watching us during the tryouts and decided who they thought should be captain.”

Racine, who has made the move from forward to defence for the Winter Games, and will be paired with Delta’s Amanda Mott, sees B.C. as an underdog for a podium finish.

“We’re not expected to do too much but I think if we can put it all together, we’ll show we can compete,” she said.

Carter, in Grade 12 at VSS, is in her 13th year of ringette. The forward will play on a line with Coquitlam’s Ashley Robb and Hailey Takasaki of Richmond.

“We work well together,” said Carter of her B.C. linemates. “Hailey is a good playmaker with crazy good hands and Ashley is a good grinder and smart on the ice.

“All of the teams will really be grinding it out. Whoever has really good games at the right time will be in the hunt for a medal. There are three or four teams that are exactly the same as us.”

A Grade 12 student at Salmon Arm Secondary School, Bacon has her own driver’s licence now but has relied on parents Heidi and Craig too and from Vernon to play ringette at a higher calibre for the past six years.

She needed extra convincing from B.C. coaches that she had, in fact, made the team.

“When I first round out, I thought it wasn’t real and that they were joking,” laughed Bacon, 17. “Then I shrieked when I found out. It was very exciting that I had finally made the team.”

Bacon, a forward, will play with Emma Paradis of Langley and Sidney Crowe of Maple Ridge. It will be her job to go and get the ring for her linemates.

“My skating is one of my strengths and I’m aggressive so it’s my job to go and get the ring once we lose it,” said Bacon.

The Canada Games run Feb. 15 to March 3 and will feature a number of North Okanagan athletes, coaches and officials:

COLDSTREAM:

Racine, ringette; Anne Cherkowski, women’s ice hockey; Danica Ariano, biathlon;

LUMBY:

Logan Leach, para-alpine skiing;

VERNON:

Williamson, Carter, Bacon, ringette; Laura Hall (from Salmon Arm, skates for Vernon Vortex), speed skating; Steel Quiring, men’s hockey; Ethan Algra, biathlon; Hannah Mehain, cross-country skiing; Ron Metza (technical support), biathlon; Lynn Algra (manager), biathlon; Caele Kassa (guide), para-alpine skiing.


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