No matter how you slice it, this is a banner year for Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary athletics.
This week, the senior boys basketball team “punched their ticket to the provincials” for the first time in 62 years, ending the longest drought in B.C. provincial basketball, according to Mike Mitro, one of the school’s two athletic directors.
Also on Monday night, the Grade 8 boys basketball team won the Fraser Valley championships, securing them with a spot at the provincials.
The momentum doesn’t stop there.
The Grade 8 girls – Surrey basketball champs – are B.C.-bound, too, as are the Grade 9 and Junior girls (Fraser Valley champs as of last weekend), both ranked #1 going into the provincials this week and next.
The Junior boys, who placed second in Surrey and sixth at the Fraser Valley championships, are ranked 12th going to the provincials.
In case you’ve lost count, Lord Tweedsmuir is sending six basketball teams to provincial tournaments over the next few weeks.
The senior boys haven’t earned a berth to the B.C. High School Basketball Championships since 1953, pushing already-bursting Panther pride through the school’s gym roof as news spread.
“Oh, everyone’s excited,” school principal Allan Buggie told The Reporter.
“I cannot remember a school having this much success at all levels,” he added. “It’s new territory. It’s great.”
The good news isn’t limited to the basketball court, although the program has definitely been a boon.
The school has worked hard in the last six or seven years to widen the scope of its entire athletics program.
“It’s a payoff,” Buggie said. “You see the payoff of a lot of work.”
Both Buggie and Mitro agree the school has been building up to the kind of success the school’s enjoying in 2014/2015.
The Grade 8 boys claimed the provincial football championships this year. The school’s ice hockey team is heading to the finals for the Zwick Cup for the fourth year in a row.
And eight wrestlers are off to the provincials after top five finishes at the Fraser Valleys.
Meanwhile, the Grade 8/9 boys won the Surrey soccer banner and were second in the region, while the Grade 8 boys cross country team picked up the Fraser Valley championship banner.
This year’s Grade 8 girls won the Tier 2 volleyball championships and placed second in Tier 1; the senior girls volleyball team took the Fraser Valley South league championships, and claimed second spot at the Fraser Valley championships.
“Just this year, it seems to be that we’ve had a lot of success,” says Mitro, who credits the dedication of students, and the leadership and commitment of staff and community coaches, many of whom have been involved with Panthers teams for years.
“You have so many coaches striving for excellence.”
The school is reaching to the elementary level to let younger students know what Tweedsmuir has to offer. “We’re trying to get the kids interested as young as possible,” Mitro said.
Support from the wider community is also making an impact.
“There are lot of people in our community who drive our success just by making sports a priority with their kids. And it doesn’t end at high school.” Cloverdale’s community soccer, fastpitch, football and hockey associations are also thriving, he points out.
All nine of the school’s basketball teams qualified for the Fraser Valley championships, but to have six boys and girls teams from Grade 8 to the senior teams advancing to the provincials may be unprecedented.
“That’s not very common,” he said, adding he’s never witnessed anything like it in his teaching career.