1. Veteran Nanaimo bathtubber wins his first great race, July 24
A veteran tubber achieved a goal two decades in the making and became a bathtubbing champion.
Jaime Garcia won the Great International World Championship Bathtub Race in July, making it back to the beach in two hours, six minutes and four seconds.
This year’s great race was an endurance test, with only six of 25 tubs officially completing the great race. Being hit by dozens of crashing waves had Garcia seeing stars “like Tweety Bird,” he said.
But his Securiguard No. 006 tub was up to the conditions, stayed together, and the sea started to calm down as he rounded the Winchelsea Islands checkpoint. As he rounded Protection Island and entered Nanaimo Harbour, Garcia started crying.
“I’m bawling my eyes out and I’m just praying to God and I’m like, ‘thank you for giving me the strength and courage to endure this pain and to finish,’” he said.
2. Outstanding sports achievement in Nanaimo recognized at awards gala, May 19
Even during a pandemic, Nanaimo athletes and teams found ways to play and win.
The Nanaimo Sport Achievement Awards were held in May at the Coast Bastion Hotel, honouring the best in sport from a challenging 2021.
This year’s Sports Story of the Year was the Dover Bay Dolphins senior AAAA girls’ volleyball team winning the Island championship and hosting provincials in a season dedicated to the memory of teammate Michelle Reilly, who died of cancer the year before.
Team of the Year this year was the Nanaimo White Rapids summer swim club, which won the provincial championship and earned 70 top-three finishes in B.C. while handling the challenges of COVID-19. Junior Team of the Year was the Barsby Bulldogs junior varsity football team, which won the Coastal championship at Subway Bowl provincials.
3. Nanaimo soccer coach promoted to lead Victoria’s Pacific FC, Jan. 21
A Nanaimo soccer coach is now in charge of Vancouver Island’s highest-calibre soccer side.
Pacific FC announced in January that James Merriman had been promoted as head coach of the Canadian Premier League club.
The 36-year-old, who hails from Cedar, had been an assistant coach with the club since its inaugural 2019 season and was part of the staff that led Pacific FC to a CPL championship in 2021.
“It’s obviously very special to be able to live my dream of being a head coach for a professional team, especially on Vancouver Island,” Merriman said in a club press release.
4. NDSS track and field star wins four provincial titles at B.C. championships, June 14
A high school athlete swept to provincial championships in some of track and field’s premier events.
Nate Paris, a Grade 12 student at Nanaimo District Secondary School, finished first in the 100-metre dash, 200m, long jump and decathlon at B.C. High School Track and Field Championships in the Fraser Valley in June.
Winning the decathlon first helped take some pressure off for the rest of provincials. Paris started things off by running a 10.77s in the 100m dash in a blistering final that saw four runners go sub-11 seconds. The next day, he leapt 7.10m in long jump to break the seven-metre mark.
Finishing his high school track and field career with four provincial championships reinforces his hopes and drive to continue on in the sport, he said.
“I’ve suspected I can do this and now finally, I’ve proved I can do this,” he said.
5. Female offensive lineman signs with V.I. Raiders, June 10
For the first time ever, a female player signed with the V.I. Raiders.
Among the signees announced by the Canadian Junior Football League team in June was offensive line player Jordan Vearer from Victoria. She has experience playing youth football and rugby.
Vearer told the News Bulletin she doesn’t see herself as a pioneer and didn’t realize it was “such a big deal.” She will focus on her position and being a good player.
“I’m really passionate about whatever I do, so I’m willing to put in the extra hours of training,” said Vearer when asked about her strengths. “I think I’ve got some good basic skills, like foot work and hand work building up, just excited to see where the next level of coaching and playing can take me.”
6. Nanaimo golfer battles back, wins B.C.’s senior men’s championship, Aug. 23
A Nanaimo golfer is B.C. champion again in what he said might have been the most meaningful win in his career. Sandy Harper, 65, won B.C. Golf’s senior men’s and super-senior men’s amateur championships in July at Uplands Golf Club in Victoria.
He won with a 54-hole score of three over par, two shots ahead of the runners-up. Harper went into the final round trailing by one shot, but his “magnificent” back nine play closed out an even-par round of 70 and earned him the title, noted a press release from B.C. Golf.
Harper suffered a stroke in 2020 and told B.C. Golf that it’s been frustrating not to be able to hit certain shots with the ease that he could before.
His competitors gathered around the 18th green at the B.C. championships to watch Harper close out his round and give him bear-hugs afterward.
7. Nanaimo Clippers sold to new ownership group, June 28
A new ownership group will steer the ship for the Nanaimo Clippers.
The B.C. Hockey League’s board of governors approved a sale from former owner Wes Mussio to Northern Lights Hockey Canada LLC, headed by Brad Kwong, an investment professional with a hockey background both as a player and as an executive.
“I’m excited to spend a great deal of time on the Island, but I’m more excited about the opportunity to work with our staff and the Nanaimo community to establish the Nanaimo Clippers as one of the preeminent junior hockey franchises in North America,” Kwong said in a press release.
8. Nanaimo-area athletes crowd the podium at 55-Plus B.C. Games in Victoria, Sept. 23
Athletes from Nanaimo, Nanoose Bay, Lantzville and Gabriola Island made it back onto the podium at the 55-Plus B.C. Games.
The multi-sport event had been on hold during the pandemic, but it was back in a big way in Greater Victoria as more than 2,500 competitors tried for gold, silver and bronze in September
The Vancouver Island North Zone 2 team was highly competitive, finishing fourth in the medal count out of 12 zone teams with a total of 95 gold medals, 73 silvers and 47 bronzes.
9. Barsby girls get to go to provincials after runner-up finish at Island championships, Nov. 20
John Barsby Secondary School’s senior girls, even though they didn’t win the Island title in their home gym, achieved their primary goal – a berth in provincials.
The Barsby Bulldogs senior AA girls’ volleyball team hosted the Vancouver Island championships in Harewood in November and earned silver medals after a 25-23, 18-25, 25-16, 25-10 loss to Brentwood College in the final.
But Barsby, on the strength of a victory in the semifinals earlier in the day, grabbed one of the two available berths to provincial championships in Merritt two weeks later.
Barsby player Zoey Tropea said it was an “amazing opportunity” to extend volleyball season all the way to provincials.
“It’s so exciting,” she said. “Usually we’re not in this position, so it’s a really great feeling.”
10. Basketball nationals about to tip off at long last for VIU Mariners, March 21
Nothing stopped nationals from happening this time. After a two-year wait, Vancouver Island University’s women’s basketball team finally got to host the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships in March at the VIU gym.
It was a long, strange path to nationals for the Mariners women. They had been anticipating hosting the CCAA championships in March 2020, but that event was cancelled at the last possible moment due to COVID-19. Then the 2020-21 season got cancelled, too, and so it took until this year for the Mariners to get what was rightfully theirs – a chance to host and a chance to win.
“It’s a blessing and we’re going to do our best to take full advantage of it,” said Tony Bryce, the team’s coach.
VIU made it to overtime of the national final and finished with silver medals.
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Year in Review