Every picture tells a story.
There’s no better way to begin our official wind-up to the 2018-19 B.C. high school sports season than to lead with that time-honoured phrase.
On Sunday, we will present the a photo of every senior varsity team champion over the course of the now-complete B.C. high school sports season.
So to warm up to what we hope becomes yet another annual tradition here at Varsity Letters, we decided there was no better place to start than by telling the story behind the very first picture you’ll, alphabetically, on Sunday morning.
And just to prove that every picture does indeed tell a story, it didn’t take a lot of detective work to determine that athletic success is possible anywhere, even at a small school in Maple Ridge with a distinct lack of title banners hanging on its walls.
All you need is a lot of heart.
MAPLE RIDGE — It was 12 months ago, with the 2017-18 academic year coming to an end last June, that friends Matthew Angoh and Tim Tan decided to dive in head first with an idea they had hatched to broaden the student experience at Meadowridge School.
“We had always trained hard outside of school,” said Angoh of both he and Tan, who for years have swum competitively for their local Haney Seahorses Swim Club.
“And we had always talked about how great it would be if our school had a swim team,” continued Angoh. “One day last year, Tim said ‘Dude, why don’t we start a team next year?’”
Not only did the pair make their pitch to school administration and later complete all the necessary paperwork to make it a reality, they even recruited several more members in the hallways of the school to form a seven-person team.
Those other five swimmers — Hannah Bennett, Daphne Liang, Titus Lin, Ray Lou, Tsz Won Wong — although unable to qualify for the provincial meet last November in Richmond, all contributed to the team’s positive dynamic as well as its performance at the Fraser Valley Valley championships.
Yet with just Angoh and Tan waiving the flag for the Gryphons, the two-man Meadowridge Gryphons won the B.C. Single-A Aquatics championship title, thus earning the right to unfurl the first official B.C. School Sports championship blue banner in the 34-year history of the school.
Meadowridge’s only previous B.C. title, also came in the pool when it won the 2011 Tier 1 water polo title. The Gryphons came close in 2017, when a team which also featured Angoh in a starting role, finished third at the B.C. senior boys Single-A soccer championships.
“They put in real work to make this happen,” said Meadowridge athletic director Scott Spurgeon, who welcomed the duo’s self-starting spirit throughout the entire process of launching a swim team. “They planned, they motivated other kids to join, and in the end they brought it to fruition.”
Tan was one of the most productive swimmers at the entire meet, which pitted AAA, AA and A schools in one overall field.
The Grade 11 scored 60 points by finishing second in the 50m freestyle, fourth in the 100m free, fifth in the 100m back and sixth in the 100m butterfly.
Angoh, a senior, scored a further 30 points, led by dual eighth-place finishes in the 50m freestyle and 100m butterfly.
“Tim is, to say the least, a beast in the water,” Angoh said proudly of his younger teammate. “It seems like he trains all day, every day.”
Athletic success has not been commonplace at Meadowridge, which opened its doors in 1985 with a K-through-9 group which would produce the school’s first graduating class in the spring of 1989.
Now an International Baccalaureate school at all grade levels, Angoh admits that hitting the books hard is a way of life at the Meadowridge, which at its Grade 8-12 levels has a combined girls and boys population of just 250 students.
“For sure, academics are extremely important for us but the athletics department works with us because I feel it’s important to be able to have balance,” says Angoh, whose scholarly ways have paved a path to Montreal’s McGill University, one of the nation’s most prestigious schools.
So why was it so important to a student whose future path may well be that of a surgeon, to work towards the implementation of a start-up swim program in his Grade 12 year?
“Honestly, it’s about doing what you enjoy,” said Angoh, Meadowridge’s Class of 2019 valedictorian. “It’s all about having a balanced lifestyle and not just studying all the time. Tim and I wanted to have a school team because it could be a chill thing, a fun thing. It’s not like we started it to win (the provincial title).”
Yet that’s just what ended up happening.
“It was exhilarating and I got a little light-headed,” Angoh admitted when it was announced that Meadowridge had won the B.C. boys Single-A title, out-pointing much larger Triple-A schools like Vancouver College and Langley’s Walnut Grove en route to a 13th-place overall finish among the three tiers. “I looked over at Mr. Spurgeon and we just started jumping up and down.”
“It’s definitely a legacy that both Tim and I are super proud of.”
Find us on Sunday right here at VarsityLetters.ca as we unveil the entire gallery of B.C. senior varsity team champions with the knowledge that every picture does indeed tells a story.
We’ll soon follow with our annual B.C. Recruit List, where we try to list the post-secondary destinations of as many graduating B.C. high school seniors continuing their athletic careers at universities or colleges across North America as we can. Submissions are still welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
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