Saskatchewan pride shines at Games

Saskatchewan is putting medals on the board like crazy, and it can thank its canoe/kayak team for that.

Team Sask, whose supporters are always the loudest and most loyal at Shumway Lake, had won 51 medals by 10 o'clock Monday night. More than half of those medals - 31 - came from the 16-person canoe/kayak squad.

It's incredible - it seems as though a Saskatchewan paddler was on the podium after all of Monday's races. Of those 31 medals, 18 are gold, six are silver and seven are bronze; 27 of those medals came on Monday.

"I knew we were going to do well," said Saskatchewan coach Devri Robertson. "I believe they won 29 medals at the last (2007) Western Canada Games. I wanted to do better than that, but to do it on the second day, with one day to go, it's awesome."

The final paddling events are scheduled to start today at 9 a.m., with the war canoe. There will be one- and two-person finals through 3 p.m., when the medal ceremonies are to begin.

The Saskatchewan team comprises paddlers from Regina and Saskatoon - Christian de Jager, Simon Fense, Alexis Laplante, Christopher Laplante, Liam McKinnon, Cooper Reis, Amy Soparlo, Gina Soparlo and Daniella Zemlak are from Regina, with Jenna Berenbaum, Olivia Dyck, Lauren Gardiner, Rory Gowda-Sookochoff, Matthew Kowaluk, Mykel Kowaluk and Tyler Leffley hailing from Saskatoon.

These young paddlers have managed to come together and put in an incredible performance at Shumway Lake.

"This group is really good, and a lot of them are friends anyway," said Robertson, herself a Regina resident. "When they have friendships like that, it makes it easier to paddle in one of these."

Included in those 31 medals was a sweep of the podium in Monday's men's K1 1,000m. Fense crossed first, in four minutes 13 seconds, with Mykel Kowaluk second in 4:18.60 and McKinnon third in 4:26.20.

"I knew we had a chance to do it because we have a bunch of strong guys," Robertson said. "But it's still surprising because there are lots of strong paddlers in the field."

B.C. got its first sweep of the podium on the Hillside Stadium track Monday.

Victoria's John Pratt led the sweep in the 800m, winning in 1:52.83. He beat White Rock's Sean Keane by two-hundredths of a second, with Victoria's Thomas Riva .20 behind Keane.

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Tristan Smyth of Maple Ridge had an excellent WCSG, winning three gold medals for Team B.C. in wheelchair athletics.

Smyth, 25, started his Games with a victory in the 400m, thanks to a time of 1:00.75, and also won the 200m in a time of 31.49.

He concluded his competition with another gold, this one in the 1,500m, which he finished in 3:54.62.

Samantha Herschick-Fraser also was a three-time gold medallist in wheelchair athletics. The 25-year-old Calgarian won the 400m in 1:45.37 and the 200m in 47.20, then wrapped up a good week with a victory in the 800m, crossing the finish line in 3:26.90.

Herschick-Fraser had won two silver medals and a bronze at the 2007 WCSG.

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Northwest Territories won its first medals of the Games on Monday, with a pair of athletes winning walking medals.

Alea Stockton and Julianna Neudorf, both of Yellowknife, finished second and third in the women's five-kilometre walk.

Nanaimo's Kaitlyn Ramage won the walk in 26 minutes 28.26 seconds, with Stockton second in 42:01.21 and Neudorf 45 seconds behind.

N.W.T. was the only team not to win a medal in the 2007 Games in Strathcona County, Alta.

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The WCSG records for the 400m men's and women's races tumbled on Sunday.

Rachel Francois of St. Albert, Alta., took more than half a second off the women's record in winning in 55.01 seconds. Vancouver's Devin Wiebe was second in 55.72, with Sydney's Casey Atkin third in 56.39.

It was a B.C. boy who broke the other record, with Hodson Harding of Maple Ridge blazing to victory in 47.64. Coquitlam's Benjamin Ayesu-Attah was second in 48.08, with Edmonton's Mitchell Home winning bronze in 49.29.

Langley's Carolyn Sutherland also holds a WCSG record after she leaped an incredible 5.81m in the long jump.Calgary's Rachel Machin was second (5.65m) after winning the 100m hurdles event, while Saskatchewan's Shalane Haselhan of Lampman was third (5.50m).

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Former TRU WolfPack volleyball player Brent Hall is back in Kamloops for the Games.

Hall, who was a member of Pat Hennelly's squad that won bronze at the 2008 CIS championship in Laval, Que., is working toward a bachelor of athletic and exercise degree at Victoria's Camosun College.

His volleyball days are behind him, but he's enjoying another week in Kamloops.

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Kelly Olynyk and John Bantock, both members of the South Kamloops Titans senior team that won bronze at the 2009 B.C. AAA boys basketball championship, also have been taking in some of the basketball action at the Tournament Capital Centre.

Olynyk, a forward with the NCAA's Gonzaga Bulldogs, spent part of his summer with the Canadian men's team. Bantock, a guard with the NCAA's Simon Fraser Clan, recently returned from Sarajevo, where he helped Great Britain to a 13th-place finish at the European B division championship.

Olynyk, Bantock and David Wagner, another Titans and national cadet team alum, will be joined by South Kam star Emma Wolfram in handing out medals following today's playoffs at the TCC.

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