By Cal Braid
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Two St. Mary’s students received an exceptional honour on Nov. 14. at the Chinook High School theatre in Lethbridge. At the SAIAC ceremony, Makayla Schwarz and John Van Uden accepted awards after being selected as all-stars by league coaches. Schwarz was one of seven girls to make the first all-star team for high school volleyball, and Van Uden was elected as one of three running backs who made the boys all-star team in football.
“As a school we are very proud of all of our student athletes and their accomplishments in their sports, and we recognize the importance of co-curricular activities to education,” said Carolyn Siemens, an assistant coach and teacher at St. Mary’s. “To have athletes from our school recognized by other coaches from the SAIAC league speaks to their level of performance and success. Both Makayla and John put a lot of time and energy into training for their respective sports and have excelled on the court and field throughout the season. We are very proud of both of them!”
Schwarz is a Grade 12 student who has been playing volleyball since sixth grade, and she has grown more appreciative of it over time. “Now it’s something that I really do like. When I was in grade six my mom had to convince me to quit gymnastics to play,” she said. It’s the first time she’s been selected as an all-star. “Our team is doing really well this year,” she said. As of Nov. 16, she said they were about 10 games into their season – meaning 10 league games. On top of that they’ve competed in multiple tournament matches.
She said the season will run until anywhere from Nov. 15 to Nov. 26, depending on wins and losses. “If we qualify for provincials, we’ll be playing until Nov. 26. If we lose this weekend, we’ll be playing until Nov. 18.” They were slated to play Taber Christian, Milk River, and Bow Island with their other games to be determined. To advance they needed to place first or second. They did just that. Over the weekend Auroras showed up ready to play, and clinched the ASAA South Zone 1A Girls Championship.
Van Uden is another St. Mary’s student, but in order to pursue football, he was given the opportunity to join the W.R. Myers Rebels squad. He’s been playing football since he was nine, and began his high school football career at Catholic Central in Lethbridge. After moving to Taber, he made St. Mary’s his academic home and Myers his football home. Van Uden and the Rebels beat up on the Canmore Wolverines on Nov. 11 in the provincial quarter-final and then headed to Drumheller for the semi-final on Nov. 18. It was a win-or-go-home game, and the Rebels season ended with a disappointing 21-7 loss.
Asked how he felt about being recognized as an all-star, he replied, “In the humblest form, it’s honestly just rewarding as a way to acknowledge the hard work I put in. I was a bench player my whole career, and then last year I was a third string running back, so I’d maybe see the field once every five games. But (coach) Jason was always saying, ‘Keep pushing…it’s not that we don’t like you.’ Plus it’s really hard because I’m super small, especially for a running back. So I really had to make up. Then this year I was called to step up. And I wouldn’t be anywhere without the team if I’m being honest. I was told that I’d be receiving an award and I was so shocked. I thought I’d be the last one on the list to do that.”
Kudos to both of the St. Mary’s all-stars for their excellence.