A local athlete has been selected to represent Pincher Creek and Southern Alberta as a player of the Zone 2 female hockey team at the 2020 Alberta Winter Games this weekend.
14-year-old Kjerstin Vance, a resident of Pincher Creek and an assistant captain for Southern Express, an elite bantam girls team based out of Lethbridge, made the final cut and will be playing as a forward for the Zone 2 team when the 2020 Alberta Winter Games kicks off in Airdrie on February 14.
It will be Vance’s first time competing at any provincial Winter or Summer Games.
She said that out of the 175 athletes who tried out for the team, she ended up as part of the slim minority who made the cut.
“All of the AA teams had the chance, and there were about 175 girls who tried out for southern Alberta. My whole team actually tried out, but then 50 per cent of the girls were cut,” said Vance.
“It was an entire weekend (of tryouts), Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We had two ice sessions each day, and then did dry land with the trainers and got to know the other teams,” she said.
“They watched our skills, our speed, and our hockey awareness, and looked at if we were a good team mate or not.”
Vance had to make the trip up to Penhold for the tryouts, which she said required some hard work, but she didn’t feel too strained throughout the process.
“I was kind of sore after it, but it was fun and I got to meet a lot of new people… it was a cool experience,” said Vance.
She said she wasn’t particularly nervous about making the team at tryouts, but was happy to gain the experience from going.
“There were a lot of good players there, but I just went for the experience, and to meet new people. It was fun, I just went out there and did what I could do,” said Vance.
“I felt pretty confident in all the skates that we did. I just did my best,” she said.
Todd Vance, Kjerstin’s father, said he’s proud to see her compete at the Winter Games, and that it was a well-earned opportunity.
“Little things like this brings it to light that hard work pays off, and shows what you’re capable of,” he said.
He said she’s got natural athletic ability, and stays committed to her obligations.
“(Kjerstin) is a natural—she’s a good, natural skater. She figure skates in between all of this, and plays rugby and other sports, and has her chores on the farm at home as well,” he said.
“It takes the whole family, because when she’s not home doing something then somebody’s got to do it for her, and the same thing the other way around. All of our kids play hockey, so it’s really coming down to family supporting family to do what we do” he said.
Kris Schultz, Vance’s head coach with the Southern Express hockey team, said she definitely has the ability to compete provincially.
“She’s a very strong skater, and she plays her position really well. We moved her back to defence at the beginning of the season, and she has started to play with a lot more confidence,” said Schultz.
“Her footwork and her skating ability let her keep up with forwards while she skates backwards. She’s a phenomenal skater, and she can handle the speed of the players in the league really well,” he said.
“We rely on her for those types of things—she plays penalty killing, and she’s on one of our power plays as well. It’s definitely a benefit to have her.”
Vance is looking at playing at least three games in Airdrie this weekend, but could possibly have more on her plate depending on where the Zone 2 team lands in the finals.