Next station: Langara athletic program

Richmond News

By Mark Booth

Canada Line makes it even easier for graduating Richmond high school athletes to suit up for Falcon teams

The pipeline of Richmond’s top graduating high school talent destined for Langara College athletic teams is now a whole lot shorter.

If an opportunity to play on some of the top collegiate teams in the country wasn’t enough, perhaps Falcon coaches can now offer transit passes.

The opening of the Canada Line last month puts Richmond students no more than a 10-minute ride on the automated rail-based service to the campus. In fact, the closest station at 49th and Langara is just steps away from the school.

This convenience is not lost on coaches who were already paying close attention to Richmond high school athletes.

Last year’s men’s and women’s basketball teams were led by Clint Wickham (Cambie) and Virginia Watson (Steveston) respectively. Both not only thrived enough to be recognized among the top players in the province but are now continuing their careers this fall at the university level. Wickham, who earned player-of-the-year honours last season, has signed with Trinity Western, while Watson will be taking her smooth jump shot to the UBC Thunderbirds.

Their departure left both coaches with holes to fill and back to Richmond in search of potential replacements.

“Richmond has always been a key recruiting area for me, mainly due to its proximity,” said men’s basketball coach Jake McCallum. “The addition of the Canada Line will make it an even easier sell to the student athletes.”

There hasn’t been much in the way of success for Richmond senior girls basketball — beyond the city level — in recent years but it’s a good bet Mike Evans is well-aware of any players capable of playing at the collegiate level.

He was an assistant at London secondary when his daughter Jessie led the Legends to a final four appearance at the 1999 “AAA” provincials. It was the last time a Richmond school made a serious run at Capilano.

Evans is now running the women’s team at Langara and can often be seen at local gyms evaluating players.

“Unfortunately the level of play has gone down from the glory days of the late ’90s,” said Evans. “(But) we have always had several from Richmond as key players at Langara. I hope for a resurgence and will always look at Richmond players first. The Canada Line is definitely a plus for our school.”

Langara women’s soccer coach Ryan Birt hasn’t needed to lean too much on Lulu Island talent in the past to build one of the top programs in the country. Under Birt’s guidance the Falcons have won three national titles in the past four years, including 2008.

McRoberts graduate Rachel Ramsden was a key contributor of last year’s championship run and Birt has signed three more local players for the coming season — Taryn Lim (McNair), Carsen Machin (McMath) and Moni Vataiki (Palmer).

“All four of the players will be counted on to help continue the tradition of excellence we have achieved,” said Birt. “Langara is an extremely well respected academic institution and coupled with the athletic success we have been able to accomplish recently, it becomes a serious option for Richmond student athletes. Now with transportation becoming even easier, it gives those potential recruits one more reason to choose Langara College.”

Other Richmond high school grads playing for Langara teams this fall include: Men’s basketball — Lambert Punsalan (2nd year, Boyd), Matt Madewan (1st year, Palmer). Women’s basketball — Kelsie Pelling (3rd year, Steveston). Men’s soccer — Chase Wickham (1st year, Cambie), Mike Rubenstien (3rd year, Richmond High), Jason Remedios (2nd year, Boyd). Badminton — Ken Fung (2nd year, Cambie).

mbooth@richmond-news.com

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