Songhees Nation athlete Caleb Sam, along with U16 soccer teammates Lukas Dick, Braden Nelson, Rayn Cook-Thomas, brought home gold from the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto last month. Kendra Wong/Victoria News

Songhees Nation athletes have golden finish at Games

U16 men’s soccer team went undefeated at the Games

Songhees Nations athletes have returned from the North American Indigenous Games as champions.

Team B.C.’s Under 16 soccer team — which included Caleb Sam, Lukas Dick, Braden Nelson, Rayn Cook-Thomas — captured gold during the games last month in Toronto.

“We were all super happy,” said Sam, a defender. “(The Games) were cool, it was something new for me.”

The team had decisive victories in round robin play, defeating all three teams in the first pool, including the Northwest Territories 11-0, Ontario 7-0 and New York 4-0. In the semi-finals, the team took on Alberta and won 4-0.

Sam admitted for most of round-robin play, he hasn’t nervous performing on a large stage, but coming down to the gold-medal game was a different story.

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It was a nail-biting game, as Team B.C. scored 1-0 early against Saskatchewan. Despite the scorching heat and three-hour time change that had an impact on the young players, the squad was able to hold on to the lead and bring home gold.

“It was an intense game,” said Sam, who will be entering Grade 10 at Esquimalt High in the fall and currently plays with the Gorge Soccer Association. “It was a little nerve-wracking because I was out there the whole game and didn’t want to get scored on.”

In total, Team B.C. brought home 179 medals, including 67 gold, 58 silver and 54 bronze from the games, which is the largest continental sporting and cultural gathering of indigenous people.