The communities that dot the Saanich Peninsula might have smaller populations than Victoria or Vancouver, but they punch above their weight when it comes to producing young female athletes.
Spearheading this explosion of talent is Katie Kraeutner, who turned pro in Iceland and is now looking to play in one of the big European soccer leagues.
Other Sidney and North Saanich athletes include track and field stars Kim Neville-Rutherford, provincial race walking champ Jacqueline Gaby and distance runner Chloe Hegland (who also holds a Guinness world record).
In rowing, Keira Flanagan, Sheena Polman and Charlotte Junker are all varsity-calibre athletes, with fistfuls of achievements to their names.
Basketballers Kate Service and Kristy Gallagher are two more talented athletes playing at an elite level.
22-year-old Gallagher has experienced a meteoric rise to the UVic Vikes team, where she leads point and assist averages, scoring 20 a game.
“When I was in Grade 10, my grandmother bribed me with LuluLemon yoga pants to try out for the basketball team,” Gallagher says with a laugh. “She was from Courtenay and had won Provincials. She encouraged me to train and I fell in love with it.”
Community coach Larry Green, who Gallagher says is like a second dad, describes meeting her as a Parkland student.
“She had never played basketball and didn’t have much of a background in sports,” he says. “But she demonstrated an amazing level of commitment.”
Green says that during his 30 years coaching, Gallagher is probably the most committed athlete he’s worked with. At Gallagher’s request, they spent hours in the gym honing her basketball skills.
“Putting in the work and doing the little things well, add up to big things in the long run,” says Gallagher, whose approach has won her many honours, such as USports Academic all-Canadian, Canada West Second Team All Star, Varsity Highlight Award and a finalist for the Chancellors Award for leadership.
Hard work is certainly a theme that runs through all the athletes’ stories. One of Kraeutner’s past teachers recalls walking past the gym late at night and looking in to see her patiently practising on her own.
Women’s sports have traditionally been less lucrative than men’s and the effects are often felt lower down the ladder, with recent reports of different sports clubs giving men priority and the Vancouver Island Seals hockey team struggling to buy ice time for their midget AAA women’s team.
Gallagher burst onto the Vikes scene, but has been injured for much of the past year. She says the injury has given her pause to think if she wants to turn pro. Staying in Greater Victoria to help the next generation is a strong possibility.
“I’d like to run a program for girls. Girls aren’t expected to have the same physical literacy as boys, like in middle school, and I’d like to show sport can help girls’ confidence.”
Asked what inspires her, Gallagher smiles and says, “I work in the rec centre and the students from my job come and watch me, also people from Sidney. I love it when Parkland girls come and they’re there wearing their Parkland clothes.”