Mariah stands out on the court

Local volleyball player part of Zone 6 team that won bronze at BC Summer Games

A Parksville athlete is still savouring her team’s victory after the Vancouver Island Zone 6 girl’s volleyball team came home from last month’s BC Summer Games with a bronze medal.

Fifteen-year-old Mariah St. Pierre has another medal to add to her collection and she hopes the bronze medallion will be among many to come as she pursues a sport she just recently began taking seriously.

When St. Pierre decides to take on a challenge she gives it her all and she has many awards to her name after competing for four years with the Parksville Taekwondo Academy, including winning Nationals in 2010.

But the natural athlete exchanged her high flying kicks on the mat for some blocking and hitting on the volleyball court when she entered Grade 9 last September at Ballenas Secondary School.

St. Pierre started played volleyball at Springwood Middle School in Grade 6 and then got into the club season in Grade 8, where she began to play competitively.

When St. Pierre arrived at Ballenas she was strong enough to bypass their Grade 9 team and was chosen to play on the junior team, which won a tournament in Victoria.

With that experience under her belt she decided to try out for the under 15 team for the BC Summer Games.

Try-outs were held in June in Nanaimo and out of 60 athletes, St. Pierre was one of 12 who made it.

“There were a lot of girls who tried out but I thought I had a pretty good chance,” admitted St. Pierre.

Her coach Terry Philp is well known in the volleyball community for her outstanding accomplishments including Volleyball BC High School Coach of the Year.

She has led her teams at Timberline Secondary School in Campbell River to many victories and the long serving volleyball coach has been to the Summer Games three times and each time her teams have brought back medals.

She said when she first saw St. Pierre perform on the court, she could see her athleticism.

“I watched her at the Island championships to see what girls were in the field and I noticed her on that team right away,” claimed Philp, who added that St. Pierre’s taekwondo background definitely shows on the court.

“Her reflexes are amazing.”

“She has very fast feet and is a very intelligent player.  She was very focussed on what she needed to do on the court and she really was one of the more focussed players in training,” emphasized Philp.

The volleyball coach of 35 years said that although St. Pierre has a quiet personality, on the court she stands out.

“My first impression of her was that she was quiet in the group of 60 girls.  Then the more I got to know her after training, the more I noticed how remarkable she is and she learned quickly. She was like a sponge. She is not flashy … just steady and she just goes about her business on the court.”

Philp said she is proud of all the girls and very impressed with St. Pierre’s contribution to the team.

She said the girls represented the Island with pride and added that the Games were a great experience for the young athletes and was such a great way for them to meet other athletes from other sports.

“The girls developed new friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about them … I miss them already,”

St. Pierre agreed her memories from the Games are ones she will forever cherish.

“The experience was great to have because the 11 other girls were such a great group of girls and I made so many friends on the team and they will be lifelong friends,” revealed St. Pierre.

She added that the opening and closing ceremonies were also a highlight.

“That was really good too because it had all the athletes there and you could see how big an event it was. There were 3,000 athletes and it was good to be there in the moment.”

Also in Surrey sharing in those moments were St. Pierre’s parents and brother.

“They were cheering in the stands.  All the parents were in the bleachers with signs screaming and ours were probably the loudest,” exclaimed St. Pierre who also pointed out that having support from her family has played a huge role in athletic accomplishments.

The Parksville resident had to travel to Campbell River and back each week to practice with her team and her parents were committed to the travel.

Up next for St. Pierre is playing volleyball at Ballenas in the fall.  Although she is only going into Grade 10 she wants to try out for the senior team.

“There is a slim chance I will make it but I am going to try out.”

At best she said she will play on the junior team but also practice with the seniors to get a higher level training because down the road she would like to play at an international level.

“One of my goals is to eventually compete in the Olympics.  That would be a really great opportunity if I could get it.  If not I will play at the college level,” she confessed.

A lofty goal but one coach Philp admitted isn’t unthinkable.

“If she sets her goals she can do whatever she wants. She is not the tallest for her age, but she can move and she can jump. She has the right chemistry, intelligence, drive and athleticism and she will for sure play university volleyball.”