If tragedies bring people closer together, then the College Heights Secondary School community must be the tightest knit of parents, teachers and students in the city right now.
It's been a tough past few months for the school. A pair of tragic deaths earlier this fall and now Tuesday's crash of a van carrying the school's senior girls volleyball team to the provincial championship in Power River. The vehicle left the highway north of Cache Creek early Tuesday afternoon, sending seven of the team's 10 players to hospital in Kamloops. Thankfully, all of the girls were treated and released by 8:30 Tuesday night. The team came home Wednesday after spending the night at a Kamloops hotel with family members who came down to be with their children.
It must have been terrifying for the players and coaches. Family and friends would have been sick with worry upon hearing the news and would have anxiously awaited for updates, either while waiting here in Prince George or racing down the highway south to Kamloops, trying not to be in an accident of their own on the way.
Still, it could have been much worse. Naturally, everyone must have thought about the Humboldt Broncos, the junior hockey team involved in the horrific crash on a Saskatchewan highway earlier this year that killed 16 people and left many of the survivors with lifelong injuries.
While what happened to the College Heights senior girls volleyball team can't compare to that, it's still a traumatic event, both for the individuals involved and for the school as a whole. The tears of relief and the long hugs that must have greeted them when the team got home yesterday would be proof of that.
And for the team itself, their relief is surely tinged with sadness. After an impressive fall season where they proved themselves as the best team in the region, they were heading to Powell River ranked in the top 10 in the province in the triple-A division, brimming with confidence and eager to compete against the best girls teams in B.C. for a chance at a provincial title. Tuesday's accident took them out of the tournament.
For those who think the players and coaches should be more grateful, they aren't considering the hard work that got the girls to this point - the grueling practices, the tough games, the scraped knees and banged up bodies. At this level, these girls aren't just playing for fun, they're playing to win and to end their season away from the court has to be a disappointment. For the eight Grade 12 players, who won't get to come back next year, they will wonder what could have been.
As with all successful teams, however, the bonds among the College Height senior girls volleyball squad are strong. Many of the girls have been playing volleyball together (and possibly other sports, as well) since Grade 8. Some may have been together since Kindergarten. They've been with each other through big wins, bitter losses, painful injuries and long bus rides to out-of-town tournaments. They're connected through their love of their sport and being part of a team together.
The resiliency of these girls to overcome adversity was developed on the court. During the city final last month at CNC against the Kelly Road Roadrunners, College Heights lost the first set. They didn't panic and they didn't turn on one another, pointing fingers of blame. Instead, they lifted one another up and rolled over Kelly Road in the next three sets in convincing fashion.
Now, away from the court, hurting with the bumps and bruises of a highway crash instead of desperate dives onto a hardwood floor to save a point, hopefully they can lift each other up one more time, with the help of their classmates, their teachers and their families.
Congratulations on a fabulous season, girls, one you will be proud of and look back fondly on for years to come. We're sorry you didn't get to finish the year the way you deserved but we're glad you're home safe.
-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout